Calling All Volunteers!

SF Zine Fest is quickly approaching and your SFZF crew is working round the clock and behind the scenes to make sure that everything comes together! Since this year’s fest will be bigger and better than ever, we’re looking for a handful of additional helpers who can donate a couple hours of time on either day of the Fest (September 1st + 2nd). What exactly are we looking for you to do?  Honestly it's a bit of everything, from helping out at the Zine Fest info booth, to coordinating logistics with our exhibitors, to even giving us hand with our annual fest raffle.

As in years past, SFZF will also be hosting a kick-off party/author event at the Cartoon Art Museum (Thursday, August 30th) as well as a “mix-n-mingle” after party at Mission Comics (Saturday, September 1st). Both are a great way to see zine friends from near and far, and these two events are always well attended and lots of fun. We're looking for volunteer support on these nights too, so the more the merrier!

So...interested in our undying love and affection (via your awesome volunteer skills)? Looking to make friends with some of the Bay Area's finest creative minds (via equally awesome zine fest folks)? Send an email to with “volunteering” in the subject header and we can get you onboard.

Photo courtesy of Cindy Maram, Dig In Magazine

Zinester Spotlight: Joe Biel of Microcosm Publishing

What was once a small record label for local bands turned into the best-known zine publishers in the United States. Microcosm Publishing has been empowering authors since 1996. Within its original inventory of music, film, and political activism, Joe Biel found an epic collection of zines, all of which provided a “hidden” story to that current time and place. The soul of this independent, DIY culture existed inside these pages. And Joe knew that no matter what interests he would lose or gain, publishing these stories would never get old. They were “documents of action,” worthy of being recognized and distributed. Today, Joe Biel continues to publish zines, create his own documentaries, and strengthen a network of passionate people across the globe.

How did you get into independent publishing?

I was really fortunate to grow up around a really rich subcultural tapestry in the Cleveland punk scene of the 90s. It obviously grew from somewhere and I've traced the history as much as I can, but in my own life, it felt like it always was there, standing patiently behind me, saying "You can do it! Believe in yourself!"

In 1991 some people took the initiative to move into a messed up building on W 44th and Lorain, which is now a reasonable place to hang out, but was a very seedy neighborhood at the time. The place was called Speak in Tongues until the landlord pulled the lease ten years later. In the meantime it was our clubhouse when bands came on tour.

And walking around, it was inevitable that some cute kid would show you their zine and try to get a buck outta you. I would go for it every time. Within a few years I had setup some milk crates behind the counter where I sold zines and records.

Microcosm started off as a record label. How did you incorporate the tactics of early punk record labels to publishing?

Like you said, I came to the whole matter from the back door. I had been running this record label and putting out local stuff when I started to sort of age out of that and thought publishing would be way cooler and could perhaps evolve with my tastes a bit more. So naturally, I didn't know anything about trade distribution or segmented marketing. I knew how to do mailorder, setup a table at punk shows, travel to festivals, walk into a store and show them my stuff, and get people to help hang up flyers and pass out catalogs around their towns. But the important thing is to run the whole thing in parallel to the industry, not within it or opposed to it, but sort of alongside it. Intentional or not, that's what I took from Dischord.

What do you think zines offer that other books or publications don't? What do we gain from these 'hidden stories'?

I was explaining to a young man at the store the other day that in a good zine, it's ultimately the difference between a first person perspective written by a person and a detached or medical explanation written by a "professional." Instead of using academic language or jargon, in a zine you can be as appropriately crass as is necessary. Your motivation will never, could never be much beyond the simple mechanics of telling the story, of sharing your experience. The economics and infrastructure sort of make anything else impossible. And drawing from that pool, we get to shed a lot of the ego and dirtiness from our collection of brilliant authors.

Zines create a sense of community. As a publisher, how did you see that community evolve?

In my experience, zines create communities. And in recent years that's created sort of a subcultural imperative that wasn't always there. In the words of Giovanni Caputo, it's like saying "I like popsicles, you like popsicles. We should be friends," when there are a lot more important factors than that. The hardest lesson for me was that I can't let it be the everything of my universe or else it's possible to live in a bubble that isn't in touch with the real world, which is now very possible to do in a number of zine communities. On top of that, there's a sort of an assumption that other zine makers will also ride bikes, dumpster cake, and steal photocopies, which I think is both socially isolating and also alienating to newcomers who are simply excited about the medium.

I think it's important to be accessible but also to have a clear line in the sand, saying "this is what I believe in. Maybe you are interested too?" without being so presumptive about those who come wandering up.

How did you manage to distribute zines to other parts of the country and the world?

It's sort of an "if you build it, they will come" system. By having a good database and website that calculates shipping to all parts of the world automatically and has good search engine optimization, if people were interested in zines, they would likely find our website. Once they were there, they could make orders at all hours and ship anywhere without needing to talk to anyone. By offering wholesale prices to anyone who qualified with a big enough order, we could in turn setup satellite zine distribution all over the globe. That was all very intentiona to our mission. And it worked.

What are your current projects and upcoming events?

I'm finishing up two four year personal projects this summer. The first is Beyond the Music, which is a book I wrote about people who take the values and ethics of punk and apply them to things outside of music. So it's about "punk culture," but it's also about just how big the world is, how many effective ways there are to impact it, and how interesting the person are who do.

The other is Aftermass, which is my fourth feature documentary film. It tells the story of how Portland got its bikeway network. I talked to the people who were directly involved and looked at how things developed since 1971 to see what happened. I tracked down all direct sources. The story is a lot richer than I expected and it feels a little more History Channel than most of what I've done but I like that it's offered a way for me to age gracefully and still be involved in culture.

Where can people find you?

In Portland at 636 SE 11th Ave or

What is your favorite thing about the SF Zine Fest?

There's a lot of enthusiasm that I find infectious. At this point, after seventeen years of involvement I've basically got to be around people that are excited to be doing what they're doing. It propels me for another three months at a time. Those conversations and experiences—even just talking to people about what they're excited about—they remind me of why I continue to do this.

Find Microcosm Publishing on Facebook and Twitter:

XYZine: Books to Help You Bind Your Own...

I love making zines. Sure: getting words down on paper is cool, but rolling up my sleeves and making decisions about paper, format, and structure? These are the parts of zine making that I love. Wandering the aisles of an art supply store lulls me into a trance, as I spend time planning “the next big project”.

Don’t fool yourself: the structure of your zine is as important as the thoughts and emotions that you pour into the content. Some of my long-time favorites (All This is Mine, Cursive is not Cryptic, Arte Postale) incorporate amazing writing and clever book structures. Take the time to consider how you want your zine to appear to the average reader; decisions such as paper choice and size should be considered before embarking on any new zine project.

In previous posts, Liz Mayorga and I discussed the ins-and-outs of basic zine making, so there’s no need to go over that again. But where do you start if you need some fresh new bookbinding tips? You’re in luck! I’m going to share some of my “can’t live without ‘em” reference books about making books and zines. These are the volumes I’m constantly riffling through for visual inspiration or figuring out a new technique; the well-thumbed pages are a testament to their usefulness in my studio. Each one is an invaluable resource.

Print Workshop: Hand-Printing Techniques and Truly Original Projects -- This book inspires from the very first page to the final resource guide. Written by Christine Schmidt (of Yellow Owl Workshop), this well written, easy-to-understand book showcases a variety of basic printmaking methods. Kitchen table techniques such as relief printing and image transfers are covered, as well as specialized skills like cyanotype printmaking. Inspired to try something new, I dug up a few things for relief printing…

How to Make Books: Fold, Cut, & Stitch Your Way to a One-Of-A-Kind Book by Esther K. Smith came to live on my bookshelf when it first hit the streets in 2007; the eye-catching cover won me over right away. Cool looking sample projects, jazzy typography, and a general love for bookbinding are standout characteristics of this popular volume. As an introductory “book about making books”, this is a good place to start, although at times the instructions are vague. On the flip side, the sample books shown throughout have a way of encouraging you to take the leap and experiment with your own ideas, which can lead to some happy accidents (see below).

Making Handmade Books: 100+ Bindings, Structures, and Forms: One of the most exciting things about both zines and artists books is the fact that they are uniquely personal in look and design; no two are ever alike. Book artist (and bay area local) Alisa Golden has been creating artists’ books for over twenty five years; Making Handmade Books is a collection of four of her previously published books relating to paper techniques and bookmaking. Equal parts inspiration (lots of great photos!) and demos (want to learn more about map folds?), there are plenty of ideas that can be applied to zines and small book projects. Starting simple with basic folded books, Alisa takes readers through the different styles of bookbinding and paper engineering, ending with boxmaking.

Indie Publishing: How to Design and Publish Your Own Book: whether you’ve just wrapped up your very first twenty four hour zine project or you’re an old hand at making zines, Indie Publishing is a handy reference book to have around. In addition to chapters about zines/handmade books, different aspects and considerations of independent publishing are discussed. Ever wondered how offset printing happens? Perhaps you need a fast answer to the question “How do I even start my new zine project?” (easy to follow flowchart on page 116!). Maybe you’d like a reminder about page layout or terminology – this is the book you’re looking for! If you make zines which utilize both new school technology (Photoshop/Illustrator/InDesign) with old school technology (cut/copy/paste) this book will be a great resource guide.

Limiting myself to these four books was a hard task; while there are plenty of books about zines and zinemaking (What’cha Mean, What’s A Zine, Stolen Sharpie Revolution, Zine Scene: the DIY Guide to Making Zines) and bookbinding (Cover to Cover, Bookbinding: A Step by Step Guide, Creating Artists’ Books) I feel that each of the books I’ve mentioned above are solidly consistent; I find myself referring back to them again and again. These are books that I often loan out and never see again – a true testimonial to their usefulness.

Bonus: these four books (and other books about making books) can be checked out at your local public library; see what they have and reserve your copies at

So You Want to Make a Zine (Part 2)

As our world becomes more dominated by digital media, it's easy to forget that there are still things books can offer that computers can't. And one of the greatest things about books is that they are physically engaging, so zinesters, don't be afraid to play with the shape and presentation of your projects. Allow your creativity to take over and treat each page with love. Why make a boring old zine when you can make an exciting new zine? With enough imagination, you can bring that same excitement that exists on your zine's cover into its inner pages. And the whole piece can become one cohesive, creative experience, from start to finish.

Here are some items and strategies that will be helpful for both the creative process and production:


1)..   An Exacto-Knife: With an exacto-knife, you have more control over the types of cuts you make, so it comes in handy whenever you’re trying to cut tight corners or odd angles.

2)..   A Cutting Mat: You’ll run the risk of damaging a lot of furniture, carpets, and floors if you don't have a cutting mat.

3)..   Scrapbooking Tape: It’s clean and flexible. It’s double-sided and removable. Scapbooking tape allows you to make mistakes and play with composition.

4)..   Glue Stick: A good alternative to liquid glue, because liquid glue tends to wrinkle paper.

5)..   Black Sharpie: Usually, when you erase pencil marks, the ink will lift, leaving behind a grainy trail of black. Though “grainy” can be a good look, sometimes you really just want a bold black and sharpies are good for creating the darkest, boldest marks that will translate well into photocopies.

6)..   Metal Ruler: Flimsy rulers break easily. A metal ruler is stronger, sturdier, and it keeps your papers in place, while you mark them.

7)..   A Bone Folder: A bone folder is a thin but firm tool that resembles an envelope opener. This is useful for making quick, clean creases into your paper or cardstock. You can also use it to fold your pages without leaving any oily residue on your paper, and to flatten or eliminate any unwanted imperfections.

8)..   12.5” Long-Reach Stapler: In order to staple your zine in the middle of the folded page, you’re going to need a long-reach stapler. Once you have this essential item, you can also play with different formats and sizes. You can create anything from small ashcans to larger, full-length magazines.

STRATEGIES: Create a mock-up (or a dummy). Play with form and structure.

With a mock-up you can write notes to yourself, see what you want to layout on each page, figure out the flow of your mini-magazine, and decide on the following:

1)..   Size and shape.
2)..   How many pages do you want to to be?
3)..   How many copies are you going to make?
4)..   Are you going to print in black and white or in color?

Never lose sight of how you're going to print things. If you make your dummy the exact size you want your zine to be, you can predict what it will look like after you print it, and you can have a better sense of your audience's experience.

There is no ONE way to create a zine; everyone has their own approach. Zines become the finger prints to individual personalities and each zine expresses a unique voice, so once you've found your source of inspiration and once you know what you want to say, the next question to consider is, "How do you want to say it?"

Top 5 Zinester Musicians

Zinesters are some of the most creative people around, so it should come as no surprise their talents extend to the music world. Here's my top five zinesters that know how to rock the page and the stage.

Aaron Cometbus

Perhaps the most well-known zinester around, Aaron Cometbus is the creative powerhouse behind the seminal punk zine of the same name, Cometbus. A self proclaimed "punk anthropologist," he's had his fair share of contributions behind a typewriter and a drumkit. His most well known contributions are as co-founder of the highly influential Bay Area band Crimpshrine, along with his tenure as the drummer of Pinhead Gunpowder (formed alongside Green Day's Billy Joe Armstrong).

Erick Lyle

Another zinester to call the Bay Area home (by way of Florida), Erick Lyle has been producing the zine SCAM since 1991. An active writer, Lyle's work has also been featured in such publications as Maximum Rock N Roll, San Francisco Bay Guardian, and NPR's This American Life; in 2008 Soft Skull Press released a collection of his essays, anecdotes, and memoirs entitled On the Lower Frequencies. Lyle is also a prolific guitarist, playing in numerous bands including San Francisco's pop-punk power trio Onion Flavored Rings, Black Rainbow (featured above), and his latest project, Knife in the Eye.

Kathleen Hanna

Before the Riot Grrrl movement took female empowerment to the DIY masses, Kathleen Hanna was just like every other twentysomething looking to be heard. The result? Hanna and her friends released the now infamous zine Bikini Kill, which also spurred a band of the same name. Although both the zine and the band only lasted for a few years throughout 1990's, their impact continues to be felt for generations. Hannah later followed up her musical ambitions with the bands Julie Ruin and Le Tigre.

Ben Weasel

Love him or hate him, there's no denying Ben Weasel has left his mark on the underground art world. As the frontman for the legendary band Screeching Weasel, he's put out dozens of albums and an endless array of singles, both with the group that bares his namesake, as well as with The Riverdales and his own solo projects. While his music--and notorious temper--have often been at the forefront of his profile, Weasel is also an accomplished writer. In addition to his former long-standing column in Maximum Rock N Roll, Weasel has published a number of zines ranging from the punk manifesto Panic Button to the sex-filled Teen Punks in Heat; in 2001 his novel, Like Hell, was released by the Chicago-based publisher Hope and Nonthings.

Janelle Hessig

Janelle Hessig started her comic zine, Tales of Blarg, at the tender age of fourteen. Since then she's become a figure synonymous with both the punk and DIY publishing scenes. Hessig's work has been featured on countless record covers, magazines, and even underwear, but her talents aren't limited to just the print world--she's also played in tons bands like Panty Raid, Baby Jail, The Tourettes, and Rat Attack. But what's more punk rock than playing in a punk band? Having punk songs written about you. For better or worse, Hessig has been the subject of numerous tunes, including tracks by Born Against, Bratmobile, and Scared of Chaka.

So does being a successful zinester also mean having to play in a band? Not necessarily, but having outlets that can support both forms of creativity is never a bad thing. I think that's the reason why the work of these five individuals has reached the levels of popularity they have, cause their talent wasn't limited to a few pieces of paper. Consider that the next time you're finding yourself staring at a blank page--maybe all you need is a different kind of canvas.

Female Talent (in Comics and Life)

I was asked to write a blog on Female Cartoonists, and though my instant thought was “Why do they have to be female? Why can’t they just be cartoonists?” I kept that chip on my shoulder in check, and after a few weeks, I was reminded of why it’s important to highlight women in the arts.

Recently, a friend shared a link with me on The Top 10 Female Punk Bands. To be honest, I had only heard of a few of the bands listed. I had a flashback of being in high school and telling my older brother that I wanted to sing in a band. He said, “Bands with female leads don’t really make it. There are only a few good girl bands.” At that time, I could only think of Hole, which wasn't a good example because Courtney Love was married to Kurt Cobain. It was rumored that Cobain helped her write some of Hole's best songs. Whether or not that was true, there is no doubt that the Love/Cobain relationship helped put Hole on the map. Therefore, I had no rebuttal to my brother's comment. But after I read this article and researched all of the Female Punk Bands I didn’t already know, I thought, “This is information I could have used 10 years ago!”

I’ve been hit one too many times over the head with The Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the U.K,” and I have yet to hear The Raincoats’ “No Looking,” or Liliput’s “Nice,” on the radio. In the 90s, the Riot Grrrl scene was at it's peek, but mainstream radio never played Riot Grrrl songs. I remembered... talented women often go unnoticed or don’t get the recognition they deserve.

Now that I'm working on comics, I hear people say, "Girls read comics?" and "Really... women CREATE comics?" YES and YES. And this time I've done my homework, so I can tell you there are plenty of women working in comics, all with various styles and unique voices. I'm proudly taking this opportunity to praise a few local Female Cartoonists I have come across in the Bay Area.

1). Biographical Comics: Maria Forde’s Marlon Brando
 Maria Forde brings the core of his inspiration into her book, as she goes over the sad and tragic aspects of Marlon Brando’s early life. She presents Marlon Brando in a more intimate way. The whole book feels so honest and personal, you’d think Maria Forde lived through Brando’s experiences herself.

2). Autobiographical Comics: Tyler Cohen’s Primahood, featuring Mamapants!

Tyler Cohen mixes every day stories with songs and playful illustrations. Her comics are about parenthood. She makes us part of her and her daughter’s adventures, but Primahood is more than a mother-daughter story; it delves into the themes of feminine identity and how it changes throughout life. Cohen’s work is accessible to anyone who enjoys a fun, poetic take childhood, adulthood, and the areas where both meet.

3). Fairy Tales: Karen Luk’s Encounters

Karen Luk rewrites Fairy Tales and Folk Stories with a modern, female perspective. Her characters are deep and savvy, providing the audience with a new insight into stories we have heard a million times before. The women are adventurous, are on their own fantastic journey; they are never victims lacking control of their destiny. Each story can stand alone, but Luk connects her characters through their challenges. She threads her stories together with her color palette, her fantastic creatures, and courage. Everything about Encounters is carefully crafted to bring the elements of magic and wonder to life.

4). Superhero Comics: Nomi Kane’s Chutzpah!

Nomi Kane knows how to play with genre and presensation. Chutzpah! stands out because of it's beautiful royal blue cover, and the yellow and red banner that titles the page. This comic has an appealing, bright blue ribbon laced around the folded edge: a personal touch that makes this comic even more inviting.
Chutzpah! is a unique take on the superhero story. Rachel, the protagonist, is a Jewish woman, who is dealing with her sister’s death. A psychic hands her a potion (a gift from her sister), and after Rachel drinks, Stars of David come out of her mouth. These stars give people the confidence they need to get out of risky situations. The point this superhero makes is “if you had the confidence to stand up for yourself, would you need a hero to come to your rescue?”

5). Dark Humor: Esther Pearl Watson’s Unlovable

Esther Pearl Watson was inspired to create this comic after finding someone’s journal in a public restroom. She appropriately named it after The Smith’s song, “Unlovable,” because it envelopes all of the tragic high school moments Tammy Pierce, a dorky but endearing teenager, experiences. Unlovable reads like an episode of Freaks and Geeks, but the scribbled line work creates figures that remind you of what puberty is like: painfully awkward. These images put you in Tammy Pierce’s misshaped shoes. Unlovable brings you back to those uncomfortable, heartbreaking high school memories, with some much needed distance and humor.

This is only a brief introduction; I can easily choose five additional female artists for each of the categories listed above. I can also think of more genres or styles to write about. But I hope this piece provides a decent sample of the different types of comics women have created. I’m happy to write about more female cartoonists because they often don't get the praise they deserve, because it helps to know that people you can relate to are creating meaningful art, and because you never know who might need the inspiration: a few lonely, teenage girls can use these role models to help them say, “You're wrong. Girls kick ass!” to anyone who might be misinformed.

SFZF 2012 Special Guest: Sarah Oleksyk

In continuing our tradition of showcasing some of the most talented creators around, we're happy to announce Sarah Oleksyk as the featured guest artist for the 2012 SF Zine Fest!

Sarah is a writer and illustrator from Los Angeles who has been featured in the Best American Comics series, the comic anthology Dark Horse Presents, and currently works as a writer and storyboard artist for Cartoon Network's Regular Show. Her new graphic novel from Oni Press is the Eisner-nominated Ivy.

To learn more about Sarah and her work, visit online at She's an incredible creator and we're thrilled to have her as part of this year's Zine Fest. We're hoping you'll make it out to show to see why, along with all the other talented folks who will be exhibiting this year.

We still have tables open and encourage you to visit our Registration page to sign up. Don't forget to register before August 1st to take advantage of the early-bird registration prices!

Zine Spotlight: TALLGUY

Last year at SFZF 2011, I was lucky enough to have a table across the way from Adam Davis, a.k.a XAdamDX. His small paintings of robots caught my eye as they reminded me of pop culture images of the past. And his zine series, TALLGUY, in which he interviews other musicians, is as cool outside, with its narrow, elongated size and full color cover, as its contents. XAdamDX has taken DIY thought and culture to the next level as he has always been motivated to create something out of nothing, whether it be unique t-shirts, art, music, and of course, zines! I caught up with XAdamDX to learn more about his DIY mentality that drives him to create his zines and art.

How did you get into independent publishing, art and the like?

I think punk rock was the gateway for me getting into all of this. Growing up in Gilroy, there wasn't a lot of anything going on in the 90's. The whole DIY mentality that pushed me to start making the things I wanted to see: Can't find a t-shirt of the band you like? Make your own! Don't like the bands in your town? Learn how to play an instrument and start the band you want to hear! No one books All Ages shows? Your friend's parents have a barn, start playing shows in there! I always wanted to make zines as a teenager, but the prohibitive cost of reproducing them was always my biggest stumbling block. It wasn't until I had a mindless office job that I started making zines. It helped me feel like I was "sticking it to the man" by running off hundreds of copies on someone else's dime... pretty juvenile, but you do what you can to entertain yourself at a dumb job you hate.

How would you describe what you do and the work that you produce?

The short answer: I like to draw robots, dinosaurs, zombies and skulls. The long answer: Illustration is my number one focus artistically these days. I've also done a fair amount of painting (I did one project where I painted one hundred robots, and another where I'm painting one hundred dinosaurs) and recorded a considerable amount of music. I think I'm still just doing what I did as a teenager: I'm trying to bring things into the world that I want to see/read/hear.

What are you trying to communicate through your zines and art?

Overall, I think I'm just trying to get all the ridiculous ideas inside of my head out. In the process, I hope that it'll at least make for something entertaining. My first substantial zine was called I HATE THIS JOB AND I WANT TO DIE. It was a journal I kept while working at my first temp job at 23. I came across it again when I was turning 30 and decided it was worth publishing. It was so embarrassing and honest, it was something I thought other folks would want to read. I've also self-published a comic, and a few issues of a zine called TALLGUY where I mainly interview other musicians.

What does your work consist of?

Usually dinosaurs and robots. They're my easy default. Up against a deadline? Draw a robot, or a dinosaur. I truly like to draw other stuff though, especially weird ideas people have. I did a shirt for Bobby Joe Ebola & the Children MacNuggits, and their direction to me was "something dealing with dog poop". I think it came out really awesome/gross.

What are your current projects and upcoming events?

I'm at the tail-end of a project where I'm hiding 100 dinosaur paintings, and leaving clues for people to find them: It's taken me a bit longer to finish than I thought it would because I under-estimated my other big project: Becoming a father. I quit my crappy office job so I can change someone's crappy pants. It's infinitely better.

Where can people find you?

At, or walking around Alameda with my son. If it's late at night, the Tacos Mi Rancho taco truck in east Oakland is a safe bet. Their burritos are amazing.

What is your favorite thing about the SF Zine Fest?

I love seeing so many creative people under one roof, and seeing what everyone has been up to. It's fun to barter off items with the other tables.

For new illustrations and designs, follow Adam on:

Twitter: @XAdamDX
Pinterest: XAdamDX

Where Zines Happen: Jen Oaks

You’ve seen the work of Jen Oaks before: perhaps at Oakland’s First Friday, Little Otsu in SF, or hanging in a local gallery. I bet at one point or another you’ve coveted those Twin Peaks pins she sells like hotcakes or picked up one of her adorable cards for a terrier-obsessed friend. It is entirely possible that you read about Jen in the SF Weekly. Whatever the case, she is a powerhouse of awesome. 

So how does she do it? Where does she create her oh-so-colorful prints, the comic zines, those hilarious pup cards? Is her workspace filled with brightly colored 1950’s ads and stacks of books? Does she have a favorite colored pencil? Use a typewriter? I had to know more. I was determined. My curiosity was rewarded when Jen graciously took the time to answer a couple of questions. (spoiler: bright colors = yes, typewriter = no)

For the type of work that you create, what sorts of things inspire you, visually speaking? Do you have a favorite genre or artistic time period? 

I look at a lot of graphic and/or decorative work. Some of my (many, many) favorites are Mucha, Meg Hunt, Kevin Wada, Coop, Yuko Shimizu, Victo Ngai, and John Baizley. I like illustration that leans toward the fantastical, especially. I aspire to be looser and less literal with my work. Buildings are also a huge source of inspiration to me. Old buildings with style and character thrill me to no end. I love drawing them and imagining their stories. Preservation of historic buildings and neighborhoods is so important.

Which do you prefer in your workspace: peace and quiet, or lots of excitement? How does this affect your workflow?

I've had a few studios where I was the only person to ever show up. I was crammed in there with everyone's stuff, alone and sad and getting nothing done. So I definitely need people around. Otherwise, why not save my BART fare and just stay home in my pajamas? I'm lucky to finally have a studio with two fellow illustrators. I'd been waiting so long! When we're all three there and we're all working, there's a great atmosphere of progress and creativity. We support, critique, and inspire each other, and now that I know what it's like to have that, I never want to be without it. 

What do you like about your workspace? Dislike? What would your "ideal space" look like? 

We split kind of a lofty space in a warehouse at 2nd and Bryant. I like that there's plenty of room to breathe, and there are skylights and some food/coffee nearby if you remember to go before 5pm. There are lots of other artists around, but nobody's loud or up in my business. My dislikes have to do with typical SOMA warehouse conditions: it’s freezing in winter, roasting in summer, and there’s SOMA traffic and Giants traffic during baseball season. It's a circular building with the Bay Bridge onramp wrapped around it, but there is no crosswalk! Also, I don't feel terribly safe being there after dark, as the building is not the most secure. But hey, I’m lucky to have it. 

I've kind of grown out of my "beautiful studio" fantasies. I have four walls with pretty things tacked up and that's all I need now. At the end of the year, the building owner will be renovating to house tech offices and all the artists here will have to find new spaces. My studio mates and I are hoping to find a similarly-priced space closer to Market (what a dream!). And dang, a window would be really, really, really nice. 

Jen Oaks is an illustrator in Berkeley, California. She enjoys drawing hot girls, sloths, and strangers. Find more of her work at You can check out her work in person at this year's SF Zine Fest.

So You Want to Make a Zine (part 1)

This was supposed to be a single blog, but when Jennie and I got together to write it, we had too many ideas to fit into a single entry.  We got carried away with different ways of making zines, styles, etc., so we decided to break this up into a few parts. 
We start with inspiration.

Even if you don’t write personal stories, specifically about yourself, every artist draws from life.  Expose yourself to the world around you, and sharpen your senses by paying close attention to what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel every day.  What’s calling your attention?  I always carry a journal with me, so I write down random thoughts and observations.  I like to eavesdrop and script people’s conversations when I’m on the bus or sitting at a café.  Other people take snapshots with their phones, or sketch out images they like throughout the day.  As long as you’re documenting the stuff that jumps out at you in some way, you’ll see a pattern.  What you notice is usually in sync with what’s going on in your head. 

It also helps to revisit your favorite artists, books, magazines, and music to feel excited again.  In the same way, these artists help you remember the things that are meaningful to you.  Personally, I find it helpful to keep my influences physically close to me.  My bookshelf has a special “go to” section that stores all of my favorite writers.  Whenever I’m out of ideas, I always read some of the books on this shelf and often they help me find the words/images I need to get started. 

How do you get started?  Jennie came up with these brainstorming exercises:

1)..   Mind map everything you’re thinking about.  Write down the first 20 words that come to mind. 

2).    Write down snippets of conversations you overhear throughout the day.

3).    Take 10 minutes to take snapshots or sketch out all of the random visuals that catch your eye.

4).    For the next 24 hours (nonconsecutive), make a drawing/write a phrase for every hour.  At the end of those 24 hours, take your 3 favorite drawings/phrases and base your zine on those 3 hours.   

Now that you have something to build on, there are decisions to make.  Here are some key things to consider, before getting started:

1).    Zine / paper size
2).    Number of pages
3).    Style

Make a zine mock-up (or dummy).  Fill up the pages with content, get the words and pictures out onto the pages, and the dummy will help you find the layout or design for your zine. 

This is how a zine is born.  You must have writings and visuals, you must establish a size and page count, and after you’re done with your dummy, you print, staple and collate. 

In our next entry of “So You Want To Make a Zine” we will go over the materials you’ll need to put this all together.  In the meantime, keep working on those brilliant ideas.  Flow is what’s important!