Zinester Spotlight: Ricky Watts

I recently caught up with ZeroFriends artist, Ricky Watts, after his completion of the amazing mural he painted on “The Phoenix” Theater wall in Petaluma, CA. The piece took 450 MTN Colors aerosol paint cans to produce.

Ricky is a versatile artist who illustrates, paints fine art, as well as spray paints large-scale murals. He became connected with Alex Pardee and Quake of the ZeroFriends Collective 15 years ago and has had art openings at the ZeroFriends location showcasing his illustrations and paintings. He has appeared in numerous international print and web publications, including Juxtapoz, Herman Miller, X-Funs (Taiwan), Refused Magazine, Bay Area Graffiti (book), Flo Multi-Zine and the 2012 Outside Lands Music Festival Sutro stage banners. 

Hey Ricky, looks like you’ve been up to quite a bit lately. What are some of the new things you’ve been working on?

Hey! Thanks for this opportunity. I’ve been staying busy painting walls, doing shows and taking on some commissions and graphic design projects. I’m currently preparing to do some live painting at the Outside Lands Music Festival in August.

How did you hookup with the ZeroFriends Collective?

I’ve known Alex Pardee and Quake for about 15 years now. We originally met through graffiti and have become good friends over the years. I was around in the beginning when ZeroFriends was just starting out and watched it develop into the awesome company it’s become. Everyone who works there is great and it’s been a very exciting to be included in their shows/events.

ZeroFriends showcases work from a variety of artists. What would you say sums up the style/type of art and artists involved in the collective?

The great thing about ZeroFriends is that you don’t need to do a certain style of art to be involved. It’s more of a loose knitted group of friends who happen to all be artists on their own. If there had to be a certain style, many of the artists involved are into monsters and darker styles of art. Most are illustrators or have an illustrative background but the majority of us are comfortable in multiple mediums at any given time. It’s a very versatile collective. One day we’ll be collaborating on an illustration, the next day we’ll be spray painting a wall and the following day we’ll be working on a graphic for the website.

I’ve been to the Zero Friends store in Oakland, CA and seen the books and zines published, have you ever thought of publishing a book or zine consisting of your artwork? If so, what would it consist of?

I think about doing a zine/book all the time! When I was in high school I started self publishing a graffiti zine called HelmetHeds. It was total D.I.Y., I’d cut up actual photos, glue them on to paper, write stupid stuff around them and run off copies at Kinko’s. Making zines was what attracted me to graphic design, my major at the Art Institute of California in San Diego. I’ve always loved and collected them. In 2007, I self published a zine of my black and white drawings called Excessive Nonsense. The ultimate goal was to do a handful of issues to then compile them all into a book but funds ran short and time was re-directed towards other projects. I still fantasize about doing a book and know someday it will happen. It will include artwork, progress shots, behind the scenes stuff, commentary, etc.  

You’ve been experimenting with graffiti art from a young age, painting at night under bridges, etc., what was it that attracted you to spray paint art?

When I was in junior high, I got into graffiti because it was the cool trend at the time. Many kids at school had a graffiti alias and I thought that was interesting so I came up with “Junior” because I was small. One day a classmate showed me a copy of Can Control, a 1990‘s graffiti magazine and it blew my mind. I wanted to paint big, elaborate pieces like what I saw in that magazine. I became obsessed with it. Most kids stopped writing after a few months but I couldn’t stop. It became all I thought about, all I did, all I looked at. It was a combination of my creative desires and rebellious teenage years that attracted me to spray paint as a medium.

I understand you recently painted a large mural on the wall of the Phoenix Theater in the city of Petaluma, CA. Can you explain how this project came together?

The wall I painted recently was something I began daydreaming about when I began hanging out at “The Phoenix” in 1995. It was so big and majestical that I only wanted to paint a portion of the wall, I didn’t think it would be possible to do the whole thing.  In August of 2012 I got a call from Scott Hess of the Petaluma Arts Council asking me to be a part of a show he was curating for the Petaluma Arts Center featuring Mars-1, Oliver Vernon and Damon Soule. All three of these men are phenomenal artists so it was an honor to even be considered. Space for all the art became an issue and Scott proposed the idea of doing a mural on the Phoenix as my contribution to the show. I agreed to it, although I was a little skeptical of its possibility. One thing led to another and Scott, with the help of KickStarter, paved the way to making the wall a reality.

This is the largest piece I’ve done to date. It’s approx. 60’ wide by five stories tall.  The wall was painted entirely with MTN Colors aerosol paint and took approx. 450 cans to produce.

How long did it take to paint the wall?

It was a little intimidating at first as I’m terrified of heights, but once I began painting, things went smoothly and it was complete in a little over two weeks.

As a kid, did you always dream of becoming an artist? What turned you onto art growing up?

It’s funny to me, when you’re young, art is just something you do. Every kid draws, colors, whatever. It’s not really a career possibility when you’re a kid. I wanted to be a paleontologist, then I wanted to play professional soccer. I would doodle in class a lot, draw girls names as a way to get their attention. I loved comics so I would draw my own comics, usually involving epic battles of nuclear dinosaurs vs. the US Army. I got serious about art in high school although it still wasn’t a career possibility for me. I just knew that I liked painting more than I liked being on the soccer team. I spent two years in the AP art program in high school and my teacher convinced me that yes, a professional artist was a possibility.

What is it about the Bay Area community that helps artists thrive?

The bay area art scene is incredible. Most artists I meet are genuine people, thoroughly interested in art and networking with others. Artists here seem more relaxed and willing to share.  The galleries are supportive of local talent and there are a lot of murals being painted. I really love the bay area, I’m happy to call northern California home.


Where have you shown your art lately?

I just recently dismantled a show I did with Sean Griffin at LeQuiVive gallery in Oakland. I’m a huge fan of Sean’s work so having the opportunity to show with him was a real treat. 

Where can people find your art and buy your prints?

Everything can be found at RickyWatts.com - I recently opened a Studio/Gallery space in Petaluma, CA, a few blocks from the Phoenix Theater wall. The address is 402 Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma, CA 94952. I’m there most often Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-6pm. I encourage anyone interested in stopping by to make an appointment through my website so I can be sure to be there in person.

SF Zine Fest 2013 Weekend Info + Schedule

sfzf poster 2013Fixed.jpg

We're less than a month away from SF Zine Fest 2013 and things are gearing up to be one of our most exciting weekends ever. 

This year we are proud to feature over 140 creators in two huge exhibition halls at the San Francisco County Fair Building in Golden Gate Park. Our hosted community of writers, artists, and zinesters will have an array of work on display, ranging from nationally recognized publishers in the DIY and small-press scenes, to local creators based throughout the Bay Area. As always, the SF Zine Fest is a free event to all public attendees.    

In addition to our exhibitors, SFZF will also host numerous events throughout the weekend, including spotlights on our special guests Justin Hall, Roman Muradov, & Sophia Foster-Dimino, as well as zinester workshops and discussions of all things DIY. For a full schedule of events visit our Panels and Workshops page.

The SFZF Reading Room & Zine Library will also return even better than ever. Our collection of over 200 comics and zines showcase some of the most talented creators featured at Zine Fests past and present, and will all be on display for attendees to view and read. 

To ramp up excitement for the big weekend, the SF Zine Fest will be hosting "Thinking Captions 2013", a reading at the Cartoon Art Museum on August 29th featuring creators that will be exhibiting at this year's fest. Make sure to also join in on the fun Saturday Night, August 31st, as we'll be throwing our annual post-party at Mission Comics & Art.

Be sure to RSVP to this year's SF Zine Fest, and for updates on Zine Fest weekend, exclusive contests, and DIY goodness, find us on Facebook and Twitter. You'll also want to follow #SFZF for up-to-the-minute news and giveaways!


Awesome Zinester Buttons on Etsy

I love buttons. Whether they're pinned to my jacket or messenger bag, they're a great way for me to subtly rep my favorite bands/comics/nerd passions. So just imagine how stoked I was to come across these little guys to put my zinester antics on display.

Each of these buttons can be picked up on Etsy, and in true DIY fashion, are all lovingly handmade.  


via ladyteeth 

Zinester Spotlight: Jason Martin

I met Jason Martin at my first SF Zine Fest all the way back in 2008 and was blown away by his zines. He's not the kind of guy to wow you with flashy illustrations or sensational concepts, but rather, an approach that is perhaps a perfect representation of his personality -- honest, earnest, and down to earth. 

His ongoing title, Laterborn , is a zine brimmed with poignant true-life stories of Jason's everyday life. Co-workers, childhood memories, and house shows are all tropes of auto-bio comics that have been explored before, but he brings a sense of depth and delight that is rarely found elsewhere.  

I got a chance to chat with Jason about his work and process -- here's what he had to share.

Your art has a minimalist style that still manages to convey a lot of thought and emotion -- what influences that style of storytelling?

That’s pretty much the only way I can draw, but luckily it seems to fit my stories. I try to make up for my limited drawing skills by working harder on the writing half, so it’s a good motivator in that way. Kind of like when a singer doesn’t have a great voice, so they step up their songwriting.

How was your creative experience writing for other artists in Papercutter #17 different than stories you draw yourself?

Oh man, everything about that project was different and exciting, and also scary. I knew a lot of people would be reading that issue that had never seen my work before, so I felt a lot more pressure than usual. Another difference is I tend to do a lot of revising even while I’m drawing and inking, so it was hard to let go of my drafts and know I couldn’t make any more changes. But I also had an editor (Greg Means) who’s really good at giving feedback, which balanced things out.

When we got the finished comics back everyone hit theirs out of the park, and it was obvious I never had anything to worry about. My two favorite panels in the issue are things the artists added on their own (like the second to last panel of Vanessa Davis’ comic, which totally nailed what I was trying to say).

In Laterborn #8 there's a part of the story where you flashback to a childhood memory and the art style radically changes.  Can you talk a little bit about where you took that artwork from?

Those drawings are from a book my mom and I made when I was a kid. I would tell her stories about my life and she would write down what I said (probably polishing it up a little), then I’d draw a picture to illustrate each page. Looking back, it was kind of like proto-Laterborn. I still have the book (actually two books) on my shelf, with stories like “Jason Goes to Canada” and “Jason Has a Bad Dream.” Good stuff.

Cover & pages from Papercutter #17, via Tugboat Press

Cover & pages from Papercutter #17, via Tugboat Press

In one issue of Laterborn you mentioned your house had caught on fire. Three years later you wrote that story as one of the shorts in Papercutter. How did you know it was the right time to tell it?

I was writing that story in my head for years, but whenever I thought about working on it for an issue of Laterborn I’d start to feel really bogged down and drained. I figured it would take me around two months to draw the story, and didn’t want to be in that “head space” for so long. So it was nice to be able to hand this off to my friend Calvin to draw (who did an amazing job). I probably wouldn’t have done it otherwise.

Have you ever considered a fiction project?

I majored in creative writing, so I’ve written a lot of fictional short stories in the past, and hope to pick that up again when I’m more caught up on my comic ideas. But for whatever reason I don’t feel like I have what it takes to draw a fictional comic... I’d probably be more down to do this with another artist. One way or another, I definitely want to write fiction again someday. There’s a thrill in creating a new story that you don’t get when you’re retelling something that already happened.

From your perspective, what makes the Bay Area a special place for writers, artists, and creators?

I love that we have all the culture that comes with big cities and college towns, but we’re also never too far from a beach or forest. The only thing that makes it not so special is the skyrocketing rents, but even though we keep losing artists to cheaper cities, it feels like there’s always an influx of talented young people to keep things going.

To see more of Jason's artwork and pick up his zines, head over to driftwoodcity.com; Jason will also be exhibiting at this year's SF Zine Fest, so be on the lookout!

5 Kick-Ass Comics About Punk Rock

When I was 16 years old I became obsessed with two things that would become major focal points of my life -- punk rock and comics. While my tastes in both of those realms has evolved over the years, nothing gets me more excited then when these two worlds collide.

The mixing of punk and comics is nothing new -- from zines, to album art, to show flyers -- cartoonists have a long-held presence in the scene. While countless titles have been published over the years, I wanted to spotlight a few of my personal favorites that I find myself reading over and over again.


Love & Rockets - Unless you've been living in a small wooden cabin cut off from all of comic-loving society, you've probably heard of Love & Rockets. Comprised of honest, funny, heart wrenching, and sometimes planetary stories, this series has become one of the most well-known indie comics of the last 20+ years.

The strips by co-creator Jaime Hernandez, set during the early years of the California punk scene, are focused on the intertwined relationships of young girls Maggie, Hopey, and their cast of childhood friends. I could write an entire thesis about this title so take my advice when I say this is one comic that lives up to the hype.


Punk Rock Jesus - In the not-too-distant future where corporate tyranny and crass commercialization reign supreme, an evil television executive hatches a scheme to brainwash the masses -- a new reality show starring a genetically-modified clone of Jesus Christ. Things don't go quite according to plan though when Irish freedom fighters, Christian extremists, and angry politicians get in the mix. Did I mention that the cloned Holy Son dons a mohawk, begins listening to the Dead Kennedys, and starts a band called The Flak Jackets? Yeah, that part is awesome. 

Written and illustrated by Sean McKeever, Punk Rock Jesus was a cult favorite amongst critics and readers alike. McKeever brings a ferocious electricity to the artwork that feels like a strange-but-perfect melding of Raymond Pettibon and Jim Lee (personally I love it). One half action/adventure, one half social commentary, this is a great read for those looking for some thought-provoking entertainment. 

Snake Pit - For a guy that's played in quite a few bands, including J Church, Party Garbage, and The Capitalist Kids, I'd say Ben Snakepit knows a thing or two about punk rock.

That undeniable authenticity is why I love Snake Pit. As the sole writer and artist, Ben brings a humorous, unfiltered enthusiasm to the page time and time again. I got into his work through reading Razorcake (where he is a common contributor) and his zine collections, Snake Pit Quarterly. The anthologies are a blast and are filled with autobiographical shorts told in his signature three-panel strip format, mostly about touring, friends, and day job shenanigans.

Henry & Glenn Forever - This is one of those zines that is so absurd, so absolutely off the wall bonkers, that you can't help but be drawn in by its ridiculous premise: Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig are suburban "roommates" who along with their neighbors, Hall & Oates (now practicing Satanists), find themselves mixed up in all sorts of everyday and other-worldly adventures.

It's hard to fully describe this zine -- which just released a third issue earlier this year -- but if you're at all curious it will not disappoint. Misfits fans and Black Flag devotees are sure to pick up on some of the hilarious references, and the wide range of art styles from the featured creators showcase just how much fun you can have with this concept.

Punk Rock and Trailer Parks - An underrated gem in my opinion, this graphic novel tells the fictional story of The Baron, a Goliath-sized band geek that finds himself in the thick of the late 70's punk scene in Akron, Ohio. Most of the action takes place at The Bank, a real-life venue in downtown Akron that hosted underground icons like The Ramones, Joe Strummer, and Wendy Williams. 

There's a very Crumb-esque vibe to the artwork and storytelling, and the book's creator, simply known as "Derf," does a great job at capturing the look and feel of Mid-Western America through the lens of the comix landscape. It's chock full of mosh pits, melees, and high school mayhem -- what more could you ask for?

This is by no means a complete list of all the punk comics out there, but these are definitely some of my favorites. The punk scene has a raw, unbridled essence to it that's hard to define, but when captured on the page is unlike anything you'll ever find. I'll never outgrow either of these two worlds, and quite frankly, neither should anyone else.

Are there any other punk rock comics you would recommend? Share them in a comment.



Calling All Volunteers for SFZF 2013

Do you... 

• read/love/make zines and want to meet others that do too? 

 • enjoy supporting local writers & artists?

 • like meeting new people (in a non-creepy OK Cupid kind of way)?

• love giving a bit of your time for fabulous  events in San Francisco?

 • need to spend a bit more time in Golden Gate Park?


We're looking for awesomely lovely people who can staff our info booth, chill out in our Zine Library, and support panels & workshops at the SF Zine Fest 2013 on August 31st and September 1st. We're also looking for helping hands for our additional SFZF events at the Cartoon Art Museum and Mission Comics & Art

If you'd like to give a couple hours of your time we'd love to hear from you! Volunteers are also given cool incentives like SFZF tote-bags, free zines, and invites to uber-exclusive events with the SFZF Team. 

For more info, drop us a line through our Contact page with the subject line "Volunteer."


Incredible and Geeky Cross-Stitching by Cross-Stitch Ninja


Video games and cross-stitch have proved a natural fit; after all, the individual stitches are essentially pixels rendered in floss. Cross-Stitch Ninja takes geeky cross-stitch to another level, making not just perfectly colored video game maps and snarky samplers, but also intricate comic book pages and patent illustrations.

Just check out this amazing recreation of a page from The Walking Dead


You can see more of CSN's incredible work on Flickr

3D-Print an SLR Camera for $30


This project requires access to a 3D printer and a CNC cutting tool, but with the right equipment and skills, you can print yourself a nice analog camera for about $30. Maker Leo Marius created this 3D-printed analog camera for his design school graduation project, and now he's posted the instructions along with his open-source files on Instructables. It's a neat blend of analog and digital technology—and if a part breaks, you can always print off a new one.

3D Printed Camera: OpenReflex  [Instructables via Inhabitat]

Famous Books That Were Originally Self-Published


Mental Floss has a great little list of culturally significant books that were originally self-published and went on to massive success. There's certainly a lot of romance to the vision of Walt Whitman helping to set the type for Leaves of Grass, and I think a lot of us can commiserate with Charles Dickens' experience in self-publishing A Christmas Carol—a process that was much more difficult and much more expensive than he anticipated.

5 Famous Books That Were Originally Self-Published [Mental Floss]