Friday, 25 May 2012

Collaborative Beacons Fanzine

For the weekend of 17 - 19th August I will be at the Beacons music festival near Skipton, doing minicomics and participatory paper activities for a collaborative festival fanzine.

I am very happy that this is happening, because I've meant to contribute to this particular festival for ages - it's a cycle ride from my folks' house, it's good and interesting music, it's Yorkshire! And it was flooded and therefore cancelled in 2011, which was a big shame.

This blog post details my planned activities for the Fanzine, all of which I think will be great fun! (and also, if I forget what I said I was going to do, I can look back at this post and remind myself!) 

Zine it Yourself: participatory fanzine making.

Suitable for all ages, all abilities, and all imaginations, 'zines are a cheap, accessible and infinitely variable form of self-expression with a proud and profound place in our musical and cultural history. Poetry, doodles, puzzles and deeply personal experiences can all be shared, on paper, with the unknown stranger. Sometimes these let you into the heart of another person, in a way that corporate, agenda-driven, mass-mediated publications simply cannot do. And sometimes they give you the first, best review of your new favourite band - who are refreshingly unpretentious and loose-lipped to the fanzine interviewer!

In this workshop, festival-goers will be bullied and cajoled and joyfully misled into contributing to a Beacons Festival Fanzine. There will be ongoing collaborative stories written up on old- fashioned typewriters; there will be stencil art and potato prints; there will be a myriad of accessible ways to enable you to express yourself on paper.

Don't keep yourself locked-inside; don't leave the speaking and the writing to the brassy and the over-paid. Share what you thought of that band; tell us a story; remember a dream dreamed under canvas; draw a really lame picture of a funny sheep : collectively all these papery records will create a unique festival document and remind us how it feels to do it ourselves - DIY culture lives!

Hosted by Zine-it-Yourself, the Newcastle-based zine obsessive otherwise known as Mike

Workshop One (Friday afternoon?): Make your own Mini Comic
Mini comics are a superbly accessible and simple way of getting people drawing and sharing experiences. 100% suitable for children, but with no limit to the artistic expertise or intellectual depth of the contributor! One A4 piece of paper is cunningly folded to create an 8-page unique comic.

Workshop Two (Saturday afternoon?) Exquisite Corpses (the surrealist drawing game). "You know the rules: draw a head, fold the paper, pass to your left and we carry on".

Due to 2012's fashionable budgetry constraints, I may be running all these activities on my own, in which case this game's success will entirely depend upon enough enthusiastic and unexpected participants happening to be in the same place at the same time! The other collaborative zine-making elements below will all happen to a greater or lesser extent!

Roaming Elements:

1. Travel back in time to the land before computers: discover why the shift key has come down to us where it has!

Using a typewriter these days is a rare and privileged experience, but here you can try it for free! See the metal lever fly and get your fingers all inky as you have to untangle the ribbon. See a genuine metal machine at work, powered only by the kinetic energy of your fingers. And if aliens wipe out the internet with a giant magnetic pulse, you'll still be able to write your dirty novel on one of these!

Add an experience, a thought, a thing you wish to share (or just bang the keys in a random order: that's fine too). Collectively, these will create a strange kind of collaborative document of this time, spent in these fields together. I shall post a copy to Abu Dhabi.

2. Interview yourself: answer these questions honestly and truthfully and then say that someone else said them. (feeling creative? make up your own questions here. feeling sociable? interview a stranger. feeling random? follow these instructions and record the answers.)

3. "Cut up your own words, or the words of our national heroes, and discover the secret dadaist messages within. Once finished, use these pictures to choose the person you think should have spoken them." A find-and-seek game, where the paper-y materials of the local environment (posters, instructions, adverts, litter) are scavenged to collect intriguing words, phrases and juxtapositions.

4. The Stencil Page
Layering of words can create an intriguing and surprising effect. One of the beauties of zines is the way they turn letters into art, via simple equipment like photocopiers - smudges, double exposures, cut-ups and unexpected juxtaposition (think of the sex pistols' collages).
This page will achieve the same thing, but with a stencil!
Write what words you like - your name, your lover's secret, a new word, a one-letter poem? The next person will lay their word over the top, it'll be reduced and photocopied, black and white and A4 size, & who knows what depth, what single surviving letters, what mess might occur! (colour scans will also be shown on the website).

5. Comics panels and pictures to complete. I will provide incomplete pictures of festival sights, blank comics panels, unfinished puzzles and stuff with speech and thought bubbles to fill - let your warped genius complete the world!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

My Analogue Dark-room Minicomic Idea, or 'Will this work?'

Comments are invited - will this idea work?

I want to make a mini comic. Non linear, just images. These black and white images happen to be photos. They currently consist of negatives on traditional still photographic film. Will I succeed in exposing these photos onto a single sheet, which can then be folded out into a mini comic? I don't know. What do YOU think?

Factors to consider:

1. I've not developed photos for 10 years, and my intention is to use the darkroom in the star and shadow cinema, with which i am not familiar, and which seems in a slightly chaotic state (to my eyes) as it is more usually used for developing motion picture film.

2. I do have plenty of paper, and budget for the necessary chemicals.

3. The 8page mini comic format I am aiming at works by folding a (usually) A4 piece of paper in half, in both directions, and then half each half so there are folds enough to make 8 pages on a single sheet of paper. By cutting a slit in the centre you are then able to fold the paper to create a booklet thingy. I envisage that photographic paper, although thicker and with slightly different dimensions, is foldable in the same way 

4. For each of the 8 pages, I plan to expose an image from a different negative. This means 7 eighths of the paper will need to be carefully covered by card, and not accidentally exposed, when 'page 1' gets its blast of light.

5. With a change of negative, page two will next get put under the beam for its treatment, and again the other 7 eighths of the paper will need to be carefully covered. Same process for pages 3 to 8. All through this time, the paper is sensitive to any light that hits it, and I cannot get the pages muddled up. How am I going to label them? How am I going to remember which pages I've done and which ones are still to go? How long will it take to expose 8 separate times, timesed by the number of copies I want (at least ten, ideally 30 plus!)

6. Benefits include that each page is the same size, so the same scale/focus of beam should work for each (no adjustment necessary). And I'll just aim for high contrast rather than fine grainy exposure.

7. Once each eighth of the paper has been separately exposed with its image, and the other 7 eighths has been successfully covered by card EACH TIME without any mixing up which way is up or which page is to come, then and only then do I stick the sheets into the developer, stop and fixer to see what comes up. Moment of truth time.

Well, what do you reckon? Will I manage it? I genuinely would not want to guess...

Thursday, 17 May 2012

I wanna be a cartoon postman!

I was walking along Grainger St in Newcastle when I thought "I'm free on Tuesday afternoon, what can I do instead of have a job?"

The solution was suggested by the fact that it is International Mini Comics day on the 26th May (although we had already done our mini comics event in April). Tuesday is the 22nd, close enough.

The idea is this:

- I get a pack of blank postcards.
- I deliver said postcards to retailing members of staff at a few places I go into regularly (Travelling Man Comics Shop, Beatdown Records, Details, the Settle Down, Mailboxes etc..).
- I cajole, beg, or mumble-until-they-do-it-to-make-me-go-away them into drawing something on those postcards.
- I deliver the drawn-upon postcards to the next shop, who complete the picture, story, whatever.

And maybe the resulting collection will achieve some unity out of the chaotic interaction and I will stick a mini comic together out of them.

So, citizens of Newcastle, on Tuesday 22nd May, PEOPLE WHO RETAIL WILL HAVE DRAWN THINGS WITH EACH OTHER!
Without even knowing who each other are, and for no particular reason except that I do not have a proper job.

Happy Mini Comics Day!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Elvis Zine

I recently told myself to stop trying to make so many zines, cos they're all messy and a bit 'niche' and I really should grow up and focus on some other things in life.

As usual, I appear to have completely ignored my resolution and have 4 new zines out this next week or so.

No 1. is the Minicomics to Malta 12page minicomic that I blogged about in the last post about an hour ago. It was to tie in with Newcastle's mini comics event at the city library, and intended as part of a 'you post to me and I'll post to you' exchange. But I messed up a bit (sunday and mayday in Malta having no available photocopiers, doh!) and so there was a slight delay. Still, I did a few copies, they're out there, and they ARE done in a nifty 12page fold that I'm still impressed with.

No 2. is Malta Zine 3, due back from the printers this coming week. 80 copies, almost-square shape, less-than-A5 size. As usual, I made it to give to other camp participants for free, plus I'll add it to Malta Zines 1 & 2 in an ever-updated package which I'll stick on bigcartel someday soon. For those who don't know, the Malta Zines are an illustrated diary featuring snippets from the Birdlife Malta international camps, which aim to protect migrating birds from gun-toting killers as they fly from Africa to Europe & back in their epic journeys. Write to me and I will happily post you one.

No 3. is the Pagan Geordie Yearbook, my most ambitious and thought-through of the current batch. It features rants, some of which have appeared on this blog over the last year or two, and extra things like site visits to ancient sacred places in Northumberland, and some historical and, well, I'll announce it all when I truly finish it. Still got the title page and a couple of little bits to go.

No.4 is Elvis Zine! My second zine about a cat, but this time a cat I've never met, called Elvis, who lives in Manchester. 

My friend Eleanor (who lives with said cat) was up in Northumberland this weekend so we got on the old typewriter and we made some crossword clues and I've conducted a postcard interview with Elvis, and it's a fold-out double-sided A3 jobbie that I will be posting down to Manchester in readiness for this weekend's Victoria Baths Fanzine Convention. I'm not going to be there (due to a walk in Haltwhistle), so if you go and you pick up a copy of the free Elvis Zine, do send me a picture so I feel like I'm involved! It features bodily fluids, kidnap and death plus - let's not forget - a postcard interview with a Mancunian cat. How often does the commercial mainstream world create such a cultural artefact, huh? HUH?

12 - page Mini Comics

I worked something out today. 
I wasn't sure it would work, but it did, so I feel childishly proud of myself and I'm going to show you how I made them here   :   expect to make 12 page mini comics next time I do a workshop! I've got the bug now!

Step 1 : Where 8page minicomics are really easy to lay out and fold, 12pagers bewildered my head and I couldn't abstractly do the maths. So I had to just do it and then work backwards (I now have a template),
Step 2 :  Only after I'd done the minicomic did I work out what size and shape page works best, so next time I will know to do a much simpler image without so much packed in! 
2 copies of this size fit on one page of A3, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover it works out just as cheap as doing a normal A4 8page mini comic.
Step 3 : It's harder to tear a strip off, the way you can for 8pagers, so scissors are kind of necessary - but even then my weak mind cannot yet process how the pages are going to fold.
 Step 4 : Fold the pages kinda like this! A bit fiddly! ('Specially when holding a heavy camera in the other hand).
 Step 5 : Tighten the folds, trim off any excess paper, maybe add a paper clip and there you have a mini 12pager!
 Step 6 : These are not really steps, they're just the number of pictures I had, ha ha!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Ante Shipley: travels in the fourth dimension

This weekend featured a great zine fair in Shipley. 'Zine fair' + 'Shipley' are not words I would ever have expected to appear in the same sentence, and I spent most of my day's conversations in repeating that sentiment.