Wednesday 3 March 2021

Zine Chronicity

 I wrote a submission yesterday for a zine called Zine Chronicity (pun on synchronicity). About those magic moments where unexpected confluences and coincidences reveal themselves, but with zines. So I wrote the following memory out and it made me come back to this blog (neglected since the covid hooha) to rediscover when that was. And George Zine was back in 2009!

Here's my story:

I have been making zines for over 15 years now, and peaked in terms of effort and enthusiasm in the period this story happened. It was a period when I sought to print one zine each month, so they were mostly flimsy and ephemeral and very cheap. Some on particular topics that interested me, some about the local band scene. 

On this occasion I had put all my drawings of the blind cat, George, with whom I was living, into an A6 zine with a colour photocopied cover. So his handsome blind tough face was on the cover. It cost me more than usual, over £1 each copy instead of the usual 30p or so. 

I got the box from the printers and had that familiar urge to share the zine RIGHT NOW. I sometimes would put some copies of my cheaper ones around cafes and bars, even in phone boxes. I knew these copies would likely go to waste, and had never heard back any success from them, but the idea of a genuine stranger picking one up, like I as a genuine stranger had encountered zines before, was something I usually felt worth the chance. Not on this occasion though cos this one was too pricey (& in fact my most popular zine, all copies are long since gone). 

I had taken one zine from the box to check and read. I took it out of my coat pocket again as I stopped at a crossing in town, the opened box resting in my arms. Where Newgate Street meets Grainger Street in Newcastle upon Tyne. 

A girl on a bike and with, I suppose, a zinester sort of air about her stopped at the light, as we pedestrians had our turn to cross. Without my brain even registering what I was doing, because it was so natural, I held out my Georgezine and said 'have a zine, it's about a blind cat'. She took it in a smooth exchange and I walked on before the lights changed. 

Never saw her again, & wouldn't recognise her, but I later heard through a friend of a friend about this new girl in town, who was getting involved in something they were involved in, who had been raving about this story. How she was stopped at a light and some random guy passed her a zine and when she read it it was amazing or some such lovely enthusiastic comment, and some other words I don't actually remember now. 

But that was the moment. At the pedestrian crossing outside what is now a Greggs the Bakers. It couldn't happen there today because the traffic flow has been changed. But in all my years of hoping a zine left (abandoned really) in a phone booth or library or such place might somehow find itself in the new zine fan's hands, there was this one occasion when it did happen. Took 2 seconds. Such a moment did exist. They do. 

Friday 21 February 2020

February Lunchtimes Drawing Project

I started 2020 with a comparative lull in the drawing frenzy that dominated my 2019. So before February started I decided it was time to start a new project to complete in this, the shortest month. Rather than set myself unrealistic or stressy work-like targets I decided I'd frame it as a 'lunchtime' project.

The plan:

I imagined that, if I planned to draw the alphabet, which has 26 letters (not 24 as my brain wants it to), I could do one a day with the weekends off and then the occasional 2 in one day. Thus without stress the project would be all done and dusted by the end of February, a month in which I was going to be spending more time than usual in a single place: Newcastle University's main campus. So a different building or location for each letter, making an A to Z of Newcastle University. This would also be good for me, as it would allow me to pay more attention to these (pretty attractive) buildings that I've been knocking about now for almost 26 years. 

Sometimes you need to design an action to make you actively notice, actively see, what otherwise becomes a blurry and ignored dead-space around you.

However, the first week of February went past and I'd only drawn one letter's worth. A is for the Armstrong. And then I started week 2 by drawing a bit more of the same letter. A is for the Armstrong Building and for the Arches. And then I drew something unrelated. This is how it goes sometimes when your designs are left vague.

During the extended 'A' picture (below) there was a fire alarm in my workplace and I didn't notice my colleagues gathering outside alongside me, because I was too focused on drawing.

To save the target date situation all I've done is shift my aimed completion from the end of February to the end of March and now, voila, I think I'm back on course. 'Delays are like magic, they work sometimes'. I've also drawn alongside Devin one day and then a new drawing companion Kevin today, so it's not been entirely solitary. Plus I'm now planning a group sketch event for the last Wednesday of the month, which will help me keep momentum I think.

I'll check back in when the project is done, but for now, here are my initial progress pics as I did them.

B is for Barbara Strang and her conjoined twin the Bedson Building. These were the pictures drawn with Devin alongside.

K is for Martin Luther King and the King's Hall. A really quite excellent band were playing, the Twisted Twenty, although reading their description in advance I'd expected them to be terrible. Look em up. These concerts are free every Thursday at 1pm.

M is Merz Court for engineering. A ropey weather day (we had storms Ciara and Dennis in this period) so I wanted to draw from inside: and specifically from inside the Courtyard Cafe where I was given a free baked potato with cheese and only had to pay 50p for a coffee. Bargains.

This time with Kevin drawing alongside, today it was O for the Old User Library where I sat alongside my old friend Ewan and used the computers there to set up a website, back in 1994 when the internet was easy to use and even I could programme it. The building's now devoted mostly to languages (and has been slightly name-changed to the Old Library Building). And from the same seats P is for the Percy Building, where I used to have lectures in French Feminist Literary Theory, and in Post Colonial Fiction.

More to come.

Thursday 23 January 2020

Comics on banknotes

I stopped buying papers several years ago and though that makes me sad, if I pick one up nowadays I am reminded of why. They're rubbish.

But once last year, literally just once, someone left bits of the Guardian in my house and I read a two page article about an exhibition coming up in London.

It was of temporary local banknotes produced by the local authorities in Germany 100 years ago (1920ish). A period when their currency was in crisis with hyperinflation and hoarding and literally not enough small denomination notes or coins or tokens to go around. Briefly, central government gave permission for the local authorities to patch the gaps by printing their own local currency.

So I had to go see the exhibition : because this currency, 'Notgeld', was beautiful and diverse. They got in local comics artists and illustrators to make vivid, interesting scenes. Sometimes promoting local specialities, sometimes protesting their situation, sometimes creating sequential tales (comics via banknotes) to encourage collectors who would then make the local authority a little bit of income by buying their currency but not then using it.

As a fan of comic art and the European style of popular, DIY illustration, you see why this appealed.

When to go? I wouldn't pay for a London trip on its own - I'm not made of money! - but when planning my trip up to the Clavie on the Moray Firth I discovered that a train from Edinburgh to Inverness cost the same as a train from London to Inverness did, if I took a seat on the sleeper train that is. So that's what I did.

Now here's some Notgeld and gallery notes.

Saturday 4 January 2020

Drawing Challenge: Doggust 2019

Every month has some sort of drawing or creative challenge attached to it. I did Inktober in 2019 and one more daft one: August as Doggust. Hashtag it and follow the prompts of the breeds of dog. I have no idea why it exists and no inkling to find out. The idea is fun enough without meaning.

I started on the 31st August. Laconically late. I did all the following on that day:

And then I ran out of time and stopped.
Close to Christmas I decided to give my take on the drawing challenge to my nephew as a present (despite the occasional adult references). 

So waking one morning at 4am (which has happened q a bit recently) I finished the set :