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JAMIE EDLER


Jamie Edler “For the piece included here, I wanted to look at a different side of intimacy, one not as often shared. It’s a piece about ones intimacy with theirselves and self care etc. My initial thoughts were to create an image around an intimate relationship of a couple, but I thought it would be interesting to almost remove the figure completely, so you can get the sense of intimacy from the scene, rather than the interactions of the figure/figures in the image. I didn’t want the figure to be the focus of image too, a nod visually as well as conceptually to the idea of intimacy. You’re seeing a sneak peek into their life and home, but not the whole story, leaving you space to give a story and context to the image yourselves.” -Jamie Edler Name

I’m currently based in East London.

I love ancient mythology and narratives, especially Greek myths. In terms of films, I love anything pretty aha, but especially the work of Wong Kar Wai. I love his cinematography and framing, as well as the colours he uses, and the slow moving narrative present in each of his films. Also films like Amelie, Kumiko The Treasure Hunter, Sakuran, and Memories of Matsuko, which are all films with beautiful colours (and ones I’ve done posters of haha). If you want a really odd but fun film to watch, try The Wayward Cloud by Tsai Ming Liang. Architecture and nature give me a lot of inspiration too, as well as fashion.

Where are you from?

What materials do you like to work with?

I’m originally born and bred in Bristol, which in itself is a very creative city in the South West of England.

I’m currently a freelance illustrator and model

I predominately work digitally but love working in sketchbooks alongside and with all sorts of materials as well. It’s good to challenge yourself and use materials you don’t usually or aren’t as familiar with also and by doig so, I find it also breaks up the monotony that can often working in one medium and on similar commissions can bring.

Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught?

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?

I studied at Falmouth University in Cornwall. It was a lovely place to be although after three years, I was ready to move onto a bigger city–it’s a very small town by the sea.

I’m currently working on mainly editorial commissions, which are fun. I’m also constantly producing personal work and illustrations to keep things interesting and exciting for myself. Currently I’m working on a narrative about a man who lives in a cottage by the coast and his relationship/ obseesion with the sea. It’s inspired by my love for the aforementioned Greek Mythology.

Jamie Edler Age 24 What is your current location?

What is your current occupation?

What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?

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Is there any music you like to listen to while working? I listen to all sorts, but at the moment, I’m listening a lot to a musician called Vendredi sur Mer. Not only is the music a bop, some of the videos (who are directed by Alice Kong) are absolutely stunning. Where do you like to work? I love to write in cafes and draw stranding on the street. Those are where the best things hap What is one of your earliest memories of making art? I have some strong memories of creating work in early Primary school, and having a drawing competition between a friend of mine on who could draw the best drawing. I drew a horse. It was a bit crap.

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Where To Find Them Websites: jamieedler.com Contact: jamieedlerillustration@gmail.com Social Media: @jamieedlerillustration (Instagram)

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All my family are very creative as well, so most of my child was my siblings and I painting, reading or drawing. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I hope to continue to enjoy creating it! (and also not going to lie, continue to make some dolla off of it). It’s easy to feel kindof of stagnant with your work sometimes, so I want to continue to keep pushing and developing it by exploring and trying new things when it comes to my work. In terms of what I want to tackle, I want to continue to represent many topical or difficult issues in an open and welcoming way; making conversations about things that affect me or people around me such as mental health and LGBTQ+ approachable and lighthearted way without dismissing the importance and impact that these issues have.


GENIE LIANG


Genie Liang “A bit similar to an amoeba, I thought of the body as a lining and the mind as multiple solid components that contain versions of our identity. Inside, the pieces converse with dialogue in an unfamiliar tongue. But taking the time to slow down and decipher what’s inside can lead to a kind of self-intimacy. A love that is kind of slow, and very different from being with others. I wanted to capture that sentiment in this piece. Like my usual working method, I sketch and ink the drawing traditionally and then apply color digitally. This design was the second in the series of riso prints titled Youth in Bloom where I explore insecurities represented as flowers, beautiful and fleeting. These flowers make up who we are as people. The second in the series is specifically about inner voices, and cultivating that relationship to acknowledging our inner dialogues.” -Genie Liang

Genie Liang

I really looked up to the strong female characters who wanted to pursue their dreams, protect their loved ones, and defy expectation.

What is your current occupation?

What materials do you like to work with?

Freelance illustrator/traveling artist

I work with a combination of traditional ink cartridge pens and digital applications–mostly Photoshop and other Adobe products. Recently, I’m quite taken to using my phone in the process of scanning my drawings. Technology allows me to iterate designs at a faster rate however, the decision-making work still happens on paper. Sometimes that means printing out the size in real life to redraw or thumbnail compositions. I just love the feeling of traditional pen or pencil.

Name

Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I liked to draw a lot of anime and comics growing up and in that line of thought, I decided to pursue a degree in applied arts and animation. I learned a lot from my peers and colleagues when it comes to drawing and painting for entertainment. The formal education helped with developing routines for catching my shortcomings and overcoming them. I try to find a balance that speaks to me with the graphics I create so I think designwise, I’m mostly self-taught. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? I’m very influenced by films for the combination of sound, dialogue, and pacing that create these emotional bubbles to slip into. I grew up with films by Hayao Miyazaki, Mamoru Hosoda, and Yoshifumi Kondo. They always give me that sense of another world and time. My favorite films are Whisper of the Heart, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Princess Mononoke.

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I’m currently working towards finishing a graphic novel for a few festivals this year. It’s a fantasy story about a girl’s journey in finding the ‘flow.’ And I just completed a set of risograph prints. The image for FORGE is the second one in the collection and the set are exhibiting at Capsule Corner, LA. The micro gallery represents independent pop-artists and I’m very happy to work with them for this round!

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Is there any music you like to listen to while working? I’m listening to Takashi Kokubo right now. The 1993 album, “Oasis Of The Wind II ~ A Story Of Forest And Water” is pretty calming when I need a steady hand for ink work What is one of your earliest memories of making art? I remember painting chickens with my late grandfather. He

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Where To Find Them Websites: genie.ink Contact: genniieeee@gmail.com Social Media: @genniieeee (Instagram)

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taught me how to make these fuzzy gradient circles with Chinese calligraphy ink. One large circle connecting to one smaller one. Then with a quick flick, a beak and thin claws dotting the blobby forms. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? Earlier I talked about my favorite films having that quality of emotional bubbles to slip into... I hope to create some emotional bubbles too, for connectivity, assurance, and guidance.


HENRY MCCLELLAN


Henry McClellan “I recently did some drawings focusing on physical intimacy which I really liked, so this theme struck a chord with me. One of those drawings became this illustration. The setting came from a personal interest in public and private spaces. The laundromat idea came found a correlation between sensory experience like smell and tactility, and memory that I found myself thinking about while making the original drawings.” -Henry McClellan

Born in San Francisco, raised in Oakland.

mediums into my own work really drives my need to create. One artist who really inspired my filmmaking is Sarina Nihei, I love how she is able to tell so much story in such a distilled form. She also has a very uncompromising body of work. A couple favorite photographers are Nan Goldin and Alfred Stieglitz, both are really masters in their own right. Favorite authors include Dave Eggers, Cormac McCarthy, and Octavia Butler. Comics is really a can of worms for me. I was obsessed with Otomo and Matsumoto in highschool. Them and Mike Mignola. That was also around when I saw Michael Arias’s film adaptation of Tekkonkinkreet, which became my favorite movie for a long time. Though with film i feel like i’m constantly discovering new favorites. I love Jean-Pierre Melville, Do The Right Thing by Spike Lee is easily an all time favorite. I think my two favorite anime series are Cowboy Bebop and Paranoia Agent.

What is your current occupation?

What materials do you like to work with?

Filmmaker, animator, illustrator.

Mostly just drawing materials, animation tools, and photoshop; the light table is essential. I have a softspot for tracing paper. Sometimes I mess around with watercolor. Color is something I waited a really long time to get into and lately I’ve been leaning into the digital approach for most of my work. Eventually I want to be at a place where I can self-produce my animated shorts with limited and full color.

Name Henry McClellan Age 23 What is your current location? Oakland, California Where are you from?

Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I do have a formal art education, I got my degree in printmaking, I have been drawing all my life though. Most of the techniques I use in my work I’ve either developed myself or observed in the work of artists I admire. An art education will teach you to think hard and work hard. Learning to draw is another thing entirely. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? I’m very inspired by film, photography and music right now. The idea of bringing ideas and processes more common in those

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? At the moment I’m working on an illustration for Wavering Line collective, that should be at TCAF. I’m also in the process of writing another film.

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Is there any music you like to listen to while working?

What is one of your earliest memories of making art?

When I’m trying to have new ideas, I can’t just listen to whatever. The tone has to align with the visual. But once I’ve figured things out, I listen to a range of artists and genres, I love arty stuff. Both high and low. I grew up with a lot of bluegrass and soul. Like a lot of millennials I am obsessed with Frank Ocean.

I remember drawing at the dinner table of my grandparents house with my grandfather, him and my grandma would give me drawing pencils and sketchbooks for most holidays. I have vivid memories of him giving me an old sketchbook, he had collaged the entire front and back cover with photos from all over the world. I remember bringing that book to sleep-away camp and finding the first few pages full of observational drawings. After it was lights out, I would put the book on my pillow and draw in my sleeping bag by flashlight.

Where do you like to work? I love to write in cafes and draw stranding on the street. Those are where the best things happen. When it comes to the real grind though, I have always worked best at a desk in my bedroom, preferably near a window.

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Where To Find Them Websites: hmcclellan.com Contact: henry.jpmc@gmail.com Social Media: @h.mcclell (Instagram)

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What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I want to tell stories. It’s always been about that for me.


JULIA ST.CLAIR


Julia St.Clair “I spent this past summer revisiting the places that I had grown up and trying to understand how these mostly rural environments have shaped how I see and understand the world. I have always had an easier time being out in the woods than being around other people and find myself more comfortable around animals than humans. I think a lot about these unspoken relationships that we build (or avoid) with the non-human world around us. In particular, I’ve been thinking about how touch shapes our understanding of the world around us and connects us, quite literally, to other beings. For me it’s become something so integral to my practice as a photographer and to the work that I have been recently making.” -Julia St.Clair

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also been really important to my environmental work. I have a small collection of photobooks and love the works of Laia Abril and Susan Lipper. Malgorzata Stankiewicz’s Cry of an Echo is currently my favorite photobook. And I am endlessly inspired by the natural world.

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What materials do you like to work with?

What is your current location?

I mainly use film cameras and prefer to shoot 35mm and 4x5 large format black and white film. I really enjoy the slow and tangible process of working with film.

Name Julia St.Clair

Brooklyn, NY Where are you from? I grew up between the coast of southern Maine and the forest of western Massachusetts.

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?

I am currently finishing a BFA in photography from Parsons School for Design.

I am currently working on a photobook, 3.8 Miles, as part of my thesis project for my BFA in photography. The book combines my own images with text, documents, maps, and other found items to tell a story about a forest that was impacted by a human infrastructure project. I see this book as the first part of an ongoing series that will explore specific sites of human-environment relationships.

What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?

Is there any music you like to listen to while working?

Rachel Carson and Rebecca Solnit are two of my favorite authors. Their writing has been really influential to my photographic practice which is mostly centered around environmental issues. Anne Spice’s essay “Fighting Invasive Infrastructures” has

When I am out shooting, I prefer to be quiet and present in the space, but when processing film and editing I usually listen to music. Lately Kurt Vile, Frankie Cosmos, Lomelda, and Mapache have been on repeat, but I also love a lot of folk and country music from the late 60s and the 70s.

Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught?

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Where do you like to work? When I am shooting and working on a project I usually work in the same location long-term. So far my long-term projects have focused on a small island neighborhood in queens, the southwest border region of Texas, and a small forest in Massachusetts. My next project site is a river in central Maine. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? I can remember one of the first roles of film that I shot and how excited I was to take photographs. When I got the processed

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Where To Find Them Websites: juliastclair.net Contact: juliastclairphotography@gmail.com

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film back, I had taken mostly out-of-focus photos of lizards and plants. I was probably 10 or 11. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? A lot of my work is centered around human relationships with the natural environment, I am really hoping to get folks to reconsider their positioning as humans on a rapidly changing planet. I am mostly interested in making books because they offer a tangible and intimate experience with the work which is often reflective of my process of making images in the landscape.


JESSICA TAYLOR


Jessica Taylor “I made this piece on a whim, I didn’t have any plans on making this piece, nor did I have any idea about how I wanted the final to look, I just knew I wanted to draw that day. So I pulled out my favourite pencils and went to work. I was very inspired by old-school anime so the only thing that I really knew was that I wanted to create something in that style, but completely in pencil. I think I make my best work when I’m not worried about if it will turn out good or bad, I had zero expectations. The end result is an illustration of a character experiencing fear. Experiencing someone else’s fear is a very intimate exchange. Definitely one of my favourite pieces to date, just for the fact that I was completely content with the entire process.” -Jessica Taylor

Age

of my inspiration from animated movies. I think my favourite animated movie has got to be Treasure Planet. That movie means a lot to me, go watch it if you haven’t! I also collect artbooks from various artists which I flip through for inspiration, right now I’m really loving Nira Works by Yasushi Nirasawa, incredible work.

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What materials do you like to work with?

What is your current location?

I recently got into watercolour and gouache, but I always go back to graphite. It’s the quickest medium for me to get my ideas across and honestly, any kind of paper will do, as long as it’s a blank flat surface I don’t really have a preference.

Name Jessica Taylor

Toronto, Canada What is your current occupation? Freelance artist/illustrator Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I don’t have any formal education in illustration or the fine arts, I actually have a degree in architecture. Although architecture may not have helped me to develop my technical skill in using media such as paint or graphite, it definitely helped me develop my creative process, so I’m grateful for that. I also love architecture and haven’t completely abandoned that venture, I may return to it one day. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? I take a lot of inspiration from a lot of places but I think I take most

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I’m working on a comic book in collaboration with some friends of mine, this project will be very challenging but I’m certain I’ll learn quite a bit from it. Besides that, I’m always working on advancing my technical skill with pencil and watercolour, so I plan on stepping out of my comfort zone by working on larger scale pieces, rather than working on small or medium pieces. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? I actually listen to a lot of comedy podcasts while I’m working but if I’m not listening to that, I listen to a lot of movie soundtracks. I’m currently listening to a soundtrack from Léon: The Professional, really good stuff! I think music in general without any lyrics/voice in it really allows me to think more clearly about my

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own ideas and inspires new ideas as well. Where do you like to work? I love to work in my room, in my own space, I’m most comfortable there and I can get as messy as I want. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? My earliest cohesive memory of making art was in a pottery class

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Where To Find Them Websites: jesserintaylor.format.com Contact: jessicaerintaylorart@gmail.com Social Media: @jesserintaylo (Instagram)

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that I took at an arts centre when I was about 4 or 5. I just remember not really caring at all about what I was making, but just having a fun time making it, I still have the pieces I made to this day. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I want to tell stories through images. That’s it. I want to create characters and create worlds that people can connect with and enjoy. The final frontier for me will be animating my own films.


KINGSTON POPLAR


Kingston Poplar “With this image I wanted to depict an intimate moment between two lovers whilst also presenting the more abstract hypothetical feeling of intimacy. Portrayed through heavy tones and setting, both characters are projected within a dimly lit abstract abyss, there is a reality that is evident, but they are too engaged to exist within it.” -Kingston Poplar Name

What materials do you like to work with?

Kingston Poplar

About 9 months ago I started work on developing an illustrative practice, since then I have been working predominantly digitally using a tablet. Before this I worked much more abstractly with acrylic paint. I made the decision to start working digitally due to unavoidable spacial confinements and efficiency. Eventually I hope to return to painting, and maybe find a way to combine the two.

Age 23 What is your current location? East Midlands UK Where are you from? A small town called Retford What is your current occupation? Freelance Illustrator

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? Along with the odd client based jobs, I mainly work on the development of my personal work. I am still very much exploring new ways of working and finding new techniques which is fun! Is there any music you like to listen to while working?

Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught?

Recently i’ve been listening to a lot of shoegaze / dream pop bands like Slowdive, Cocteau Twins, Mazzy Star etc. But i’m also very into dance music.

I studied Fine Art painting at Leeds Arts University.

Where do you like to work?

What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?

At the moment I mainly work from home

Film wise, I recently watched Buffalo 66 which was written and directed by Vincent Gallo who also plays the lead role, and I found it very impressive! Paris Texas, Mysterious Skin, Brick, The Doom Generation, Boys Don’t Cry and Manic are also a few of my favorites along with any film by Gaspar Noe.

What is one of your earliest memories of making art? Taking in drawings for show and tell at school. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? Eventually I hope to develop a strong understanding of how I like to work.

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Where To Find Them Websites: kingstonpoplar.com Contact: kingstonpoplar96@gmail.com Social Media: @kingstonpoplar (Instagram)

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LILY COZZENS


Lily Cozzens “The concept of intimacy immediately made me think of vulnerability. I was struggling to come up with imagery, but then I saw a greyhound on the street. Unfortunately they’re often malnourished or abused, as a breed, and on top of that they have such thin skin that they literally can get cuts just from brushing up against sharp surfaces, so they’re overall kind of prone to being hurt. I started thinking about how I identified a lot with that - I kind of feel like a raw nerve a lot of the time. I think it’s important to stay tender, though, no matter how often you get hurt. You’ve gotta be your own greyhound, so to speak, and keep sniffing the hands that reach out to you, even if there’s the chance they might smack you in the face.” -Lily Cozzens Name Lily Cozzens Age 22 What is your current location? Chicago Where are you from? I grew up in Oak Park, which is technically not Chicago, but right off the CTA, and I spent a ton of time in the city as a kid–so basically, Chicago. What is your current occupation? I’m working on finishing up my last semester in school to get my BFA so I’m a full-time student, but I also have two part time jobs–one at a designer toy store/gallery called Rotofugi (check it out if you’re in town!) and one as a student worker in my school’s printmaking facility. I also do some freelance illustration work here and there when I have time. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I’ve been drawing my whole life and really taught myself to draw

pretty well by the time I was old enough to take art classes, but I’m studying to get my BFA in Illustration currently, so a little bit of both! I still feel lukewarm about the concept of getting a degree in art, but what I’ve found most valuable from that is the people I’ve met, particularly my professors, who I most likely never would have met had I not been pursuing a degree. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? In terms of art, no matter what it looks like, I think what I am most attracted to in other people’s work is sincerity and dedication. Specifically I love looking at the drawings of people who work primarily in other media: painters, sculptors, etc. In the last year I’ve been really trying to read more about art, art history, and art criticism, and while a lot of it has been absolute drudgery to get through, I’ve been lucky enough to find writing that was really interesting, such as Pictures and Tears by James Elkins, Images of the Body by Philippe Comar, and basically anything John Berger has ever written. I try to go to museums and openings as much as possible. I find that when I’m hitting a creative block, which happens a lot, I just need to as much media as possible : books, movies, music, visual art, poetry, etc. Art is really just controlled regurgitation (that would be a great band name), so the wider variety of media I intake, the more interesting and varied and authentic media I put out. What materials do you like to work with? I’m most comfortable with a ballpoint pen. I like the accessibility of it, on multiple levels–you can generally find one wherever you are, and people tend to recognize it. I’ve been trying to pre-

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emptively branch out a little more, lately, because I don’t want to pigeonhole myself and/or get bored. I also love printmaking and it was one of the first things that really made me feel like an artist. What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? Right now, as I’m writing this, I’m completely buried in school work, which doesn’t leave me much room to take on personal projects. However, I’ve been working on finding a way of painting that appeals to me, and I’ve made a few reverse-paintings on plexiglass. I’ve also been working on several large scale drawings based on concepts of ephemerality and the fragility/malleability of human memory.

relatively close proximity. If I’m working on a big project (literally or figuratively) I prefer to work in a more “studio”-like environment, but if I’m just working small and quick or in the early stages of a project I’m much more to just work wherever I can find time - in a coffee shop, at work, on the train. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? The earliest thing I remember drawing, and I did obsessively on everything and anything, was these little heart people–just hearts with arms and legs and a smiley face. I remember scribbling them all over the place. I am lucky enough to have parents who have always really encouraged me creatively, so I’ve been drawing nonstop for as long as I can remember.

Is there any music you like to listen to while working?

What do you hope to accomplish with your work?

Sometimes I find “listening” to TV or movies less distracting than listening to music, which sounds totally counterintuitive. I like listening to documentaries especially, so I can feel like I”m not totally wasting my time. For some reason I’ve never been able to get into podcasts, which I realize is essentially what I’ve just described. When it comes to music, though, I like to listen to a wide variety of stuff. I cycle through playlists depending on how I’m feeling.

I’ve been realizing lately that I want to move a lot more into art as a professional practice, rather than more design-related work. I love illustration, and I plan to do it professionally, but sometimes it feels too restrictive. For a long time I was really cynical about the “point” of art, but I’ve been feeling a lot more drive to push myself conceptually. I feel like I’ve been keeping too tight a rein on my process and I really need to work really huge or with a new medium to shake something loose moving forward. I think my sort of obsessive, ultra- detailed style is definitely a strength and a draw for viewers, but I think it also is a bit of a weakness in that I get overwhelmed pretty easily. I want to try channeling my energy in a more expedited or efficient fashion, so to speak,

Where do you like to work? I definitely need to have my own space and not feel crowded, but I like being in spaces where other artists are also working in

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Where To Find Them Websites: lilycozzens.com​​​ Contact: lilycozzens@gmail.com Social Media: @lilycozzens (Instagram)

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ANNA VIE


Anna Vie “For me experiencing intimacy can be difficult as getting close to other people can sometimes be uncomfortable and hard. It’s a very rewarding process but it is also a responsibility and can bear a weight. I believe through intimate relations with others I’ve got to know more about myself, rejecting false beliefs I had and therefore I have grown. That’s what my short story is basically about and that’s what I was trying to express within those four frames. I always begin my drawings traditionally by sketching with pencil on paper. After that I work digitally. During that time I try to simplify my drawing as much as I can and reject anything that’s unnecessary. I do like bold shapes and lines with logic behind them. I do try to find order within my drawing. ” -Anna Vie Name

What materials do you like to work with?

Anna Vie

I use both traditional materials as well as and in combination with digital mediums. These days I often prefer to draw digitally as the technology of today can provide many new different ways and approaches.I’m always hoping I am somehow enhancing traditional skill craft with the new possibilities that digital tools can offer.

Age 22 What is your current location? Bibice, Kraków Where are you from? Poland Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught?

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I’m working on a small anthology of my previously published works. I would like to present them as a book. I’m also working on a new story in the folk horror genre that I hope to finish this year. Is there any music you like to listen to while working?

I had a formal education, but I’m disappointed with academia so mostly I am self motivated and taught.

The latest series of releases by The Caretaker Everywhere at the End of Time was my background music for the last months.

What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?

Where do you like to work?

I think what inspires me most is anything that conveys a feeling of the uncanny as Jentsh and Freud defined it. For that reason I think I do like classic literature, my favourite writers are E.T.A. Hoffman and G.Meyrink.

I am working from home as for the first time in my life I have the space here to have a dedicated studio for my work. The comfort of having that space to fill and arrange is great.

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What is one of your earliest memories of making art?

he had to be an accountant.

My grandfather teaching me how to draw is probably my earliest memory. He was the only family member apart from me and my sister with any art talent. He wanted to be an architect but because of the situation in Poland back than he couldn’t be and

What do you hope to accomplish with your work?

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Where To Find Them Contact: oasisofhate@gmail.com Social Media: @oasis_of_hate (Instagram)

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Keeping inspired, being able to work and grow as an artist and hopefully financial stability.


DAN HOWDEN


Dan Howden “I decided to work on the largest scale possible, with a type of linoleum I wasn’t familiar with, employing a palette I had never used, on a size of paper I wasn’t sure I could accommodate. Summer Duvet was an exercise to place me outside of my comfort zone in as many ways as possible, commenting on male body image, my biggest insecurity.” -Dan Howden

Dan Howden

where I studied Illustration at both BA and MA level and I devoted these 4 years entirely to developing, refining and testing my linocut process.

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What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?

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Since 2010, popular culture has been a major interest of mine. I’m a sceptic about most things and I think it probably fuels that, but it also manifests its way into my work often, too. I grew up on an unhealthy amount of American television which has really affected my accent, to the point where people question my nationality. I’ve always felt a distant connection with the states, the food, the music, comedic delivery, traditions and this is reflected in who and what inspires me. What inspires me most are people’s work ethics and therefore James Franco was an important artistic figure to me during my formative years. He was so prolific across a range of art forms. The last couple of years have seen that title shared between Jonas Wood, Anna Ginsburg and Steve Lacy. Name me a more talented 20yr old. Truth be told, I don’t do a lot of reading. I’m very much a visual learner but I do posses a couple of great books that contain pictures and I look at those often. These are The Graphic World of Paul Peter Piech, a truly amazing printmaker, and Grayson Perry: Sketchbooks. Favourite film? It’s a three-way tie between Swingers, Boyhood, and Cloverfield. Don’t ask why, but again, all very much American.

Name

What is your current location? Manchester, United Kingdom Where are you from? York, United Kingdom What is your current occupation? I’m currently working as a Call Handler for the NHS in Manchester whilst doing freelance illustration/printmaking on the side. It’s early days and not an ideal scenario, but I’m hopeful that I can amass a consistent body of work that’s attractive to agencies in order to gain representation. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I reluctantly taught myself linocut in 2011 at the age of 18. I had never encountered it before and this lack of preconception afforded me the rare opportunity to learn an art form without any creative constraints. After a couple of prints, I began intuitively cutting the lino up into pieces in order to include more colour. This way of working ultimately led me to establish a rather unorthodox approach to linocut. I took my process to University,

What materials do you like to work with? I don’t consider myself a particularly precious or precise printmaker. In fact, I still use many of the very materials I started out with. My linoleum and rollers have not changed and I still use two transparent chopping boards my mum leant me way back at the very beginning. I use very basic water soluble inks that you

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can find in all cash-strapped schools around the U.K as these not only dry fast, enabling me to layer with greater ease, but also let me access a number of palettes that oil-based inks just aren’t capable of providing. I like to juxtapose these really cheap materials with a premium Somerset Satin paper as it absorbs the ink so effectively and also lends a professional finish to the work. What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? Since late 2017 I’ve been working on an animation made entirely from linocut entitled Mel’s. It has become a huge undertaking and unless things change, it won’t be finished until 2021 at the earliest. It takes place in a high end NY department store and is centered around the conversations between 5 store mannequins during the night of a seasonal display change. It tackles themes of love, loneliness, lifestyles, materialism and climate change between the group and I’m incredibly excited to share its finished form. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? Music is an integral part of my process and I waste a lot of time DJing when I should be working. I find that songs I listen to whilst working tend to embed themselves within the prints and the two become synonymous with one another. For instance, “Only You Know” by Dion is the tune I think of when I see Summer Duvet. Since graduating from my BA in 2015 my official soundtrack has been an Apple Beats 1 Radio station called Time Crisis. It’s really nice to just zone out for 2 hours, listen to the tasteful palette of 80’s rock coupled with some commentary on corporate American food marketing and not concern myself with who’s playing next. Albums are also a real good way of combatting procrastination

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Where To Find Them Websites: dan-howden.co.uk Contact: siena.g.edwards@gmail.com Social Media: @dan.howden (Instagram)

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and I listen to a lot of Dirty Projectors, Arctic Monkeys, Hamilton Leithauser, Frank Ocean, etc. Where do you like to work? I’ve found that I can pretty much work anywhere at this point having occupied and adjusted to 7 different spaces since starting out. I wrote my dissertation on studios. It focused on whether space has a direct influence on the work created within it. I interviewed and catalogued close to a hundred artists and came to appreciate just how impactful space can be. Personally, as long as I have a sturdy table, chair, computer, window and a tap nearby, I’m a happy guy. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? As a kid I spent a lot of time sat with my mum, colouring in helicopters, cars and boats that she used to draw for me. She always encouraged myself and my brother to pursue art and I’m extremely grateful for this. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? Since receiving my MA in 2017, my aims within art have become far more defined. Put simply, my goal is to now produce meaningful, communicative pieces that others can hopefully relate to and appreciate. I believe I am gradually building a visual language of my own and I hope to produce a large and diverse body of work that I can be proud of in years to come. Nothing out of the ordinary I guess, but having spent a number of years producing aesthetically pleasing architectural prints lacking any real substance, it’s nice to finally incorporate my voice and have a connection with the work.


BRIANNA ROSE BROOKS


Brianna Rose Brooks Name Brianna Rose Brooks (Bri) Age 22 What is your current location? Chicago IL Where are you from? Providence, Rhode Island What is your current occupation? I’m an undergraduate senior at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? Growing up in Providence put me on to a lot of art from a ton of different sources so I’ve always loved making art, and drawing is a daily habit. In high school I spent a lot of time in free communal art spaces. I also work in the print media and painting departments at my school and spent one semester studying painting at RISD, which has really helped develop my work. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? I take a lot of inspiration from the people i’m surrounded by! All about love by bell hooks was a really stand out read for me, and I think my drawing style growing up was influenced by a lot of underground comic and zine artists around the city and definitely Yoshitomo Nara’s drawing files. Honestly, I’m pretty bad at watching movies. The last ones I saw were The Shining and Midnight Cowboy which are both pretty crazy films.

What materials do you like to work with? Hands down color pencil is my favorite utensil, and I use dry media on marker paper because its super smooth. What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? Right now I’ve been doing large scale paintings and I’m very excited about moving from acrylic to oil and working with airbrush too. I’ve got some bigger projects in the work for later this year! Is there any music you like to listen to while working? I like a lot of different stuff. Right now I’ve been super into Show Me the Body, Yves Tumor, and Sade. I love Nina Simone, King Krule, and Earl Sweatshirt too. Where do you like to work? I’m good anywhere that I can zone out. Sometimes places I feel overstimulated are great to work in because I can sort of treat drawing like meditation. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? I wanted to be an author/illustrator and I made this book when i was 6 or 7 about a baby rattlesnake (baby rattle) whose shadow is stolen. He and his lizard best friend (Lizzy) embark on a journey to get it back. There are dragons involved too. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? In the grand scheme I hope my work functions as a source of light and inspiration for other queer and gender nonconforming black folks. But on a personal level, I don’t have any real initiative with my work outside of using it to process my emotions and try to find a method of articulation and understanding the world!

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Where To Find Them Websites: briannarosebrooks.com Contact: briannarosebrooks@gmail.com Social Media: @staytender (Instagram)

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STEVE TEARE


Steve Teare “‘Couple’ was made during a moment when I did not have any illustration or comic or commission to work on. I found myself looking through the internet for a reference. I don’t remember search terms or the websites I was cruising through, but I found this image of an older man and a younger man on a couch. Their pose for the photograph wasn’t exactly candid, but something about their expressions conveyed to me that they only briefly looked up at the camera between having an intense conversation or an emotional moment or something else. That all could be my imagination, but regardless I was moved to recreate the image with color blocks and pencil.” -Steve Teare

Where are you from?

trouble concentrating and I read very slowly, but books are big for me, and I always have one or two I’m working on getting through. In my 20s I was obsessed with the flowery writing of narcissist authors like John Updike and Saul Bellows. Recently I’ve jumped into the essay world of Susan Sontag, and I’m trying to read classics I’ve missed but keep getting reminded of. It was fun to be the same age as Nick Carraway while reading The Great Gatsby for the first time! Love a good film, though I’m slacking on getting to the cinema like I used to. Some favorites include Henry Fool, Barton Fink, and The Conversation. P.T. Anderson’s The Master has stayed with me since I saw it 7 years ago. Anna Haifisch’s Von Spatz is the best comic I’ve read recently.

The Poconos

What materials do you like to work with?

What is your current occupation?

Most of my comics and illustrations are made from a lot of scraps of tracing paper that represent the different layers of an image; colors, pencils, ink washes, black lines, etc. I use fountain pens, crow quills, Microns, brushes, ink, water. For portraits I use gouache paint and ink on heavyweight paper.

Name Steve Teare Age 32 What is your current location? West Philadelphia

Part art teacher, part illustrator, part cartoonist, and part pet portraitist. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I do have a teacher’s certificate, but my education for drawing and illustration I’ve gotten informally from my incredibly talented artist friends in Philadelphia. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? Ah, this reminds me of filling out an OK Cupid profile. I have

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I’m working on a series of comics about odd histories of beautiful buildings in Philadelphia called Structure Story for Philadelphia Weekly. Other than that, I’m always working on pitches of comics for various publications. I tend to write comics about schools since I’ve worked in them for a while.

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Is there any music you like to listen to while working?

home and that’s where most of the work is done.

I play and listen to lots of music. I play guitar-driven pop music so I listen to a lot of that–late ‘80s early ‘90s college radio type stuff, Teenage Fanclub, Galaxie 500, The Sundays, etc. You Tube has a wealth of fun old albums made for like cocktail parties or something that I like to put on while drawing. Search: “exotica” or “space age.” But even more than music I love to listen to audiobooks, podcasts, interviews, and other things. My favorite podcast I’ve stumbled upon recently is “You’re Wrong About...” by Sarah Marshall and Michael Hobbes.

What is one of your earliest memories of making art?

Where do you like to work? I’ve developed a method that allows me to work on the go a lot. I work on comics and illustrations in cafes, bars, and during meetings at the school I work at. But I have a studio space at

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Where To Find Them Websites: steveteareillustration.com Contact: scteare@gmail.com Social Media: @steveteare (Instagram)

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I can see my elementary school-aged self at the dinner table with markers and paper, trying to draw Ninja Turtles. I’d doodle for hours at home. It started to get more serious when I began to try and copy–line for line–pages of comic books. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? Most of the comics I make these days are forms of journalism or essays. I hope to learn about people and places while researching for comics and contribute to the world of ideas through images and words. I did start out making fiction, and I hope to return to that in the near future.


SARAH JACOBS


Sarah Jacobs “My self portrait work, which I’ve been executing on and off for the past seven years, is an exploration of my inner life and the roles I play out in the world. Only I can capture the intimate relationship of these two aspects of who I am, and executing these self-portraits has deepened my connection to my spiritual being and my physical body. During the creative process, which I execute alone, I feel a depth of self knowledge, a sense of complete control, and a potent feeling of trust in my process and myself. In those quiet moments alone in front of the camera, I experience true intimacy. ” -Sarah Jacobs

Age

son’s play Ludlow Fair, Richard Brautigan’s book of poems The Pill versus The Springhill Mine Disaster, and Kurt Vile’s album Smoke Ring For My Halo. Some of my favorite photographers include Cass Bird, Francesca Woodman, Sally Mann, and Lauren Greenfield.

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What materials do you like to work with?

What is your current location?

Can people and their emotions be considered a material? That’s what I like to work with. That and my 50mm lens and sunlight. If there’s no sunlight, a Profoto strobe with a 5’ octa softbox will do.

Name Sarah Jacobs

New York, New York Where are you from? Dallas, Texas What is your current occupation? Photographer and editorial photo editor Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I’ve learned photography through a mixture of some formal education, workshops, mentors, YouTube, and experimentation. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? A few pieces of art that have made a lasting impression on me and that to this day still inform my work include: illustrator Cicely Mary Barker, Wim Wenders’ film Paris, Texas, Landford Wil-

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I’m in the beginning phases of creating monthly self portraits that embody the culture, art, feelings, and experiences I’ve had during that calendar month. By January 2020 I’ll have 12 photographs that represent a lot of what has happened to me during these 365 days. The photograph featured here, shot last year, inspired this project. I have always turned to self portraiture when I’m feeling overwhelmed or confused by the world around me. The practice of doing it reminds me of my worth and gives me a strong sense of purpose. I am here and my feelings and experiences matter. That’s what my work tells me. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? I always play music while on set to help create the vibe I want and the energy that I’m attempting to capture. From the Grate-

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ful Dead to Princess Nokia–my music taste is a bit all over the place. When the featured photo was shot, I was playing singersongwriter Lucinda Williams’ “Changed The Locks” on heavy repeat. Something about the story in that song, the fact that she’s changing herself because of heartbreak, just makes me feel so damn satisfied.

ings at Waldorf School, was when I was about eight years old. I wrote a multi-chapter saga about a girl named Laura and her plum tree, where she found a fairy and the two became inseparable friends.

Where do you like to work?

Of course I’m interested in the final portraits I create, but mentally, I’m more focused on the interaction I have with subjects and how we make each other feel during a shoot. Whoever I shoot I aim to make them feel good. It’s a fairly simple concept but the idea of bringing joy into someone’s life by photographing them is my ultimate goal. I hope that my work communicates that joy, a pride in one’s self, and ultimately, love.

I love shooting in my shared studio space in SoHo, and editing in my apartment with my cat on my lap. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? The first piece of art I made, besides preschool water color paint-

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Where To Find Them Websites: sarahjacobs.photoshelter.com Contact: sarahjake@gmail.com Social Media: @sarahjake (Instagram)

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What do you hope to accomplish with your work?


PEONY GENT


Peony Gent “I really wanted to show what true intimacy means to me in this image: love, closeness, and a place to grow. I wanted it to feel powerful but delicate, full of energy but also a place of peace. A place of shelter, but also the means to move forward with determination.” -Peony Gent Name Peony Gent Age 25 What is your current location? East London Where are you from? An area of very flat countryside near Cambridge, England. What is your current occupation? Student and freelance illustrator Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I did an undergrad in Illustration at Edinburgh College of Art, and am now finishing off a masters in Visual Communication at the Royal College of Art. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? Too many books to count! I did just finish Lanny by Max Porter and could not recommend it enough though, it’s very beautiful. I’m also a huge Maggie Nelson and Ali Smith fan, they’re two of my favourite writers. I really value their ability to express themselves so honestly and purely with such simplicity. Raymond Carver and Lydia Davis also have an incredible talent for this,

and I’ll always return to them if I’m lacking in inspiration for any reason. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury must also get an honourable mention here, it’s a book I recommend to almost everyone I meet. What materials do you like to work with? I’m a creature of habit and find myself pretty exclusively working with the same two mechanical pencils (0.5mm and 0.7mm if you’re interested). I’ve also discovered graphite putty recently, I love the expressive soft marks it can make. What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? Recently I’ve been experimenting with illustrations in an installation setting: trying to see what happens when you translate a book or comic into a whole physical space. I’ve also been putting a lot more time and energy into the poetry side of my practice, and giving writing as much attention as the drawing. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? I actually mainly listen to podcasts whilst working, I find it really calming to have something my mind can focus on whilst my hands are working. Recently I’ve been trying to wean myself off of the constant stream of True Crime I usually listen to and have been trying out some new stuff. You Must Remember This, a podcast about the early history of Hollywood, is the latest obsession. Where do you like to work? I have a small desk set up in my rented London room but I can’t say it’s the dream workspace for me- I much prefer hav-

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ing space to spread out and play around with different materials. Maybe one day I’ll have that ideal studio, but for now my favourite place to work is in a community garden/cafe called Dalston Curve Garden in East London.

glass of water I think about her saying that. Is it really blue, or am I just expecting it to be blue?

What is one of your earliest memories of making art?

I’m not sure how often I accomplish this, but I’m always aiming for an honest connection with me and the reader. I want to convey real experience and real emotions, and for the reader to look at my work and see a part of themselves reflected back. A lot of my narrative pieces in particular also act as a kind of catharsis for me, a place where I can sort through and purge my own feelings and memories.

I remember being about 5 years old in primary school painting a vase of flowers, and the teacher was asking us to *really* look at the water in the glass, saying “you’re all painting it blue, but is it really blue? Take another look”. Arguably a pretty advanced thing to ask a bunch of 5 year olds, but every time I colour a

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Where To Find Them Websites: peonygent.com Contact: peonygent@gmail.com Social Media: @peony__ (Instagram)

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What do you hope to accomplish with your work?


DARYL RAINBOW


Daryl Rainbow “This piece is inspired by a more modern approach to intimacy. The idea that technology is so ingrained in every corner of our lives now, that is it is even present in our quieter, intimate moments. Even when it shouldn’t really be there. The moments of having dinner with your partner or waking up with your partner. The presence of our phones is now just fair play and not really questioned that much any more. To share a funny video, or meme, or to show photos you’ve taken on your phone to communicate a story. It’s just common, accepted behaviour and has now almost become an intimate activity in it’s own right, that brings people closer together.” -Daryl Rainbow Name Daryl Rainbow Age 27 What is your current location? I am in my studio in Hackney Downs, London. Where are you from? Originally I was born in Manilla, Philippines. But my family left the mother land and moved over to London when I was 3 years old. What is your current occupation? “Freelance Illustrator” Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I studied BA Illustration at Camberwell College of The Arts in London. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? I always find these sorts of questions difficult to answer as I al-

ways find it hard to pin point inspirations. I suppose these days generally it’s characters that tend to give me ideas for my practice. Whether that be day to day characters I meet in general life in bars or on the street. Or characters in the political landscape or the world of football. They’re always good places for storyline to interest me. In terms of artists/illustrators, I tend to be drawn to the more satirical British ones like; David Squire, Mr Bingo, David Shrigley, Reuben Dangoor ,etc... What materials do you like to work with? Mainly I work digitally these days. With the vein hope that it will look hand done and rough. The beginning of projects are always started with pencil drawings. But everything always finished off digitally. One of these days I hope to pick up a paint brush again. What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I’m currently finishing off an animation for CAFIN Clothing. About the unsustainability of “sustainable cotton.” I’ve also got a few football related editorials coming up. And I’ve long had this idea for an illustrated book called Dinosaurs In The City about dinosaurs with old school attitudes and values causing havoc in inner city environments. I’m about half way through working on that.. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? Generally it’s the dark thoughts in my head that keep me going. But apart from that I quite like the harmonies of Hall and Oates.

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Where do you like to work? Recently, I’ve been told that I work in my comfort zone–which is comfy though. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? One of my earliest memories of making art is when my mum asked me to paint a portrait of this elderly couple she knew. I

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Where To Find Them Websites: darylrainbow.co.uk Contact: daryl@darylrainbow.co.uk Social Media: @daryl_rainbow (Instagram)

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did and she said it looked nothing like them but she still gave it to them. They laughed at it and put it away in a drawer. Fuck them. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I hope to achieve incredible satire, wisdom and, prolonged adulation. With the hope that my bank balance could be a long term beneficiary to this.


OLIVIA BEELBY


Olivia Beelby “This piece sort of manifested itself. It’s really four separate drawings done in a page in my sketchbook as part of a larger series of small composition explorations. It was only upon looking at them later that I realized they were connected. This is even the original way I had laid them out. It was a strange in-between period of my life as far as self image and intimacy. Whenever I looked at that page, my eyes just bounced around these four images. Once I had scanned them in it was obvious they existed as a unit. The work itself is colored pencil on kraft paper with a bit of digital magic in the background. ” -Olivia Beelby

Olivia Beelby

visual effects and structure. I’m not influenced by any one thing too specifically, the fun for me comes from trying to communicate through channeling a wide variety of influences.

Age

What materials do you like to work with?

21

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of collage work. Kraft paper, scrap paper, magazine clippings. Grease pencil goes great on top of Mod Podge, so I use a lot of that. I try not to limit myself too much and just use whatever works best for the job I need done.

Name

What is your current location? Detroit, MI Where are you from? Holly, MI which is a small town about an hour North of Detroit. What is your current occupation? Recent graduate, current wanderer. I prefer to call it freelancing. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I’ve taken as many art classes as I’ve been able to my entire life, culminating in my attending art school after graduating high school. I’ve just received my BFA this year. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? I absolutely love the cartoons I grew up watching, Courage the Cowardly Dog especially. I enjoy anything with experimental

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? As I’ve just graduated I’ve been taking a lot of time to do plein air and figurative studies and all the other fun things I didn’t otherwise have time for. I’m also doing some re-envisioning of a favorite childhood picture book. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? I listen mostly to podcasts or video essays. As of late I’ve been binging Ask A Mortician Where do you like to work? On my bedroom floor. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? Smashing plates to make mosaics with my mom.

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What do you hope to accomplish with your work? A steady livelihood and life purpose that pacifies existential dread.

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Where To Find Them Websites: oliviabeelby.com Contact: orbeelby@gmail.com Social Media: @orb.illustration (Instagram)

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SYMONE SALIB


Symone Salib Name Symone Salib

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?

Age

I am currently working on a few portraits of non binary folks for a show I have coming up!

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Is there any music you like to listen to while working?

What is your current location?

I don’t know what it is about certain albums but some give me so much productive energy. I cannot even tell you how many pieces I have finished because of Princess Nokia’s 1992 and Tierra Whack’s Whack World.

Philadelphia Where are you from? NJ What is your current occupation? I work an early literacy program with children during the day and paint by night! Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I am a self taught artist! I am a big believer of if you feel compelled to create, do that shit. You can teach yourself more than you know. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?

Where do you like to work? I primarily work in my living room because open light gives me energy. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? I’ve always wanted to make art all my life. I have this vivid memory in kindergarten where we had a prompt to draw ourselves as whatever we wanted to be when we grew up. I drew myself as an artist with a smooth and beret. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I hope to make people not only feel seen but heard.

People and storytelling inspires me most. I love to hear about personal experiences and watching someone’s expressions. As someone who is naturally empathic there is something beautiful about feeling the things someone else has been through. What materials do you like to work with? I like to work with acrylic paint and wheat paste if I doing street art.

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Where To Find Them Websites: symonesalibstudio.bigcartel.com Contact: Asalib47@gmail.com Social Media: @symonesalibstudio (Instagram)

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FORGE. ISSUE 6: SERENDIPITY


by MATTHEW JAMES-WILSON

MOMMA

Momma is the glimering, symbiotic recording project born out of the friendship between Los

Angeles songwriters Etta Freedman and Allegra Weingarten. The duo met in high school and performed together for the first time when Etta needed a last minute replacement for a show. Since then Momma has blossomed into a captivating four piece grunge band, with thoughtful lyrics and considered songwriting and arrangements. Etta and Allegra’s writing process is much like their friendship, they are constantly willing to learn from each other and support each other’s ideas. Their first full length, Interloper, is a dense debut full of interlocking vocals, a locomotive rhythm section, and really clever lyrics. There are so many intimate moments and sonic gems across the album, and it shows an awful lot of promise and maturity for a band that’s just beginning their young adulthood.

After a few months of corresponding with the band over email through my job at their record

label, Danger Collective Records, I finally got to meet Etta and Allegra when they were home from college this winter. I watched them play a staggering set at a DIY show downtown and was amazed by the intensity of their live performance. The next day I hung out with Etta and Allegra to shoot some new photos of Momma, and I experienced their inspiring dynamic first hand. Later we recorded this interview over the phone and discussed their writing process, musical upbringing, and how to have a healthy collaborative relationship.

Where are you from and where do you live currently? Etta Friedman: I’m from the San Fernando Valley, near Los Angeles, and I currently live in Brooklyn. Allegra Weingarten: I’m also from the Valley too, and I currently live in New Orleans. What role did music have in your lives while you were growing up? Did your parents introduce you to any music or did you play music when you were younger? Etta: For me, music was always super prevalent. My mom is a huge appreciator. She showed me David Bowie and Elton John growing up, who were super influential on me. But I also had older siblings that introduced me to a lot of music. My brother showed me Green Day and stuff like that, haha. My first favorite band ever was No Doubt, and I found them when I was really little, just from watching videos on TV. That kind of changed my life. I was always really obsessed with watching people play live and the whole dynamic of a band. I think that has always been super influential in my life. It’s an emotional thing and it can be very experiential. Music can transport you to so many different times in your life. Allegra: I was also definitely raised with a musical family in a musical household. Both of my parents love music, but my dad was a music journalist while I was growing up. He use to

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basically hoard CDs and he had the largest collection of CDs that I had ever seen in my life. So, my first memories of discovering bands and different kinds of music was going into our garage with bucket and looking through all of his CDs. That was when I still had a CD port in my computer, so I would just burn them all and sit in my room and listen to stuff. So physically having the music around and being exposed to it was huge for me. I’d always ask my dad, “Hey, do you have this CD?” and then he would say that he had it, but they weren’t organized at all, so it would just become like an easter egg hunt to try to find them. I didn’t know anything at the time, so I was just educating myself. I’d find CDs and pull them out because the cover looked cool, or I kind of knew the name of the band, or the band name sounded cool. Do either of you two have formal music training, or are you primarily self taught? Etta: Definitely self taught. I picked up a guitar because I was jealous that my brothers could just pick up any instrument and play it. I was also getting really into the Runaways at the time. A huge inspiration was that Joan Jett just picked up a guitar and wanted to learn how to play music. I picked up the bass at first, and the only time I ever got any lessons was because I went to a Lita Ford concert at the Canyon Club in Agora Hills. I saw the bassist from the Runaways there, and I was just shook. My entire world was upside down and I was like, What the fuck! This is crazy! I went up to her and talked to her and was like, “You and Kim Gordon are like the reasons why I want to play bass right now.” So she was like, “That’s awesome! Send me a video of you playing bass guitar!” and I was like, “Oh my god! Of course!” I took everything so seriously and spent like a week with my brother and my brother’s friend just figuring out what song I would play. Then I sent her the video and she was like, “That’s cool.” haha. But that was a big motivation. That was really the only kind of “training” that I ever had. But for the most part I have just taught myself. Allegra: I remember being surprised that you had never taken guitar lessons, Etta. Etta: Really? Thank you! I was also going to say—honestly, once we started playing music together, that was kind of a lesson in itself. There was a lot of us playing and deciding “Oh, this sounds cool.” or “What notes go together with this?” So we are consistently teaching ourselves. I feel like once we started playing music and figured out the style that we started writing in, I feel like I learned a lot from you too Allegra. Allegra: Yeah I would agree with that! I took guitar lessons for like a year, but I feel like I have nothing to show for it really. I don’t know one scale, haha. I took music theory, and I think I got a C. I really can’t look at sheet music and play it. But playing with Etta is like a very visual music playing experience. We show each other chord shapes and are like, “Can you do this? Oh yeah, this sounds cool.” But I have no idea what any of it is. Etta: It’s also funny recording with my brother. My brother will be like, “Okay, what’s the root note?” and we’ll be like “I have no idea…” haha. Allegra: We’re like, “Ah… It’s on the fourth fret.” How did you two initially meet each other? Etta: We met in high school. We didn’t really have that many close people around us. I think it was during my sophomore year, and we met in this club that was called “The Bohemian Arts Society” hahaha. I think Sam, Allegra’s sister, had just graduated along with Allegra’s friend group. I had just sort of turned away from the people I started to become friends with, who were a lot of theater kids and a little annoying. Then Allegra and I started hanging out a lot. I was in a sort of Riot Grrrl inspired band at the time. I didn’t really want to play music like that

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Photo by Taylor Robinson

anymore, so I started my own project and was playing with the girl who had played drums in the other band I was in. There was one show that she couldn’t make it to, and I just asked Allegra if she wanted to play with me instead. Then the other girl never really played music with me again. I feel like music became our biggest form of communication. It really helped us understand each other more and it helped us become closer. Allegra: Yeah! Etta and I had hung out a couple times, but not a lot, right? Etta: Yeah, not too much. Allegra: We were kind of friends, but were weren’t close. Etta: We would just have sleep overs and smoke weed and watch COPS. Allegra: Literally. We watched COPS for like five hours one day. But I remember it was my junior year, and I hadn’t played guitar for a while. I don’t know why I just wasn’t interested. But then Etta asked me to play the show. I was going through my really big acrylic nail phase, haha. So I cut my acrylic nails to play the show, and I never went back, haha. Were you aware of the DIY scene in LA at that point? Do you remember the first shows you saw at DIY venues in the city? Allegra: Well Etta is a year younger than me, so I was going to DIY shows a lot during my freshman year of high school. I was going to places like The Smell. But Etta and I kind of missed

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Photo by Taylor Robinson

each other, because at a certain point I stopped going to them. Etta: Yeah, in my freshman year I started going to a lot of shows because Nolan Pearson, who also went to our high school would tell me about Danger Collective events when Danger was just starting. I was like, “Oh this is rad.” and I want to make friends in high school, so I stared going to shows. I remember the first one I went to was some Slow Hollows show at Almost Holden before it closed down. I think Girlpool also played there, and that was also one of first times I experienced a DIY show. It was crazy. Then I think we started seeing each other out a little bit more. What kind of music did you bond over when you began playing together? Etta: I think like Alex G? Allegra: Yeah probably Alex G. I remember you were the only person I knew who liked the band That Dog. I don’t really have any district memories of us being like, “Oh I can’t believe we like the same stuff.” I think it was sort of a natural process of both being in the car and showing each other music. But it’s funny because, we’ll still have moments where we’re like “What! I can’t believe you listened to this band!” A couple months ago we discovered that we both are obsessed with this one song called “Muscle Cars” by Wussy, haha. It was this crazy friend moment, where we had been listening to music together for four years, but never knew that the other person loved this song too. Then we both just sang it together word for word. We’re always still discovering similarities in our music taste.

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Etta: It’s an anthem for sure. It’s pretty consistently something that, if we’re in the car and don’t know what to play, we’ll just put that on. When did you both start writing your own music by yourselves? Etta: Well I was in that band that really wanted to be like Bikini Kill. I think I started trying to write music when I was like 13. With music I go through massive obsessions. If there’s a band or a genre that I really love, I will go through a big obsession with it and I’ll binge listen to it and try to discover every little nuance with it. When I was 13 that really started with the Runaways. So I got a guitar and started learning how to play simple bar chords and David Bowie songs and stuff like that. That then progressed into writing, once my taste matured a little bit more. All of the songs I was writing at first were super shitty, haha. But that was kind of how it all started for me when I first got a guitar. Allegra: I don’t remember sitting down and being like, “I want to write my own thing.” I don’t really have a clear memory of that. But I do remember when my dad showed me how to play an Em and a G chord on the guitar. In his office he had a Joni Mitchell song book and— obviously I didn’t know what any of the sheet music meant or how to interpret it—but there was this one song called “Willy” and I would sing the lyrics of it to the chords Em and G, because those were the only chords I knew. So I basically rewrote her song for myself so that I could play it, haha. I still haven’t listened to the original song, because I refuse to believe it’s not just Em and G. Etta: Remember that one time when we accidentally wrote “Albatross” haha.

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Once you started playing together how was Momma formed and what were some of the first songs you wrote together? Allegra: Etta had her own stuff that she was doing as Momma before, and then I was helping filling in for that one show and for that we were just playing her songs. I think the beginning of Momma was us both writing bad songs and having each other to help out and make the songs better. Etta: Yeah, and we would rework certain songs. I would have chords for a song and we would just fuck around with them until we were like, “Oh this could sound way cooler.” There was a song that I had written really simple chords for, and it turned into us writing a song about flushing a fish down a toilet. Allegra: I knew you were going to say that, haha! Yeah, that song was called “Gilly.” Etta: That was the very first song that we wrote together. There were some guitar solos and riffs in there that we were like, “Fuck yeah!” about. I remember that was one where we felt like the vocal melody was super sick. That was when we started wanting to record stuff and we wanted to make the music more accessible for people. Do you remember the first shows you played after you decided to make the project something you would do together? Etta: I think even at that very first show we played, we played one of your songs ‘Legs, right?


Allegra: Yeah we did. Etta: I remember Allegra coming up to me in the hall way in high school, and we would eat our lunch in the middle of the hallway. Allegra had written something and recorded it on voice memos and was like, “Yo, check it!” and it was really sick. I think we were just really into the idea of workshopping and consistently writing. Allegra: But I also think there have been two very distinct incarnations of Momma. Etta and I were playing for a year, then we got Zach (Capitti) and Yarden (Erez) in there and started doing the full band stuff, and we began writing completely different songs. I honestly feel like it’s two

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different projects. I just feel very disconnected from the first year of Momma. Our songwriting mindset is completely different now that we have a band with us. Etta: Definitely. There was a really clear maturity over time. Once we were at the end of that first year, we wanted to really fuck around with different parts on the guitar and lyrical play. All of that came out of being able to use drums and use bass. I think at first we were trying to write songs, but they weren’t connecting with the two piece. We were writing songs and then we were like, “Fuck, we need these other pieces.” It was just a gradual evolution. When did you record your first EP, Thanks Come Again? Was that during the transition from being a two piece to being a full band? Allegra: For the first EP, I play drums on it and Etta and I switched off playing bass. So that was the tail end of that first phase of Momma. Then we got Zach and Yarden in the mix. Etta, you can tell that story if you want, haha. Etta: Oh, well I was in a YMCA program called Youth and Government and I met Yarden there. Did we play a Youth and Government show? Allegra: I think we did, yeah. Etta: That was kind of around the time that we were talking about getting a bass player and a drummer. Yarden was like, “Oh, well I play bass.” and I was like “Oh, that’s sick. We should try to do something together. Then he was like, “Oh and I also know this kid Zach who plays drums.” So we met Zach one day and coordinated a little practice. I remember, the thing that really sold us on Zach was that we had written “Belong on the Bed” and we wanted to come up with a drum part for it that was really loose at the beginning. It needed to be tight and loose while still keeping time, and Zach is so talented that after we said “We want this kind of vibe.” and he just did it and it was perfect. Allegra: I remember the first time we rehearsed with just Yarden, Etta, and I to flesh stuff out with the guitars. I asked Yarden “Do you think Zach can keep up? Is he good?” because I had no idea and I had never seen him play. Yarden was like, “Umm, yeah. Zach is a beast.” haha. Then the first time we saw him play drums we were like, “Holy shit.” We got really lucky. Etta: Yeah, it was crazy. Once you were both finishing high school, what were your prospects for the future? What stage was the band at around that point? Allegra: I graduated before Etta, so I had always planned on going to school. That just wasn’t a question for me. But we always figured that we would just come back to Momma over breaks and stuff. So I ended up moving to New Orleans to go to go to Tulane, just because it was the best school I got into and I wanted to live somewhere completely unique. But Etta was still home that year, so I would come back for every break and we would write and record. That was the time that we were writing Interloper. Etta: There were a lot of voice memos back and forth, which was really a fun experience. It always felt so nice because it’s so easy for us to write together. We’re just so in sync that, even if we just had the bare bones of a song, we were able to piece it all together and make it more meaty once we actually got to see each other.

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Allegra: It was also easy because I feel like we were so codependent on each other because Etta didn’t have a lot of friends after I left and I was in this new school during freshman year, which sucks for everyone anywhere. I think we were both kind of displaced in this way, so we both had a lot of time on our hands to write. One of us would send the other a voice memo, and we both had a lot of time to sit down and work through them and write other parts. So I think that’s where the “Interloper” idea came from, because we were both separate in different places and felt alone, but we were innately connected by our music and our friendship. It’s interesting to hear you two talk about your relationship working as collaborators, because every collaborative project functions in a different way, and it often depends on the personalities of the individuals for it to work. What things are important for you two to maintain a healthy collaborative relationship? How do you try to work together in a way that balances being respectful of each other’s ideas but still involves you pushing the work forward overall? Etta: Well I think it helps that we’re best friends, haha. If there’s anything that’s kind of off or something, we’re not really afraid to be like, “Well, what if we tried this.” We’re also never reacting like, “That sounds so shitty! No!” It’s always about positive and constructive collaboration. For the most part I think we’re also big fans of each other’s work in general. I don’t know, I respect Allegra so much as a musician that it’s so fun to be able to collab. I think we like each other’s ideas a lot, so it’s an easier process than most. Allegra: I feel like I also can’t really collaborate with other people besides you. Etta: Yeah! It’s not the same. Allegra: I’m different with other people, haha. I think we both respect each other’s songwriting and musicianship so much, that that just makes it easier. We always think the other person has cool ideas. I think it’s a rare case with how close Etta and I happen to be. I feel like we talk for each other and think the same things a lot of the time. That’s not even collaborative—it’s just weirdly symbiotic. It’s like we’re the same person in a lot of ways, haha. Your writing has a very “poetic anecdote” quality to it, and there’s a lot of storytelling in your lyrics. How much of your writing is you two abstracting reality and how much of it is fiction that you’re coming up with? Etta: For Interloper, a lot of it was turning our realities into something that was more fictional. I don’t know, we’re also both freaks about creepy stuff and we really like to use weird metaphors and lean towards the darker side of things. So I think we try to take stuff that is rooted in our own personal narratives and turn that into fiction. But the new music that we’re writing for our next album is all conceptual. Allegra: By writing music in the same room together, we’re creating something completely new and outside of ourselves. I feel like, if you can do that and also write about something that is outside of yourself, you’re just constructing a whole new entity. With the new music we’re writing, we’ve been trying to strike a balance between something that people can resonate with and something that is completely outside of their bubble. Etta: One of the new songs we wrote called “Apollo” moves more towards the new music we’re working on for our next album. It’s going to be on a 7” but we originally wrote that song thinking that it would be for the album because it sort of plays along with the storyline that we were writing. The other new song, “Highway” is about a road trip that we’ve taken the past two

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years that’s always a nice relief. For that song we picked out all these memories from that and through that we’re creating our own world. Us going to Nevada and shit is kind of like us really escaping our everyday in a physical way. What did you learn from making your first EP that informed how you wanted to approach making your first full length, Interloper? What was the process like recording Interloper? Allegra: We recorded Thanks Come Again in two days, haha. Our friends Aaron (KobayashiRitch) and Sebastian (Jones) recorded it for us, and we didn’t let them master it and we barely let them mix it. We were like, “Alright we tracked it! We’re going to release it!” Huge mistake… haha. Etta: Haha yeah, it was a big learning experience. Allegra: So everything we’ve done from now on has not been like that, and we’ve learned to not rush things. We learned to take our time and to be picky. I think being super knit-picky is actually a really good skill for an artist to have. Etta: I think even with the process of recording Interloper, we even learned ways that we need to be going about recording more carefully and voicing our opinion. I think it was also just about the time we were in when recording it. Regardless of who we were recording with and what we were doing with our recordings, it was hard for us to vocalize a lot of opinions sometimes. At first we were just super hyped about the recording and that they sounded good, but towards the end we were realizing, Oh we want this to sound great and be something that people can listen to and enjoy and not have and qualms about. Now that you both live in different cities, how do you continue to collaborate together remotely? Allegra: I think Etta and I have different opinions on writing when we’re away—correct me if I’m wrong Etta. I think I become very neurotic about it and I feel like we have to be in the same room and it has to be in person for us to be on the same page in order for us to write something good. I think I’m just more in my head about that. But Etta is more willing to flesh things out and send ideas back and forth. Etta: Yeah I agree. I kind of do the thing where I’ll be fucking around on guitar and will play something and be like, “Oh, this could be cool!” Then I’ll just berate Allegra with voice memos of just random little parts that aren’t even a full song yet. I think we’re able to actually finish stuff when we’re fully together because it’s just easier to communicate. It’s also about looking at each other’s process while making music. If I have a basic chord progression and Allegra and I are in the same room, I can see Allegra figuring out different ways to riff over it. It always helps because together we can be like, “Oh that sounds cool! You should do that.” and we’ll go off of that. Allegra: Yeah, you don’t get that when we’re not together. Etta: Exactly. I also think that a lot of the music talk that goes on between the both of us when we’re away is more “business” haha. A lot of just planning. Allegra: Yeah, we’re like, “Alright, when we finally do see each other, we’re going to write a sad song.” But I like to wait until we’re in person, because I feel like it’s better that way. Etta: I think it’s good to archive what we’ve been messing around with and then go back.

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What have your respective college experiences been like so far? What’s your perspective on the schools you go to? Etta: I really like my school. This past year has been a little complicated I think. But my school has been able to facilitate a lot of sweet connections and friendships pretty easily, which I got really lucky with. I knew someone who was going to Pratt when I had gotten here—I didn’t really know her quite well, but we then became super close. I basically lived at her house all freshman year. I switched majors, and that has been a whole experience. But Brooklyn is awesome.

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Allegra: I love New Orleans. I love it more than anything honestly. The music scene down here is just so cool. #PutNewOrleansOnTheMap, haha. There are so many good bands that haven’t really launched outside of New Orleans yet. Shout out Lawn! Etta: Shout out Pope! Allegra: Shout out Matt Surfin’ & Friends. Etta: I’ve visited Allegra in New Orleans twice now, and I’ve gotten to see the way that she has developed there and found a friend group. The scene there is insane. It’s such a different experience, and it’s really awesome. Brooklyn has a lot to offer as well, but I also feel like a lot of the DIY scene here is pretty stuck in two or three genres—I mean there’s a huge variety of music here, but I feel like the DIY shows that a lot of people are going to are either rave-y techno music or “alternative rock” music. There are a lot of sick bands that are out here, but I feel like the difference in New Orleans is the variety. How has the internet affected your ability to do what you do? How has the internet affected the way that you interact with other people’s music? Allegra: I think it’s everything, honestly. Bandcamp and YouTube and SoundCloud—putting your music on there is everything. That’s how I discover all of my music. I can’t remember the last time I walked into a record store and by chance picked something up and really liked it. I think the closest thing to that is maybe going to a show and seeing a band and being like,

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“Oh shit, this is really cool!” and then getting into them after. But for the most part I’ve found all of my music through the internet. Etta: Yeah I think YouTube is our best friend. It’s also something that has definitely bonded us. There have been so many nights spent watching live performances of older bands or newer bands doing Jam in the Vans, or Tiny Desks, or Audiotrees—all of those. Allegra: I guess the only thing is, with streaming you can gloss over things really fast. You can listen to a song for a second, and if you don’t like it you can skip it. I think the downside is not giving that attention to a piece of music that the artist would want you to. I’m not really a cynic when it comes to streaming because, as a user it’s so convenient. But I guess it’s harder to make a living off of music now because of how accessible it is to everybody. But making money off of music is so not in my mind. That just seems so out of the question at this point, haha. But I’m down with streaming. I think music should be available to people who appreciate it and want it. Etta: I think with the internet and the social media there also comes “clout.” A lot of it has become about branding. Branding isn’t just specific to the social media age, but I think branding is a huge part of everything now. Wanting to be seen as one thing, but also not wanting to be seen as another thing. It’s an interesting balance. It’s weird.


What do you think prevents young people from putting out their work when they are starting out? How did you get over those hurdles when you started playing? Allegra: I feel like we didn’t really have that hurdle because we were always so desperate to put stuff out. We were like, “Ugh, this song is so good! Everyone has to hear it!” and I think that was our biggest mistake—just rushing things. Honestly, if you have never released any piece of music and you’re working on a project, take that as a fucking blessing, and don’t release it until you are 100 percent happy with it. My biggest regret is just releasing things too prematurely. But I think having the upper hand of a project, but no new music out yet, is great. I wish that we could have that again. Etta: I know what you’re saying. I think it’s about being strategic. But at the same time, there’s something about wanting to just document your work and just put it out there that is good. I’m not even referring to Thanks Come Again—I’m talking about the shit before that. We just wanted to record it and have it somewhere that we could play it and people could listen to it if they wanted to. It’s like your diary. Just throw everything out there—it’s like throwing up on Bandcamp, haha. As someone who’s such a super nerd about finding stuff like that, I love hearing people’s early shit. That’s what I want to hear. I want to hear their growth and hear how shit has developed for them. Sometimes there are really cool ideas that rooted in some of that—or you can see how an artist has morphed into where they are now. But it’s also true that there is this idea of wanting to be pristine and present yourself that way, because that’s where you’re going to get your most listens. People are going to want to listen to something that sounds cleaner for the most part.

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Allegra: Yeah, I mean I’m not saying “Don’t release unless it’s a hi-fi master recording.” or anything like that. But I think if you release something, you have to back that and justify that, basically forever. If you can’t do that, wait until you can record something that you can. Etta: And we’ve gotten rid of stuff too. We’ve erased a lot of stuff from our archives. We still appreciate it. It lives in our iTunes and sometime Allegra and I will text each other being like, “Yo, remember this?” But it’s not necessarily stuff that we identify with anymore. Are there any projects you’d like to embark on, that you just don’t have the time or money for at the moment? Allegra: I’ve been trying to record solo stuff for a while, but it just gets hard when I have school stuff to do. Etta: My recording equipment got kind of messed up, and I’m kind of without a lot of things here. So I haven’t really been able to focus on a lot of my own stuff. Plus school makes it hard. But I’ve been taking my time with a little bit. I’m in an emo band here, haha. But we don’t really have anything significant at all and we haven’t played any shows. But it’s just fun to jam around. I think it’s funny to start collaborating with other people, because I’m so use to the process that we go through that switching to any other process is like speaking a foreign language and can be frustrating. It’s not as easy as it can be, so it doesn’t pull my attention in completely. Nothing will pull my attention as much as making music with Allegra and the rest of Momma. What do you both struggle with as musicians? What hurdles do you want to overcome with your work in the future? Etta: Honestly, I think I struggle with comparison—maybe that’s just my insecurities popping out. Not that it’s an overwhelming thing that’s ruling my craft or whatever. But I think, a lot of the time, if I make something, I just want to not feel like, Oh this sounds too much like this. I think my biggest hurdle within myself is just letting something live and breath and be it’s own thing, and then tweak it along the way. I feel like I struggle with this need for everything to come together immediately. Allegra: I feel a need to make music that is really complex and intricate and interesting. So lately I’ve been trying to scale back and be more okay with simplicity. Etta: Yeah, I agree with that statement too. Allegra: I want to be okay with something that’s simple, but good. Etta: I also remember a conversation we had recently, where—I think you had just seen the Breeders play, and they are probably my favorite band and a massive inspiration for the both of us. A huge part of listening to something like the album Last Splash is after every song turning over and saying, “Could you imagine writing that song? That song is perfect.” Then after seeing the Breeders, I remember Allegra talking to me and just being like, “Dude, they’re just playing bar-chords a majority of the time, and it sounds so cool.” We don’t have to over think everything.

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SIMON HANSELMANN

by MATTHEW JAMES-WILSON

Simon Hanselmann is the Tasmanian born cartoonist behind of one of the most recognizable and debated contemporary

comics, Megg and Mogg. What started as a stoned riff on the British children’s books Meg and Mog, has evolved over the past ten years into a dark comedic epic that confronts small town poverty, the cycle of abuse, and the family dynamics we create when we can’t depend on our own families. Simon’s characters aren’t virtuous, hygienic, or reliable, and their thoughtless antics often end in hurt feelings and destruction. But each book is as vulnerable as it is crass, because Simon draws from his personal experiences growing up with a drug dependent single parent and spending his young adulthood living off of government benefits and compulsively making comics with his friends. Like many artists, Simon has used his work as a sort of “art therapy,” processing the environment he was socialized in through his comics. Rather than making the audience unequivocally sympathize with his characters, he forces readers to discover the humanity in these deeply flawed protagonists on their own. Simon’s work begins a conversation about difficult subjects from the most uncomfortable and revealing point, to show what it’s like to experience pain when no one around you wants to take your feelings seriously.

The publication of his first full length Megg and Mogg book, Megahex, by Fantagraphics in 2014 marked a significant

transition from comic’s old guard to the contemporary comics we’ve seen over the past five years. Although his comic often exemplified much of the same pessimism and mean spiritedness that the ‘90s comics and television that inspired his work did, Simon’s presence also opened the doors for many people who felt othered within comics. Since 2014 Simon has released two more full length “expansion campaign” Megg and Mogg books, dozens of zines and online strips, and recently finished the next big keystone in the series, Bad Gateway, which comes out this summer. Although he has come a long way from his formative years in the South Pacific, he still continues to make work about those experiences, which people around the world facing a similar social climates have resonated with. This fall I interviewed Simon at his home in Seattle, where he was generous enough to invite me over while hosting several cartoonist friends who were in town for Short Run. We sat together on the floor of his home studio to record the following conversation. Over the course of about two hours we discussed making art on a budget, moving past old work, and the shape of comics to come.

Where are you from and where do you live currently? I’m from Launceston, Tasmania. It’s at the bottom of the Earth, close to the Antarctic. It’s a small island full of inbred people. When my wife says Tasmania to people they think Tanzania, despite Warner Brothers and all of the Tasmanian Devil stuff—I thought it was embedded in the American conscious, but apparently not. But yeah, it’s kind of horrible. Huge unemployment since the ‘70s. It’s super white, super racist, super homophobic. Small towns. Meth, meth, meth. But it’s got pretty rainforest. There are good beaches. Nice wines, if you’re into that. What was your experience like growing up in Tasmania? I was born in ’81 so I grew up in a pre-internet time. I spent time just riding bikes all day in beach towns, we’d spend all day making a bike jump track. Doors were left unlocked. It was like that classic, Stand By Me vibe, but without the murder. Although, saying that, there were

actually a lot of murders... My father was a biker and Mark “Chopper” Read who was a famous Australian murderer was a family friend. We used to hear some gruesome shit. My mother was a bar worker and a drug addict and my father left early. I got bullied a lot—I had gender issues. I wanted to be a girl and I was confused about that, and thought maybe I was gay. With little information pre-internet, you’d go to the library and you’d look in the dictionary or try to find any scrap of information about what’s happening to you. I was a TV kid, and there were late night commercials for some place called “The Black Rose” and it was a sex shop that sold Lingerie and dildos I guess. But this ad they had at night had a man dressed as a woman saying “It’s for me.” or like “The Black Rose… It’s for you and for me.” That was one of my first public exposures to a “male” person presenting as female. But that was scorned in the community. I’d overhear my mother and her creepy friends making fun of the Black Rose commercials and using horrible Australian derogatory slang terms.

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It was a pretty shitty place, but I had a couple of good friends. I started self publishing comics when I was eight years old. I always had a cast of friends and we’d play video games and make comics. Then when I was 14 I got into Fantagraphics-y “weird” comics and I started watching Twin Peaks. I dyed my hair green and was trying to be like a cool alternative kid. If you went to comic shops you could look through previews and find all of this weird shit and order it. It’s not like this now, but there were all of these second hand stores that would sell like big piles of MAD magazines and Punch and Asterix. They started importing American comics and you could buy like Hate and Eightball off of the shelf in numerous places in Tasmania in the early ‘90s. People were desperate for content in the pre-internet days, I guess. Eightball used to shift like 20k units back then, just from comic shop, record store, and head shop sales. Word of mouth—back before we were all avalanched in digital shit all day every day. But anyways, Tasmania was kind of fucked up and I’m glad I’m out. You either stay there and wither away or get out. My best friend—my main teenage collaborator—lives in LA and works at DreamWorks now and is married with a kid. He got out and escaped, but a lot of other friends are in prison, or junkies, or work at the petrol station, or have like seven kids or something and it’s kind of fucked up. My mother is still there and is still using drugs at 60. I buy her groceries and pay her rent and pay for her drug bills when she’s in trouble. I enable her completely. But she’s stuck—there’s a meth crisis in my home town right now, so she can’t get out and can’t escape. She’s never left the place. I always shit on it and say it was horrible. You always hate your hometown, I think. Unless you’re Bruce Springsteen and you love it because you were lucky and had a nice time. I moved to Hobart, in the south of Tasmania, when I was like 20. The decision was either to move to Melbourne, the cool city across the ocean where I would have to adjust in a big city where a lot of friends would fail and come back or move further south to Hobart where I’d met some cool comics people who I’m still friendly with and are great people. It was cool because there were bands there and there was a noise scene! When I moved I realized Launceston just didn’t have that, no “scene” at all. Maybe there were like some shit cover bands in bars, but there was no proper punk scene or youthful gallery circuit. There was a skatepark and everyone would spray paint it and take shits on it and smash bottles. That was the culture. What role did comics have in your life early on? Were you encouraged to make comics at all at a young age? I was sort of a latchkey kid. Even when I was five or something, my mother worked a lot of bar jobs to try to support us, so she was out of the house a lot. Then I guess she was also probably partying with her buddies

and shooting up some junk. My grandmother would look after me, and she was a chair-bound chain smoking schizophrenic. But my mother bought me toys and stuff and I had little things to entertain me. I’d watch TV a lot and then she started buying me comics. I remember getting a Spiderman comic when I was five—that was my earliest comic memory. I found it erotic that Spiderman was all tied up, and I vividly remember being aroused by that, haha. But I would read Asterix, and Tintin, and Lucky Luke, at the school library. I had a ton of overdue Richard Scarry books. Everyone loved those books and they were really popular. Every week at library time it was like, “Ah fuck, that one is out. I hope I can get this one!” and everyone was competing to get the best one. Asterix was huge in our school. And then, like I said, we also had the second hand book stores. My Ma and I were always going around there—maybe she was selling stuff to buy more drugs, haha. I started to buy MAD magazines when I was seven. They just had all of this fun, subversive stuff laying around, easily accessible. I got really hardcore into Nickelodeon cartoons when I was like 11 or 12 and I wanted to be an animator because I loved Rocko’s Modern Life and Ren & Stimpy. Then I had a superhero flirtation from when I was like 12 to 13 and I was super into Image. I was like, “Yeah, Spawn is the SHIT!”, I was right on that wave when Image launched— after they all left their other jobs and formed Image. I was hugely into that. Everyone at school all had them in their desks and we’d be like, “Yeah Youngblood!” Then I met these cool older guys who lived down the street who introduced me to Dan Clowes, and Peter Bagge, and Julie Doucet, and all of that stuff during the ‘90s. I was 14, they were all like in their 20’s. Did it feel weird to be so physically detached from the places where all of this culture that you were consuming came from? I mean, it felt far away, but it was all just entertainment! It was all just digging for more entertainment, cause we were nerds. I started smoking pot when I was like 13 or something. Then we started drinking and we’d party and stuff. We’d be hanging out while listening to music and air-drumming. We’d talk about comics and play Nintendo. But it was just entertainment from far away. We had Australian shows too. We got cable when I was 15. We had like two TV channels up until ’94 or something. Getting cable was huge! I started watching stuff like Tom Green, Strangers with Candy, Mr. Show, The Larry Sanders Show, and all of these premier HBO shows and comedy stuff. But we did have a really good Australian comedy scene. There’s a guy called Shaun Micallef who is really good. He’s really surreal and makes really post-Monty Python stuff. Really inventive and funny. He wore a suit and was straight laced, but really absurd. I think that stuff shaped my sense of

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humor. Australia has a decent sense of humor, and most of our prominent comedians and TV comedy writers are lawyers. There’s a big law school connection, so they’re kind of uptight and studious, but very funny and odd. But harkening back to the original question, I was never really explicitly encouraged to make art. I started selfpublishing when I was eight—I don’t know where I got the idea. I started drawing my own comics when I was six or seven. I’d do weird Garfield comics or rip off Spy vs. Spy from MAD. I always loved writing stories in school. I always loved art and I was naturally drawn to that. I liked drawing. It was an escape as well. I think I’ve said it before but, it’s great for poor kids because you don’t need anything. If you’re dreaming of being a filmmaker or a musician when you’re a poor kid—there’s just so much tech that you need. But with comics you just need a Bic pen and a bit of paper, and off you go! It just melts the outside world away. I think, since there was trauma when I was a kid—I’ve remembered abuse and my mother’s creepy boyfriends and shit that happened. I thought of myself as a happy kid. I think I modeled myself after Bart Simpson, and I was trying to be this irrepressible rascal that was upbeat and funny, despite being constantly bullied. But I was popular with drawing. That’s another key to it—if you draw, then you’re the cool, funny drawing kid. One of my friends, Luke, the DreamWorks guy—his father had a wood heater store front. He was kind of a rich kid compared to me because his parents had like jobs and stuff, haha. It was like, “Woah! your parents have a business!” But yeah, he Xeroxed Transformer coloring books when he was like six and would try to sell them outside his dad’s business like, “Would you like to buy one of these for your son or daughter?” He was very enterprising, so we linked up and we were making comics together. So we decided, “Hey, let’s try and make our own book on this copy machine!” We’d sell them at school for a dollar. I dropped out of high school because I got in trouble for selling zines on the playground. I think for one year I only went to school for like 30 days out of the year. My mother dropped me off and I would just walk to town. Then eventually, she said if you don’t like it just don’t go, and I dropped out when I was like 15. I went back briefly, but then I dropped out again. But hey, fuck them! My friend Luke dropped out at the same time and now he’s at DreamWorks and I’m a New York Times Best Selling author. Fuck school. If you know what you want to do, you can learn at the library. That’s what I don’t get about these expensive universities. To me it’s just somewhere to steal art supplies or get free photocopies. I think kids get sucked into art or develop a creative practice early on for a lot of different reasons. But it seems like using it to escape your reality growing up was a big part of it’s function for you. One hundred percent. I made puppet shows, I made

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music. I didn’t like leaving the house and I drank alone. I remember being 15, and the highlight of my week was drinking bourbon alone in my room and watching Mr. Show and Cybill and just working on these weird puppet shows and drawing. I had a big box of comic books and I collected little figurines. I was just a child of capitalism buying shit and being immersed in entertainment. I was raised by television and comics. I was telling my wife, the cheesy family values that were drummed into me from television, make me feel like the right thing is to go back and spend six months helping my mother and set her up in a new house somewhere else. That’s what seems right and that’s why I feel so much fucking guilt for being over here in the States. I talk to her as much as I can, but it’s so grim and depressing and just… dark. I’m her therapist basically, so she tells me the darkest shit and it’s really psychologically exhausting and bleakly depressing. Lots of people have drug problems in the family, and it’s really heartbreaking. But I’ve been down there and I’ve put her into rehab before and spent a month looking after her crazy dogs. I’ve tried everything—I’ve tried to cut her off from the money, but then it’s like “Okay I’ll buy the food for you.” but even then she knows she can spend all of her money on drugs and I will provide food and toilet paper and everything she needs. It’s enabling. Everyone else has cut her off except for me. But I don’t feel like a sucker, I just feel like she needs someone compassionate in her life. There are down and out people who are just fucked, and there has to be some compassion. The state isn’t giving it and the doctors aren’t giving it. All of this has gone into the new book. That’s where Megg and Mogg has been leading. It’s all frivolous and silly at the start, but that’s what it’s like in life when you’re fucking around with this shit. It takes a dark turn as the clock ticks by. You’ve obviously developed a lot of really incredible technical skill as an image maker over time. How did you develop your drawing ability when you were younger? Did you have to overcome any insecurity around your style? When you say “having to overcome something” I think for me it was just beating out all of the Paper Rad and CF influences. I used to get called out as a biter back in 2008. Someone was talking trash about me and Grant (Gronewold) back in the day and there was this big blow up on Myspace. At the time I was like “Nooooo. No way! I’m not a biter.” but I was. Looking back at the work it’s like, “Oh Jesus…” And it still is, but I try to put more Simpsons into it because I guess that’s okay. I still hate my drawing style and I think I’m a bad artist. I can’t draw hands very well. I rush everything out of this desire to just get things finished. Also when I do


“If you’re dreaming of being a filmmaker or a musician when you’re a poor kid— there’s just so much tech that you need. But with comics you just need a Bic pen and a bit of paper, and off you go! It just melts the outside world away.” my watercolors, I can’t correct anything because the correction fluid will soak up the colors. So any mistake I make I have to live with it, and I can’t cover it up. When I was younger—I feel like it’s always been the same really. I’ve been using the same pens for 25 years, haha. My Uni pens. They don’t sell them commercially in America, but they are in the UK and Australia everywhere. I get them online and I buy boxes of them. I use a plastic ruler. I order my paper from Australia, so I think I’ve been using the same paper as well since I was 13. So it’s the same process. I obviously did black and white stuff when I was a kid, due to technical limitations. Color Xerox was like way fucking out of bounds. All we really had access to was Xerox machines. I didn’t go to art school, so there was no silk-screen printing or anything like that. I was always a Xerox kid.

in after them.” Some crust-punk would be in there already and you’d be like, “How long are you going to be here for today?” and they’d be like “Ah, 200 vegan anarchist zines. Three hours realistically?” and you’d be like “Fuck!” But it was a great culture in Hobart. Everyone was in weird bands making noise shit. There were house parties and 24 hour comics parties. Everyone would print their flyers for free and print their books for free. There were free zine fairs. Everyone complains here in the States about the transparency of zine fairs and the table fees. Where I grew up it was all free. Some cool zine shop would put on a free zine fair and you’d turn up and make a bit of coin. Then you could have a good weekend or something. It was fun and there wasn’t anything sinister about it. You just made some cool work that your friends wanted to see, and everyone had a good time. Minimal moaning.

In Tasmania you could legally go to any government office and say, “I want to use your phone, I want a glass of water, I want to sit around and read your magazines, and I want to use your photocopier.” You could stay in there for six hours in their work room using their photocopier, with all of these big A3 stacks of color paper and binding machines. We’d go in there and print 100 page zines and just do this crazy shit. They would be like, “Oh come in. Yeah, someone’s doing some band flyers, but you can go

But there was a really good scene there. But it was weird as well. It was the early 2000s in a small town. I’ll see things in older work of mine and think, “Ahh, that’s a bit bloody racist…” or “Ugh, that’s a bit off.” I’ll see something homophobic in the work and—at the time I was totally struggling internally, but was trying to fit in with people. It’s what you saw on TV and it was what was drummed into you. Younger people sometimes don’t realize that preinternet and before available information—the privilege

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of having all of this information and outside influence available—there was no way to be influenced from the outside. We found what we could and I thought of us as being progressive, but there are still shitty things we did and shitty people. There are clearly a lot of differences between the world you were socialized in and the world you occupy now, as far as the culture, the time period, the economic circumstances, and the access to information. How does it feel to look back at your older work knowing where you were coming from when you made it and knowing how far you have come since then? Well I feel shitty about it, and I don’t want people to see that work. But it’s formative—it’s not work that I’m proud of. I can see a glimmer of what it would evolve into, but it’s nothing I’d want anyone to see or commercially release. It makes me feel sad, but I don’t beat myself up about it. I couldn’t help being born in a shitty small town and being surrounded by assholes and drummed full of shit. It’s like the people stuck in the Appalachian Mountains. They

don’t have as much outside influence, and they can’t help being fuckheads because it’s all they know because they’re raised into it. Poorer areas in Tasmania and where my mother is right now—to break out of the cycle of that is very hard. Like gangs, you get drawn in. You can’t walk around with a scarf and a saxophone case and a copy of Infinite Jest under your arm, because you’ll get the shit beaten out of you. You’ll be threatened into joining a gang or you’ll be killed. That’s what it feels like—you have to go along with it. It’s like prison! You have to go along with this horrible system. Some people can break out—strong people can break out of these things. If you have a good support network or you find one. You have to make your own family, I have gotten everything in my life and gotten away from everything bad through art and the friendships I’ve made through creative endeavors. You have to try to find like-minded people. I keep saying this to my mother, “You just need to get out of the house and meet some better people.” You just have to get out and diversify your thoughts.

“Younger people sometimes don’t realize that pre-internet and before available information—the privilege of having all of this information and outside influence available—there was no way to be influenced from the outside. We found what we could and I thought of us as being progressive, but there are still shitty things we did and shitty people.”

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What changed for you after you dropped out of high school but before you moved to Hobart? What kind of comics were you making at that point? I dropped out when I was 15 but it wasn’t until I was 20 when I moved to Hobart. So there was just five years when I was on government benefits. I was seeing therapists and stuff. I was too scared to talk about my gender issues with therapists, because it was so pent up. It had been drummed into me that it was so bad. But there was lots of other stuff relating to my mother and drug abuse stuff, and I would talk about that to them. I always felt like I was scamming them, but I don’t think I was. I think I was genuinely dealing with a lot of trauma, but I sold it to myself as, “Ah cool, now I get $500 every fortnight and I can just survive and work on my comics.” Then I just threw myself into work. The whole time I was just drinking and home alone. I guess I wasn’t thinking about stuff really. I was just getting fucked up and felt really depressed and I was trying to be happy. When I was like 15 or 16 I guess I was doing “dream comics” and trippy stuff. I’ve always had a lot of weird dreams and lucid dreams. I was reading stuff like Acme Novelty Library and Clowes and I was trying to do these surreal comics. But they were really crappily drawn and there was a lot of cross hatching. Then I was doing these weird dick joke comics. They were kind of similar to Megg and Mogg. It started out as a birthday card when I think I

was like 18. My friend really liked Tintin and I did a weird birthday comic for him where it was like the Captain and Tintin and they were this team of reprobates that wanted to get free hand jobs. They would just concoct all of these schemes and it was ridiculous. I drew like 40 episodes of it and it became “my thing.” But there’s a lot of shitty casual racism in that work and horrible shit, which was the stuff I was seeing on TV I guess. Even stuff like Strangers with Candy that I mentioned earlier—there’s tons of casually fucked up shit in there. At the time they were “progressive.” It was like early Sarah Silverman bits where she was offensive on purpose, like trying to do it in a nuanced way and expose racism. But the issue with that is that dumb people can see it as just straight racism and it can perpetuate racism. There’s a very fine line with comedy when you’re playing with loaded shit like that. It’s really fucking dangerous. I do still play with things like that though because I do think it is important for artists to fuck with shit and question shit and write about weird shit. Any weird shit that I write about that goes near the edge is usually based in part on something personal that has happened to me. It’s me processing something. But I did the dick joke humor comics just to make my friends laugh, it was fun. I only say it was similar to Megg and Mogg because it was based on an existing “property”. It’s funny that my two most popular works have

“It was like early Sarah Silverman bits where she was offensive on purpose, like trying to do it in a nuanced way and expose racism. But the issue with that is that dumb people can see it as just straight racism and it can perpetuate racism. There’s a very fine line with comedy when you’re playing with loaded shit like that. It’s really fucking dangerous.”

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been these weird stoned riffs on some existing thing with this added debauched element. I guess that’s what I do best. I also did a puppet show that had existing property characters in it, but they all had different names and it kind of became my own thing. It kind of sucks, haha. I feel like I’m a remix artist or something. But I put a lot of myself and my experiences into Megg and Mogg. What were the puppet shows that you mentioned like? Was that a live performance that you would do? It was action figures bobbing around on strings. People liked it in Tasmania, it got quoted a lot. I use to just record them on a camcorder. I’d hit record, say the lines, pause, and move the camera and characters, do the next bit, it was janky as hell. I’d make these elaborate dioramas though with little crumpled up overdue bills and little couches and bookshelves. I’d have little windows with little curtains and a little brick wall out there so that there was some depth to it. It was the craft of it all—I loved making them! You get weird editing with the shitty VHS, it was like some weird Harmony Korine puppet show. They were like a debauched super hero team that sat around the house doing nothing. It was very proto-Megg and Mogg in a way. But there’s some unfortunately dated content in there. I did do a live version where I had about 20 ft of sets set up. The story had been written so that it could move along through all of the sets from left to right. I was in a full bodied black body stocking and I had a Madonna mic so that I could do all of the puppeteering and move. My girlfriend at the time was behind a curtain with a CD player with a queue of music to play, and she rehearsed the music cues. My Horse Mania bandmate Karl Von Bamberger filmed it, and it was being projected, so you could watch it live but it was also up on a big screen behind you. Karl was doing live star wipes and shitty editing. It was so ramshackle, but people loved it and people quoted it for years. But I could never show it to anybody. It’s shitty… But it came out of this sad depressed confused kid in their bedroom alone pouring their heart into this project. It was magic. I think when Megg and Mogg started out there was some pretty dicey content in there. I hope it’s smart enough to stand the test of time. The sexual assault stuff with Owl—that’s stuff that happened to a friend of mine. It was Karl, actually. The comic wasn’t really supposed to be funny, it was supposed to be horrible. It’s not intended as a “rape joke.” It’s about unfortunate shit that happens within friendship groups. The point of the comic was that Megg and Mogg are a horrible kind of people, and Owl is this victim. But yeah, I read a lot of Goodreads reviews saying things like “The sexual assault scene in Megahex is glossed over. Disgusting!” and I just don’t agree with that. Owl moves out at the end of the book and then he mentions that assault as the catalyst. Megg and Mogg are

confused about it and they think that they haven’t done anything wrong, just as the people in the shitty small town that I came from didn’t think that they had done anything wrong. And the person it happened to was still friends with those people up until the person it happened to died. That’s just creepy small towns—lot’s of horrible shit goes on. It’s important to process that shit, and I don’t shy away from traumatic shit in my work. One of my favorite directors and writers is Todd Solondz. I don’t mind wallowing in the fucked up psyches of people. That’s the shit I grew up with, so it doesn’t feel weird to me. You can say Megg and Mogg is horrible and crass and “edgelord humor,” but it’s published in 14 languages so it must be hitting a nerve with people. People come up to me and say, “This book got me through high school.” or “This book got me through depression.” or “This book makes me feel better about gender stuff.” That’s heavy shit for me to hear. But you also get sensitive to stuff you see online and you start to feel like an asshole. But overall I stand by my work. Yeah, there are asshole qualities about it, because it’s work about assholes. If you don’t like it, fine Do you need to be an asshole about it? I want to come back to that point, but before we talk more about Megg and Mogg I wanted to ask you about the comic you were working on just before that, Girl Mountain. What did you learn from the experience of working on Girl Mountain and eventually deciding to scrap it? It was a learning experience. I learned what not to do. I was 21, and I had been self publishing for 13 years at that point, so I thought I knew it all. I thought I was ready to tackle the great Tasmanian graphic novel. It was going to be 1,000 pages, and it was kind of a Twin Peaks-y small town drama. The main character was a confused cross dressing kid with a junkie mother—it was very autobiographical. He lived in a small town and had lots of weird dreams. I was incorporating auto-bio, my weird surreal dream comics, a lot of short fiction that I had written—I don’t know where it came from, but I wrote all of this short fiction in a burst of inspiration one night when I was 15. But I spun all of that into this overly dramatic, silly book. I don’t know, it just wasn’t very good. I got through 256 pages of it. I worked on it for years, and the drawing changes dramatically through those pages over a six year period. How did that sort of segue into starting Megg and Mogg? I think in 2008 when I moved to London I was still working on Girl Mountain. I started drawing Megg and Mogg in late 2008, so it’s been 10 years which is terrifying. I started doing Megg and Mogg just as a break from it. Girl Mountain was a big small town drama with all of these interlocking characters and black magic and science

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“I fell in love with Megg and Mogg and all of the sad shit slowly worked it’s way in there. I realized that I could do this jackass stoner comedy that also shows the horrible, serious side of drug abuse. And it’s just me processing my 20s.” fiction elements. There was space travel, haha. I had grand plans, and it would have been a grand sci-fi space opera in the end. I used bits of it in a strip I did for Lagon Revue. But yeah, I started drawing Megg and Mogg as a silly diversion roommate comedy. I had already been drawing witches. I was like, Okay, it’ll be like a TV show like How I Met Your Mother or My Wife and Kids, but a debauched, drugged up, silly version of that. I kind of liked these new witch comics and other people liked them also. I sold them at noise gigs in London and I put them on MySpace and got a bit of positive feedback, so I kept doing them. Then I think I just realized that I hated Girl Mountain and thought it was lame, and I fell in love with these Megg and Mogg characters. All of the stuff from Girl Mountain about the mother and cross dressing carried

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over. I still really need to explore more with the Booger character. I have a whole 60 page solo Booger zine that I’ve been wanting to do that has been ready to go for two years. But I just haven’t had the time to execute it properly. But yeah, I fell in love with Megg and Mogg and all of the sad shit slowly worked it’s way in there. I realized that I could do this jackass stoner comedy that also shows the horrible, serious side of drug abuse. And it’s just me processing my 20s. Girl Mountain was me in my 20s processing my teenage years and writing about those experiences. Then Megg and Mogg was me writing about my 20s and the noise scene in Hobart and hanging out and getting all fucked up. Everyone was like, “What the


fuck are we going to do?” in this small town where no one has got a job, everyone is on government benefits, everyone is either drunk or an addict, and you don’t know what the fuck to do. But unlike Megg and Mogg, I was always working. Working was my “drug” or whatever. I caught compulsive workaholism. I’ve never not wanted to just work all fucking day. Even when I worked full time jobs, I would work all night and just get a few hours of sleep, and then I’d go to work sick the next day. I set myself these deadlines. Right now I’m staring down this hardcore, fucking horrible anxiety inducing deadline. Everyone is like, “Oh just take a few extra weeks or an extra month.” and I’m just like, “I can’t. That’s the deadline. Gotta factor in distributors. Bookstores. Publicity. It’s gotta be fucking done. Fuck you.” I think that sort of compulsive work ethic can be really common with people who feel like there’s a limited amount of time for them to have the opportunity to say everything they would like to say with their work.

maybe five years to live. He’s been told that he’s going to die every couple of years his whole life. Being exposed to him and his experience, his knowledge of a finite existence and being so fucking creative and needing to get this shit out. It has to come out and it has to be processed. I often say that it’s selfish. Everyone is out there working day jobs, and I’m just here selfishly or arrogantly needing to make this art. It all feels kind of pointless and banal. But still, who is to judge life. I think everything is kind of meaningless and we’re all just floating along. There’s order to our reality and we need to be good to each other, but inherently, everything is pointless. I’ve got all of these books stacked up over here to go to the zine fair—this is all just future landfill. I wonder where that’s going to go when the people who buy it die. Time just snaps by in an instant. I’m 36 now, and ten years of Megg and Mogg have just snapped by. The disease lottery is raging on, I’m worried my mother is going to overdose constantly, my best friend is going to die young—it’s a weird fucking reality. I’m not used to it. I’m not attuned yet with waking up everyday and dealing with reality. It’s constantly baffling and wondrous and I just want to do what I love.

That’s true of HTMLflowers’ case especially! My best friend and writing partner of ten years—he literally has like

“My best friend and writing partner of ten years (HTMLflowers)—he literally has like maybe five years to live. He’s been told that he’s going to die every couple of years his whole life. Being exposed to him and his experience, his knowledge of a finite existence and being so fucking creative and needing to get this shit out. It has to come out and it has to be processed.”

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What did you want to do differently with Megg and Mogg that you hadn’t really done with your previous projects? Megg and Mogg is just a solid formula. I wanted it to be like a sitcom. There’s the straight man, the wild man, the lead Megg, and then there’s her off to the side shitty boyfriend Mogg, who’s her familiar—her Salem. I feel like I could write sci-fi with Megg and Mogg. I have a weird, metaphysical, mental realm story for them, and it would be like 300 pages or something, haha. I’d love to do it, but I don’t have the time to do it. I think they’re very versatile characters. They’re different parts of me, and they’re so easy to write with. That’s what I wanted—just a good template that was interchangeable and easy characters to write for that I could easily insert life experiences and weird ideas into. They just work for me and I’m so fucking comfortable with them! I still find it challenging obviously. The new book is me trying to really move it forward. It’s also because of the fact that they are out of order. I jumped the gun in 2014 in the first book, Megahex, because it has the ending where Owl moves out. I intended after that to just continue it. The book I’m doing now is the book I intended to run with in 2015, but financially I couldn’t. What I’m trying to get into with the new book is all of this family history. This book is going to break my mother’s heart. I really didn’t want to serialize it on VICE and I didn’t want to put it out as zines. It just never worked out that I could financially do it at that time. I had a successful art show in France last year, and I made enough money that this year I could just sit down and work. That was my dream that I had been saying for years. I just want to sit down like Dan Clowes and have the rent paid and just be able to fucking work and take my time. I’m still barreling along working like a crazy person, but I’ve had the time to do proper focused-crazy. I haven’t had to be cranking out zines to pay the bills. I’ve just been able to work on this one long story. It was kind of a mistake to put out two books of odds and ends. People see those books as continuations. They’re like, “Oh but Owl moved out. Now he’s just back and it just resets? This sucks!” But there’s a note in the front saying that this is essentially just an expansion pack. They are expansion campaigns. It deepens Megg and Mogg, but the end point is that Owl moves out and now Owl is gone. Then the next books after this—I’ve got like four more planned and plotted out—they’ll just keep moving on. When you read the book it’ll end and you’ll be like “Fuck! What’s going to happen next?” Then you’ll find out in the next book. I want it to be like Love and Rockets. I want them to grow up. When I’m 50 I’ll be processing my 40s and so on. I might scale back because there are other things that I want to do. I don’t want to be a one trick pony forever—but I think that’s my strength in a way. A lot of people are doing lots of different experimental stuff, but my strength is that I do consistent meat and potatoes work with the same characters. People like the characters, and

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I like the characters, and I don’t think the work sucks yet. I regularly think I’ve jumped the shark and that it’s over. Megg and Mogg was nearly over in 2012 and in 2010— there were times when I was like, Ah okay, that’s enough. But then I realize, No, I could do this with them, and this with them! How do you try to map out releases when the chronology is changing as you make it? I wasn’t really thinking. I think I thought I was going to do “Megg’s Coven” after Megahex, but it was all financial. I don’t really plan it. There’s the Booger book that I’ve wanted to do for like two years, and I just haven’t managed to slot it in. I think there are about five zines that I’ve wanted to do which are set post-Owl-moving-out or pre-Owl-moving-out. Most of the zines I’ve been making are a clearing house of Owl-centric ideas and getting rid of that stuff. It’s all solidifying now, and I’m going to just move it on. You just have to choose a path and go with it. Sometimes you just pick your path, and you run down that path. I try not to be too much of a thinker—I try not to overthink things. I think things can break if you over think them. Or you can just get bogged down, just sitting around thinking too much. I don’t go on the internet too much. I’ll check the news and stuff, but I’m not on message boards all day talking about things and over analyzing things. I just let it happen, work wise. Although, I do read my reviews and stuff. I like going to Goodreads and reading reviews of Megg and Mogg. My favorites are the bad reviews because, if it’s a smart person and not someone being reactionary and saying “It sucks! The colors suck!”—if it’s by a good writer about the failings of the work and character stuff, that’s really fucking helpful! It’s a workshop to make it better and see what people see. You don’t think about it so clearly sometimes, so you need other people to tell you. I guess it is important to get other voices in the mix, but at the same time, my favorite thing about comics is the autonomy. It’s the fact that it’s just you. To harken back to to being a poor kid—it’s just you and it’s so cheap and easy. No one has to interfere. I think, especially since you’re so self educated, you have a much more finite voice as a writer than many other people. What elements have informed your writing and how it has changed over time? Definitely sitcoms—or shitcoms. All the stuff I’ve read over the years. I try to go to the Tate Modern or whatever when I can and check out art shit. I like Rainer Werner Fassbinder films. I try to keep my influences open. I don’t just read comics and I don’t just watch sitcoms. But I think television has influenced me more as a writer than comics. I’ve talked before about the timing of sitcoms and the way you have to keep all of the fluff out. It revolves around advertising, so it’s all about keeping a really tight structure and keeping the viewer involved. The pacing of


“The timing of sitcoms and the way you have to keep all of the fluff out. It revolves around advertising, so it’s all about keeping a really tight structure and keeping the viewer involved. The pacing of the jokes and the way you suck people in—that’s why I stick to the grid.” the jokes and the way you suck people in—that’s why I stick to the grid. It’s easy to read, and it’s fluid. I try to get really realistic pacing to immerse the reader. Megahex came out the year that I finished high school and started college, and I remember so many people who were never particularly into comics reading that book and getting into comics because of it. I remember having a copy and loaning it to multiple friends, and then seeing those friends buy their own copies of it. I definitely think a part of its success can be credited to it’s readability for people just being introduced to alternative comics. Yeah it became like a gateway comic. People say to me at festivals, “This is the first comic that I’ve read.” and I see reviews that say “I don’t read comics, but I got into this.” How have you developed your technical skills as a cartoonist while on a constrained budget? Have you changed the materials you use over time? I just use all of the same shit I’ve always used. We’re sitting in my studio next to all my plates. I have 5 plates in operation that I use my watercolors on. I like to get big pools of color and try to get it on flat. I just tried to learn over time. I tried Prismacolor markers when I was like 18. Then my friend Michael Hawkins was using watercolors

for spot colors, so I tried that. Once I could afford to start doing a little color copying, I was like “Yeah, I’m going to start fucking around with colors.” I’ve just been doing the same watercolors for years. I stole this plate from a mental hospital in England that I broke into. It’s NHS ’85. We found this psych ward in this brutally overgrown mental hospital that had been abandoned for 30 years. I had some friends who were into that exploration shit. That plates from Tesco—it’s got a crack in it. I just get cheap brushes or whatever I can get. I use the same old paper. It’s just corner store stuff. I have to order it now because I’m in America. I’m all stocked up on the Queen food coloring from Australia that I use. That’s still working and the color lasts. I just stumbled onto that. It’s a good flat color application and it’s cheap—I think it’s 90 cents for a years worth of food color. I never had a computer growing up—I never really felt the need. I’d perhaps like to correct small mistakes in photoshop, but computers confuse me. I don’t like them. We spend enough time on screens as it is. I like mixing my paints and I like working in a traditional way. I also have the benefit that I can sell my art work and make money. Instead of selling a PDF for a dollar on Gumroad, I’ll sell a rich old French woman a page for $3,000. But yeah, I mostly rely on low-fi consumer goods to make the work.

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How did the internet play a role in the momentum you had with Megg and Mogg? How has it affected your ability to reach people and how has it affected your perception of what you’re making? I disliked “webcomics.” I always grew up reading print comics, and when webcomics came about I didn’t really have a computer. I vaguely knew of it as an option, but I never really liked the aesthetic of it. I never really liked really computerized work. I like it if it’s subtle or if it’s utilized in an interesting way. I love the brutal stuff—like someone like Ben Mendelewicz—I love that! But those dopey sort of office comedy webcomics—I was never into that stuff. So I thought of it as a lesser form and I kept away from the internet for years. I put some stuff on Myspace on my music page, but it wasn’t until 2012 that HTMLflowers convinced me to start a tumblr and put stuff on there. Also I read Dash Shaw’s BodyWorld in 2009 which made me go, “Whoa!” The infinite scroll was really cool. A friend in Australia, Sam Wallman—he started out doing great auto-bio stuff about queerness and then he got really into unions and stuff—I think he’s the best person in the world at making scrolling stuff and using that format of the infinite scroll.

Around the Tumblr boom there was lots of great stuff on the web. Then I realized, Oh, it’s just a delivery system. There are good and bad books, and there are good and bad webcomics. Now it’s all “content.” But yeah, I put some shit on Tumblr and I think a month later it went low-level viral—or as viral as you can go with alternative comics. All of these US publishers started writing to me, who I had aspired to for years, but who I felt too self conscious to ever send work to. I hate my work. But that was really crazy and that happened really quickly. The web worked! It’s a way to get your stuff out there, you can sell zines online, you can have a little business—it’s a wonderful tool! I came very late to it, but I think I utilize it smartly enough. It’s a fantastic tool. But I still prefer printing zines and having books to web content. It’s always about the books. That’s just the format I like. My shittily low royalties from the Megg and Mogg digital sales options also reflects what my readers like as well. Were you still in London at the time that you started putting it up online? No, I started Megg and Mogg in 2008 when I had just moved to London. I was in London for about two and a half years, and I moved back to Australia in 2011 and I

“I put some shit on Tumblr and I think a month later it went low-level viral—or as viral as you can go with alternative comics. All of these US publishers started writing to me, who I had aspired to for years, but who I felt too self conscious to ever send work to.”

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just kept on doing the zines. I got asked to be a part of this gallery show at The National Gallery, and we set up behind this glass wall and there were seven of us drawing comics. I did a lot of Megg and Mogg there. A bit after that Grant was hassling me to get on Tumblr and said it was good for comics. So I started looking into it and started finding all of these comics, and I made a ton of friends. It was a good time for a lot of good shit.

with either path. But the internet is amazing for shifting comics.

Then the next year Frank (Santoro) started doing the comics workbook thing and me and Mikey Zacchilli and Aidan Koch were doing comics on there. It started building this whole community, which is a bit fractured now—everything changes and moves on. But it was a glory time for comics, or it felt like it in 2012 and 2013 on Tumblr, post-LiveJournal and post-MySpace. If I hadn’t put stuff online I’d still just be selling zines at noise shows. Me banging on a keyboard and yelling about things, and then going “Hey, do you want to buy a zine?” and people reacting like, “Eww, no…” It got my shit out there and it’s the way to do it. You can’t just make zines in this day and age. If you want to be “professional” or whatever that is, you have to put work online and get your name out there. Or if you just want to make stuff for your community and your friends, that’s totally fine too! There’s nothing wrong

I don’t think the scenes were that different. Melbourne at the time—or my group that I considered the people making exciting work there—was HTMLflowers, Tommi Parrish, Michael Hawkins, Marc Pearson, Lee Lai, Sam Wallman, and a few others. It was a colorful, queer scene of people making pretty decent work. Michael Hawkins was one of my Hobart friends who I met in like 1999. We use to make anthologies together and I love his work! It’s crazy! It’s impenetrably weird and really hard to read sometimes, but it’s beautiful and it’s amazing! He was a huge influence on me. His stuff from the mid-2000s is incredible and there’s such an amazing aura to it. But yeah, it was a really cool scene. Tommi Parrish just did the cover for Best American Nonrequired Reading, their Fantagraphics book is a big hit, and I think they are one of the best and most exciting cartoonists currently

What was different about the local scene that you were operating in at the time and the online community that you started to become a part of? Who were some people who you met online who were encouraging early on?

“It started building this whole community, which is a bit fractured now—everything changes and moves on. But it was a glory time for comics, or it felt like it in 2012 and 2013 on Tumblr, post-LiveJournal and post-MySpace.”

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“In reading order the books should go, One More Year, then Megg and Mogg in Amsterdam, then Megahex, then the new one. They are almost in reverse order from the way they were released.’” making work. HTMLflowers, I think is amazing, whether he is singing or rapping or drawing, he’s just fucking super depressing and funny! A perfect balance. Then the scene I fell in with online was people like Michael DeForge, Patrick Kyle, Ines Estrada—the whole North American scene around then. Jonny Negron was kicking around. Critics like Sean T Collins. Julia Gfrörer. Ryan Sands was doing Same Hat at the time, just before Youth in Decline. There were a lot of European people as well—but mostly North Americans. I really loved Famicon Express—Jon Chandler, Leon Sadler, and Stefan Sadler. Leon and I had been talking back and forth for about five years about gender stuff. He sent me this drawing a few weeks ago with this big letter thanking me for helping him a bit getting through that shit. We had similar gender stuff and I enjoy talking to him about it and we helped each other. I was reading a lot of stuff. I was looking at Comics Comics and the Comics Journal. I’ve always been obsessed with the industry and how things work behind the scenes. I think to succeed in any enterprise or adventure you go on, you need to know the mechanics of what you’re doing. You can’t go in blindly. What have you been working towards in the series with the new book Bad Gateway? This book picks up 28 days after Owl has moved out—

as it should have it 2015. Owl is gone because they’ve abused the fuck out of him and they treated him like shit. We saw him leave back in that first book. In reading order the books should go, One More Year, then Megg and Mogg in Amsterdam, then Megahex, then the new one. They are almost in reverse order from the way they were released. I always see people online saying, “Which book do I start with?” and someone else says, “Megahex!” But I’m like “No no no!” That one has the weakest material, the most divisive material, and at the end Owl moves out. But this book is trying to mature it up a little bit. It’s called Bad Gateway because it’s a bridge in a way. It’s bridging the old Megg and Mogg to the really hardcore new family base of Megg and Mogg. I’ve been collecting stories for a while and there’s some dark crazy shit. It’s eight chapters, but it’s all one big story broken up. It’s really about reality creeping in. Owl is gone, so they can’t pay the rent. They have to go to the jobcentre. They have to sell everything they own, and face all of the depressingness of selling all of your memories. There’s a lengthy flashback for Megg and the dynamic of her relationship to her mother—which is pretty auto-biographical. It’s trying to show the origin of Megg’s behavior. Everything is very fractured. The dynamic has shifted—and I was worried about taking Owl out. But the point of Megg and Mogg is not just pranks on Owl. It works fine without that. This one is just

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“It’s called Bad Gateway because it’s a bridge in a way. It’s bridging the old Megg and Mogg to the really hardcore new family base of Megg and Mogg. I’ve been collecting stories for a while and there’s some dark crazy shit.” more about addiction and the sadness. And it’s funny too! There’s an incredible dick joke in here—two dick jokes that I think could be award winners. It’s kind of paced the same as the other Megg and Mogg books where it starts out silly at the beginning, but it gets grimmer and grimmer until this depressing ending. I hope it’s good. I started it January 1st, and I’ve just been working all fucking year. It took about a month or two to write it all and pace it all. It took four months to pencil and 40 days to ink it. I was inking four pages a day. At the end of the 40 days I had this big stack of pages and just said “Fuck!” Then I’ve been coloring since the end of July. That’s why I’m freaking out now—I have like 45 days that I can work before the end of the year. It takes so long, haha. What has it been like to meet people who have read the books who are invested in the stories and have their own input on what’s going on? I talk to people a lot at fairs. I ramble. All of the time at bookstores, people are like “Hurry up! You’re talking to everyone for five minutes each! Just speed it up! Sign the book and pass it on!” But instead I’ll tear a piece of hair and put it in their book and I’ll be like “How are you doing?

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What’s the scene like here?” When I travel I get to sit at these table and ask about what the town is like and get a sense for things. I’m open and friendly to people. I get a wide array of people saying all sorts of crazy shit to me. Some really nice stuff. I had this really weird republican couple at Emerald City Comic Con who came up and said, “We’re republicans…” and I was like “Okay… where is this going?” But one of them was saying how she was really repressed and the book really opened her up. She thought it was “disgusting” and “crass” but after she started reading it and seeing the humanity in the characters, she said she started to feel better about trans stuff and different sexualities and different people who are below her in socio-economic situations. So I was like, “Success!” They were scared that I was going to yell at them, and I was like, “I’m not going to yell at you, that’s a great story!” That’s what you want—you want to actually get through to people and make a fucking difference. So I think Megg and Mogg is political, but I do it subtly. It’s socially political, but I don’t smack it in your face. These characters are diverse and very queer, and they go about their business like real people. You watch them and you can take your own things away from them.


I think the books are very representative of the era that they’ve been made in, and the way that the tone of conversations about abuse and sexuality have changed over the past couple decades. How does this new book feel like a marker in your career and what you’ve been working towards. Do you want new readers to come in through this book, or do you want to open up old readers minds to the new tone? I am uncomfortable with people coming in though Megahex because I think it’s the weakest book. I think of One More Year as a good book to start with, but some people say it’s a lot sillier and the others are more emotional. I think Megg and Mogg in Amsterdam is thought of as the really dark one. But I’d be happy with people starting with the new one. It’s called Bad Gateway, so it should be a gateway into Megg and Mogg. You can read the “Previously On…” and concisely get the re-cap, and then jump right into it. I try to keep it clear when I write, I don’t want to confuse the readers. So I guide them through and there’s no extraneous information. I think people could read this new book and say “Oh I’ll go back and read the old ones and fill in the blanks.” But yeah, whatever, I just hope people keep buying the fucking things. Are there any other projects you’d like to embark on that you don’t have the time or money for at the moment? The other projects I want to do are—I really want to do an adaptation of a Knut Hamsun novel. He’s a Norwegian writer from the turn of the century who influenced Hermann Hesse and a bunch of other psychological fiction shit. He’s a great writer about nature and romance and ego and mental illness. I’ve wanted for 15 years to do this adaptation of Mysteries, his second novel, but people would hate that! I’m the Megg and Mogg guy! People would be like, “Oh a new Megg and Mogg guy book! Oh, but it’s all flowery fiction?” And I’ve got the sci-fi Megg and Mogg thing, but that would be weird as well. Like Truth Zone exists in another dimension, it would be another dimension’s Megg and Mogg. But I’ll just stick to Megg and Mogg—I’m not sick of it. It’s 10 years this month and I’m barely scratching the surface of what I want to do with these characters. Now that this comic has had this fundamental affect on your life and your ability to make a career out of the work you’ve been developing for so long, how does it feel to to be on the other side of that? What do you still hope to accomplish in the future and how has your perspective of the past changed? Well I feel like nothing has changed in a way. I’ve been sitting in a room since I was eight years old, just drawing comics. Once I’m in here, I don’t know where I am. I could

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be in Afghanistan or Zimbabwe—I don’t know what’s going on outside. As things go on, I just want to keep making this work and keep getting better. I hate all of my old work. I criticize myself harshly. I just want to make better, entertaining, well written work! I want people to keep reading them and loving the characters the way I do. That’s all I could ask for. I make a living out of it now! I do look back, and I did grow up really fucking poor and had a lot of shitty fucking jobs. Just having no money and thinking, What the fuck am I going to do? I pray that I find money in the street. I don’t want to do home invasions, I don’t want to rob people—I’m not like that. I’m a nerd and I have empathy and I don’t want to steal from people. But that’s what you do when you’ve got nothing. I’m very lucky now. Every day I count my blessings since I can make a living doing this and that I have a bit of money and can support my mother. I feel successful I suppose… But I still feel like a dickhead. I have to remind myself sometimes that it’s just comics. No one cares. It’s just a big fish in a small man-made pond thing. But if you can do it, it’s such a great job! I feel like I’ve found the ticket to success, doing the same characters that people like, trying to keep it consistent, and putting out the work regularly. Having a book deal, if you can get it, is great. But I make no money from that really. The main money I make is from the zines and selling directly to the fans! I feel like more people should be ripping off this model. I was waiting for this wave of Megg and Mogg imitators to come, but it never really happened. But the cultures not that anymore. People aren’t making mean, weird, junkie comedy. They’re making… nice stuff. There’s been a big YA boom, which is great for actual children! I love that Raina Telgemeier sells like a million books, because then all of these young women read these books, and they’re going to start making comics, and we’re going to see a whole wave of new cartoonists! Hopefully some weird new shit. Pretty much all of my favorite contemporary cartoonists are women already. More women! Then we won’t have to put up with all the “It’s just a boys club” moaning bullshit anymore. If you can’t find a ton of quality comics by successful, powerful women in this day and age you’re doing something very wrong. On the opposite end of the spectrum, these “comicsgate” fuckheads need to realize that things move forward and change. You’re fucking old men! Comics aren’t going to be like they were when you were a kid. Fuck off… it’s not for you anymore. Read your old ones! There’s no blue short bangs or septum piercings in old Batman, just re-read those. But yeah, I don’t even give a fuck about all this mainstream garbage, have fun yelling at each other about your children’s comics, douchebags. I’ll be here chilled out, sipping my champagne and drawing more stuff for actual adults. Peace!


EUNICE LUK

by MATTHEW JAMES-WILSON

Eunice Luk emphasizes patience and process with both her personal practice and her one of a kind publishing project,

Slow Editions. Eunice became interested in art community and production while growing up in Toronto after noticing the colorful and intricate show flyers hung up around the city. Seeing the flyers led Eunice to the long running artist studio Punch Clock, where many of the flyers she saw were made by the printmakers who worked there. Inspired by local artists like Michael Comeau, Jesjit Gill, and Alicia Nauta, Eunice began printing and sculpting at Punch Clock while in college, and eventually launched her first small press, Fantasy Camp. After putting out a handful of projects and tabling the New York Art Book Fair, Eunice’s practice turned a sharp corner as she began to consider the longevity of her projects and how she would look back on them in the future. In starting Slow Editions Eunice set out to put out precisely what the press’s name suggests.

Each object that Slow Editions produces requires a amount of consideration and time that many other small publishers

overlook with their products. Eunice has put out a plethora of different physical goods with the press, releasing sculptures, textiles, music, and even soap as a part of Slow Edition’s growing catalog. She carefully curates projects featuring a wide range of artists while still allowing each edition to form at its own pace. Since relocating to Japan a few years ago, Slow Editions has changed its output based on the community and resources that are at Eunice’s disposal. But her vision for the project remains consistent and concise.

I first met Eunice at Zine Dream in Toronto last summer, and was astonished by all of the work she was selling at

her table. We then crossed paths again at another fair in Vancouver in the fall, were she had an installation with her long time collaborator Alicia Nauta. But finally this spring, while Eunice was in LA for Printed Matter’s art book fair, we got the chance to hang out and record the following interview. In it we talk about getting the courage to print other people’s work, taking your time with projects, and how your practice can change with your surroundings.

Where are you from and where do you live currently?

lot of them. It’s cool to go through that process together.

I’m from Toronto and I live in Tokyo right now. I’ve been living there for almost four years.

Did you have any sort of art community at your disposal outside of school when you were a teenager?

What was your experience like growing up in Toronto?

I went to lots of shows when I was younger. I feel like a lot of art communities in Toronto are connected through music too. Musicians just need artwork sometimes. Especially flyers. Punch Clock made a lot of cool flyers at that time. It was really important to see those posters. They were all screen printed and put up on the streets. That was a time in Toronto when that was happening. I was first drawn to art community through the posters and the colors. When we showed up at the Punch Clock showcase, Michael Comeau was there with these different screen printed costumes and every where was wall papered. That was a very special period. Through that I got to know more work.

I went to an art high school and then an art university. I met a lot of cool people in the print departments, so having a studio with them really influenced me. It was really special. Were you encouraged to make art growing up? Did art fill a place in your life that other things couldn’t? It just so happened that art was the only thing that I could do and was interested in doing. I think that was the only thing I ever did. I didn’t really try science or math, haha. I read though. I was just interested in making stuff. I think drawing was the first kind of art that I did in kindergarten. At my high school we had drama kids, and music kids, and choir kids—it was just lots of people doing art in one high school. I met lots of good people, and I still know a

What kind of work were you making when you started going to OCAD (Ontario College of Art and Design)? During college I was doing illustration. I was making work that I wasn’t really happy with, and I didn’t want to

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continue working as an illustrator. So I decided to make art that I could feel comfortable looking back on after five years or so. I just wasn’t as proud of the school work as I was of my own idea of what I wanted to draw. I didn’t want to be illustrating someone else’s ideas and having to live with these pictures I had to make. You’ve got to be able to represent what you want to represent—maybe yourself? That might be the best. If it’s at the right pace. What work left a big impression on you while you were in school? Did you have any inspiring peers around that time? Yeah! Alicia Nauta and Jesjit Gill. Jesjit is a great influence in my practice. Seeing his work on the streets of Toronto really inspired me. It got me excited about printmaking and screen printing. Working at Punch Clock was really fun. Everyone really has their own thing, and that speaks

to the freedom they have to do what they want in Toronto. A bunch of us started working there through someone else who had been their earlier. It’s a very long standing studio in Toronto, and it’s just passed through different generations of artists. Nowadays it’s still an amazing screen printing place where people can gather and make work, and also have their own individual practices. What kind of work were you making when you started working there? It must have been 2014 or 2013… or 2012, haha. I remember starting with some prints that I made during the last year of school. I was able to print them bigger and in bigger editions at Punch Clock. It was a great space, and we were on the second level in a very cool area. Then eventually we got bigger, so we moved to the dark first floor. The dungeon, haha. But it was great because we got a new studio and I was about to make a really

“Working at Punch Clock was really fun. Everyone really has their own thing, and that speaks to the freedom they have to do what they want in Toronto. It’s a very long standing studio in Toronto, and it’s just passed through different generations of artists.” Photo by Yuula Benivolski

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“We got a new studio and I was about to make a really important work, which was 5000 by Masanao Hirayama”

important work, which was 5000 by Masanao Hirayama (AKA Himaa). His work was really clean on this giant piece of paper. At our old studio it would have gotten too dirty, bit I was able to do it because we were in our new studio. It was on this crispy 15 foot long piece of paper, and I was printing each book all in one go. I really like his work, and I was able to do that which was really good. Were you printing a lot of other people’s work at that point? Or were you using the studio primarily for your own work? I wasn’t printing a lot of other people’s work, because it takes a lot of confidence in your printing skills to print other’s work. I’d trust the best at printing, but it’s not me, haha. But I did do my studio ceramics practice out of there as well. Every night after my full time job I would go there from 8pm to 2 in the morning making ceramics. It was really fun, and it was good to share the studio. I had my own corner where I was able to do my ceramics. When did you get more interested in small publishing and zine making? How did that lead to you doing the New York Art Book Fair for the first time? At first I was really inspired by my mentors Jesjit and

Alicia’s artworks, and print medium, and the ways you can distribute art work. I emailed A.A. Bronson one year about the New York Art Book Fair, but it was too late to apply. So I decided to try the Portland Zine Symposium. That was the first fair that I did that was outside of Canada. I brought copies of my book and a screen printed newspaper. It was interesting to go to another place and bring these artworks in little formats. It was really fun. I actually went with my friend Andrea Manica to Seattle and Portland for it. We met lots of different people from the local scene, and it was really fun to see what everyone was doing. Then the next year I got into the New York Art Book Fair, and that changed my life. What do you remember about the first year that you did the New York Art Book Fair? It’s really fun. All of the people you get to meet that you never thought you would meet—they’re there and you can talk to them! At the beginning I was really excited to see Sumi Ink Club and Himaa. There were so many amazing artists that I could just talk to. I met lots of great people and it was really good. I just felt like I was thrown in there and I didn’t know what I was suppose to do. But it was really fun to do it, and I kept doing it forever.

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“At first with Fantasy Camp I was working with my peers who I really respected. It was fun to have a variety of artists involved to make an anthology style book called Rugs.” I was working under a different name at the beginning putting out more illustration based art work. Then I decided to change and went with Slow Editions so that I’d feel less pressure from the anxiety of printing new editions all of the time. I changed into Slow Editions in 2014, so I must have gone to the fair for the first time in 2012. Once you were finishing school what did you feel compelled to do afterwords? What work did you start to do just after college? My excitement for this stuff was at it’s peak. I was going to all the art book fair that I could. I went to Europe with Art Metropole, which was really good. I was interested in their programing for forever, and I liked what they do. I helped them at Art Basel in Switzerland, and it was really interesting to see the different reactions and how the art work that we’d bring with us was the same but different. Also just how that art functions in the commercial world. I started seeing how art book fairs at that scale operate. Now, even going to Asia and checking out their fairs— there are you just too many art book fairs and you just have to see which ones you enjoy and want to do again. It’s a good experience.

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What was it like working with Art Metropole? It’s a great artist run center where they have so many different artist books and catalogs and multiples available. I’m not sure what the condition is like there now, because I don’t live there at the moment, but it was a very great place for me to have a good experience with artist books in an accessible place. It was really great living close to Art Metropole and doing some design work there. It’s one of the better things I remember participating in, haha. How did you initially start Slow Editions? What did you want to do differently with that publishing project that you hadn’t really done before? At first with Fantasy Camp I was working with my peers who I really respected. It was fun to have a variety of artists involved to make an anthology style book called Rugs. After that we also did artist features. The newspaper we did was all just one artist. Slow Editions started just after Himaa’s book. Himaa’s book was still released under my previous project, Fantasy Camp, and that was in 2013. In 2014 I decided that I just wanted to keep making that kind of book only.


I think it takes a lot of time to think about what you really want to do before executing it. That’s why it’s called Slow Editions. There’s no pressure. I really wanted the projects to be things I would enjoy for years to come. Things that I know and trust. Also things I know people will enjoy. It needs to be accessible. What were some of the first projects you published with Slow Editions? The earliest project was working with Hanna Hur on a really beautiful book full of flowers from recovery. They’re all bouquets, and it has a very beautiful poem at the beginning about the flowers wilting away. But the book is all these beautiful bouquets that won’t wilt. My friend Lisa also helped me bind the books, and they’re all hand bound with love. Jesjit printed them in a really nice soft CMYK separation. It’s printed with DOD green so it doesn’t have half tones so you can see the detail of the pencil crayons. I’d say that project took three to four months. I was working pretty closely with the artist with proofs from the printer. It was very accessible because it

was made in Toronto. But since being in Japan I’m trying to work more closely with Japanese artists. I think I want to do more, but I need to be more aware of where I am and if it’s realistic to make the project. I think it’s better to focus on your locale. What is your relationship to an artist while working on a book? Where does your input usually come in and how much do you typically dictate the construction of a project? With each artists it’s different, and it’s an organically transformative process. I’ve done projects that are more like commissions. With Himaa we did a t-shirt right after Hanna’s book. We love anything that Himaa makes, haha. It’s got the cutest guy on a t-shirt, and that project involved no t-shirt direction. But there have also been artists who aren’t really sure what the most meaningful project to publish would be. So sometimes it’s about narrowing it down to an idea speaks clearly about what the project is about.

“With each artists it’s different, and it’s an organically transformative process... Sometimes it’s about narrowing it down to an idea speaks clearly about what the project is about.”

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“The most important thing, of course, is to let the artists say what they really intend to.” You’ve experimented with so many different mediums for your projects, and you have such a high level of craftsmanship with each project. A lot of your projects really push the boundaries of what an art book should be or what someone would expect to buy at a zine fair. How do you you approach the production side of your publications? Does your involvement with that change from project to project? Living in Toronto and having access to everything to actually make anything—working in Toronto allowed those dreams to happen. You can make those things yourself, so they might end up crooked. But in Japan I can’t make those things because there’s no studio to make them in, so I have to get someone else to make them. Then if someone else makes them, they don’t want to make you a crooked one. If they make a cooked one they’re not going to want to give it to you. So in Japan, it’s still hard to make things happen. I really liked this tape, Sound Journal: Do Nothing, and I wasn’t really that involved with. My partner I think of as a

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co-curator of this project, and the tapes are also a slow edition, that are just going to take their time to become a Slow Edition. This tape was from last year. It’s maybe possible that another one will come. I’m excited about them. I designed it, but it’s almost like “no design.” I like doing projects where I’m just designing too and helping with communicating through the format. You’ve work with a bunch of different artists in a hand full of cities around the world with Slow Editions. Do you try to focus in on each artists when you’re doing a project with someone, or do you try to focus on a specific place during a specific time? I think it’s different with each project, but that comes into it sometimes. But it’s never on purpose. The work usually naturally speaks to what is happening. But the most important thing of course is to let the artists say what they really intend to.


“I think there are some future projects that I’m interested in making molds for. I made a mold for the candle we did with maiwai. The shape is pretty abstract, and every morning I would cast them and get candles out of them.” What do you think is consistent across all of the different projects you’ve published? Maybe the effort that I’ve put into all of them or the way I really respect all of the projects. The only reason why I make things is because I know they’ll last for a period of time and hopefully they’ll be loved for a period of time. I think it’s pretty cool, until you can’t make it when you’re too tired to continue, haha. But if you really like the project, you’ll want to make it. What are some mediums that you’d like to experiment with that you have had the chance to use for any Slow Editions projects? I don’t think I’m done with mold making yet. I think there are some future projects that I’m interested in making molds for. I made a mold for the candle we did with maiwai. We cast a shape that’s pretty abstract, and every morning I would cast them and get candles out of them. Maybe one or two, haha. But recently I finally cut it and it became easier to replicate the shape. It’s a slow process. Maybe next year I’ll do another. Something like a chess set would be cool. I’m also interested in trying metals too. Hopefully there’s an opportunity to work that way.

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One of my favorite objects you sell are those giant one of a kind bars of soap. How did that project come together? Oh yeah! The really big bar of soap was done with Sophy Naess. She made these really nice soaps that are all individually cast, and it comes in a box with an image of a woman speaking clearly from her heart. I think it was important to have a sculptural piece that had all of the stuff printed on the back—a poem as well as an ingredient list. It’s really poetic and beautiful. Have you smelled it? It smells amazing. I really like sharing it. They’re really unique and they all look different. Over time the colors change too. It’s organic, but it’s changing still. Is it ever difficult to transport the stuff that you sell at fairs when you’re traveling to different countries? For sure! Yeah, I feel like I’m so bad at it, and I wish I could get better at it. But that’s also part of it. It’s really fun to think about when you’re organized. But sometimes it gets really messy. I’m going to try making less stuff, and maybe that’s the solution. I want to have a clear display and more room on the table so that you can really look at it slowly and have the space to digest all of the information


and art work. This year especially, it felt good being at tables where there was more space there were better conversations about the books. It can be overwhelming to be faced with everything you are interested in, haha. How have you juggled doing Slow Editions projects and maintaining a personal practice? Do you see them as one in the same? I make a lot of sculptures and my own paintings and a functional line of ceramics. But I think they all blend into each other. I’m really bad at doing my taxes, haha. But I think they all fall into the same genre… “my practice” haha. It all works out. It’s also pretty affordable. You can set things up so that you can make stuff with whatever you can. It doesn’t have to be expensive all of the time or a huge edition all of the time. Make whatever you can without feeling the pressure to make it expensive. How has your practice changed from living in Toronto to living in Japan? Have you changed the type of work you make because of your circumstances? I think it’s greatly changing what I make. I just think of

making things that are easier to transport and that are lighter and less fragile than ceramics. We’ve already got too many of them. Living far away also has an influence on how much I make, because I just don’t want to worry about shipping. I’m also trying to understand that when I’m in a different place, that change is meant to encourage making a different types of works that are more suitable for the space. I’m focused on more site specific works that are softer or smaller or more delicate. I just made a small scarf, but it’s not here yet. It’s of a dog and it’s made out of silk. Instead of bringing posters, I tried printing on a piece of soft textile. It serves as both a poster as well as something functional. I want to try going that route, while still adding a personal touch to it, like embroidering all of the tags, or adding something of mine. A little blood, haha. When does a project feel finished to you? When you finally want it! Once it has become that. It’s not that hard if you don’t complicate it. Just let it be and it will reach its final destination and its pure form at its own pace. I don’t rush projects and sometimes I just try to see what happens. Sometimes being in Japan limits what I

“The really big bar of soap was done with Sophy Naess. She made these really nice soaps that are all individually cast, and it comes in a box with an image of a woman speaking clearly from her heart.”

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“I’m excited about being here right now. It’s a meaningful time to be with my friends. They all really inspire me, and being at the book fair here was really good.”

can make, so things get pushed back. But I’m trying to take advantage of being in both places and I’m trying to make lighter things too. What are you excited about working on at the moment?

I’m excited about being here right now. It’s a meaningful time to be with my friends. They all really inspire me, and being at the book fair here was really good. I want to have some access to tools to make things that I’ve been thinking about. Being in Toronto would really help, so that’s what I want to do. I want to maybe do a few more projects in Japan before that. But I think it’s important to be close to your community after seeing the challenges of living abroad. Do you still feel as connected to the community in Toronto as you did when you first started working at Punch Clock? I’m not sure, but every time I go back it’s a really good experience. I think even just the geography of it is just easy to feel comfortable in. I’m looking forward to seeing

what it will feel like to be back.

What do you feel like you still struggle with in your work? What hurdles do you still want to overcome in the future? Everything? Haha. I need to have more confidence. I think it’s hard after a while of self-doubt. But it’s also fun to just do what you want to do. No one cares. I think you have to stop worrying so much and just do things at your own pace. I don’t like to think too much into it. Are there any projects that you’d like to embark on that you just don’t have the time or money for at the moment? I don’t know. Maybe a restaurant? A restaurant could be fun. I’d be interested in making a restaurant. I just can’t imagine people coming to it, haha. My partner and I really like making food and fermenting foods. It would be fun if it were an affordable place. Making pickles sounds fun. Yeah, I think I’d want to have a restaurant!

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CLAY HICKSON & LIANA JEGERS by M AT T HE W J A ME S -WI L S O N

In the winter of 2017, just months after the United State’s most recent presidential election, illustrators Clay Hickson

and Liana Jegers launched the politically charged and community driven monthly newspaper, The Smudge. Feeling uncertain about what they could do to combat the current political climate, Clay and Liana started the newspaper as an outlet for their peers to volunteer their skills as writers and artists to raise money for various charitable causes. Prior to starting the paper, Clay and Liana cut their teeth studying printmaking at SAIC and working behind the scenes at the Art Institute of Chicago. Both have illustrated for dozens of top tier publications and clients, and the pair have traveled around the world tabling book fair’s with Clay’s other small press project, Tan And Loose. But with their now two year old monthly newspaper, Clay and Liana have struck a nerve with readers across the country, making room for a necessary dialog through a physical only format.

I’ve wanted to interview Clay and Liana for a while now, after being a fan of each of their personal practices and

witnessing the beautiful artist editions they’ve released with Tan and Loose over the past seven years. Both have strived to bring as many different artists—cartoonists, illustrators, designers, writers, photographers—into the fold of what they do with The Smudge and Tan and Loose, and have created an entry way for artists to collaborate and discover new people outside of their own field. I finally got the chance to sit down with both of them after moving to LA last year and visiting them at their home in Koreatown. We recorded the following interview in their home studio this winter over a pot of tea and a sleeve of digestives. We discussed what inspired The Smudge, finding compromise with their contrasting styles, and what makes a zine a zine.

Where are you from and where do you live currently?

Liana: So many crystal shops.

Clay Hickson: I’m originally from Northern California, in a small town called Sebastopol. Now I live in Los Angeles.

Did either of you have any sort of art communities at your disposal while you were growing up? What role did art have for both of you early on?

Liana Jegers: I also live in Los Angeles, and I’m originally from a suburb of Minneapolis called Eden Prairie. What was it like growing up in your respective hometowns? Liana: Your’s is way more interesting than mine. Mine was just a typical suburb. Clay: Yeah her’s was pretty much a straight up suburb. Liana: It was a wealthy place with a really good school. Nothing that interesting, haha. Clay: Sebastopol is kind of like a little hippie farming town. It’s an hour outside of San Francisco. It’s sort of close to the coast in wine country. So it’s a real weird mix of yuppies coming through for wine tours, this hold out of sort of redneck farmers, and then there’s just a bunch of old hippies. I don’t know when the hippies moved there, but they really set up shop. It’s a pretty progressive place. Every time I go back there’s a new batch of solar panels somewhere in the city. There’s a bunch of crystal shops on the main street. That kind of thing, haha.

Liana: I never really took art classes growing up. There were art classes at the public school I went to. Teachers were for the most part cool. If I had a Saturday with nothing to do as a kid I would draw in my room, and if a friend’s mom would call and say “Hey! Do you guys want to set up a play date?” my mom would be like, “Nah, she’s cool up there.” But yeah, there wasn’t really a community for art growing up there. Clay: My dad is an illustrator and my mom is an art therapist, so it was always kind of around. We were always doing crafts in the house. Liana: I loved crafting as a kid. Clay: I never really got into art until high school. My older brother was into graffiti at the time, so I kind of got into that because of him. Then in high school. I started to get more into graffiti and drawing in general. I went to a Waldorf school, so a lot of emphasis was put on the arts and there are a lot of mandatory art classes that everybody takes. I feel like I had a lot of friends who were into art and music, and it was definitely part of my world.

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Was zine making something that was on your radar before you went to art school? Or if not zines, what kind of art left and impression on you at that age and helped dictate what you would do in the future? Clay: My brother got into making zines, and I remember going to Kinkos with him and helping him fold and staple zines, and that’s when I first got really into it. It was around that time of that San Francisco street art scene. You know that movie Beautiful Losers? Well my brother was living in San Francisco around then—and he wasn’t like hanging out with those guys—but we were all aware of that scene. That sort of “skateboards and street art, but in a gallery” stuff was an early influence on me. Liana: I feel like I haven’t really reflected on that before. Clay: I mean, you were always really into literature and book making, right? Liana: Yeah, I guess that must be it. I just remember owning a lot of books as a kid. When I went to college I knew I wanted to take printmaking classes, and it was because I was reading books and collecting old books and learning about how those were printed. I thought, What the hell is lithography? How do I do it? and then here was as place where I could do it. So I took a lot of bookmaking classes there. I remember right after you got your risograph, I made a little zine on it that was a silly little collage zine, and I brought it to an old professor of mine because I was just giving them out to people, and he was like, “Can you really call this a zine?” I was like, “What do you mean? It’s cheap and stapled.” and he was like, “But it’s in color. Aren’t zines black and white?” So I was like, “I have no idea… I don’t know what to say to that.” Clay: There’s kind of something to that tough. I’ve been struggling with the idea of what makes a zine a zine. I’ve kind of stopped using the word for the stuff we’re doing and I just call them books now. Not because I think they’ve reaching a certain level, but if you think about the history of zines, it was usually a cheap, black and white copy, punk rock thing. Liana: It was almost more democratic, because you could just go to Kinkos and print it. Clay: Yeah. I don’t really feel that connection in that part of it with the stuff that we’re doing. So maybe it’s not accurate to call it a zine. Liana: It’s more like a cheap art book. Yeah I definitely think the old function of zines has sort of been replaced by the internet. A zine use to be about communicating and distributing information about fandom, subcultures, and fringe topics, but it’s

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way easier and cheaper for people who are interested in those things to just start a website instead. Printed objects feel like they have to have some aesthetic purpose or value now to be worth printing. If anything, memes today resemble old zines and their function more than anything in print. Clay: Yeah, I feel like intention plays a big role in what justifies a zine verses what I would describe as an art book. Especially with those punk rock zines, it was much more about building a community and sharing information that you couldn’t get. But now, like you said, you can get that information easily. So it doesn’t really serve that purpose that much. Liana: Circling back to the original question—when I think back to the things that I collected and the art that I consumed in high school, I remember I would buy fashion magazines and foreign fashion magazines all of the time. I would have stacks of British Vogue, which were totally a waste of my money. But there’s actually a book down on the shelf there—the Tim Walker Pictures book—that was the first art book I ever bought. I think I got a Barnes and Noble coupon for 70 percent off, and I was like “Sick, I’m buying this.” It’s not necessarily my taste now, but that was the first photographer that made an impression on me in terms of process. In that book there’s a lot of him pasting together old candy wrappers he found and stuff like that. I feel like only recently have I started reflecting back on the things that I watched and read as a kid. The Madeline books were huge for me, and it took me until I was 25 to realize that that’s obviously where I get half of the stuff that I do. I remember The Simpsons was a huge thing for me. I even put a disc in from season three the other day, just to watch them again, and they’re so good and so beautiful. Clay: Yeah The Simpsons was huge! That was kind of like the only real “ritual” with my family in my house. Every Thursday night we would get Dominos and watch The Simpsons. That was consistent, almost through high school. Before The Simpsons started to get lame. Liana: But when it was good… it was so good! That was our childhoods. When we were kids it was very impressionable. Clay: Even from an aesthetic perspective, I can really see The Simpsons’ impact on my work. Liana: Everyone our age. Clay: Yeah, a lot of people, haha. But as far as the stuff I was consuming, that’s one of the ones that I feel like really stands out as an influence.


Liana Jegers

Clay: We met, because we were both in the print department. We would see each other in the print shop all of the time. We both just spent a lot of our time in the print shop.

What was your experience like moving to Chicago to go to art school? How did you both decide to go to SAIC (School of the Art Institute of Chicago)?

Liana: I took a year off after high school because I had no idea what I wanted to do, and I didn’t want to waste my parents time or money being like, “Here’s where I’m going to go!” and then switch schools three times. So I took a year off and worked in a restaurant full time, which was super fun. I encourage every 19 year old to do that. My mom jokes that I chose SAIC because it didn’t have a sports team, which is like half true. I had seen all of my friends joining sororities and I was like, I don’t want to do that shit. That looks terrible. SAIC was sort of the first school that matched my criteria I guess. Clay: I also took a year off and didn’t really know what I wanted to do. My mom actually suggested going there because she had gone there in the ‘70s to study art therapy. I wasn’t really even totally sold on art school. At the time I was super into photography, and that’s kind of what I was looking into studying. That was actually what my portfolio was to get into school.

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Liana: I totally had photographs in mine too, haha. I took them with that camera up there. That Minolta was my dad’s when he graduated from high school. Then he gave it to me my sophomore year. A lot of terrible pictures were taken on that. Clay: But yeah, my mom suggested it, so we went there and checked it out. I think I mostly just wanted to get out of town and go somewhere new and far away from home, and Chicago seemed cool. And it was… I really loved it. Liana: Yeah, me too. I feel like it’s closeness to my home was part of the reason why I went there too. It was like a 45 minute flight to Minneapolis, so it was pretty great to know that I could go there at any moment. But yeah, Chicago rules. How did the two of you meet in Chicago? Did you meet early on during school, or towards the end of your time at school? Clay: It was later. Liana: For me it was early, haha.


Clay: Yeah, she’s a couple years younger than me. We met when, I think, it was my senior year. Liana: I think it was the end of my freshman year, or the beginning of my sophomore year. Clay: We met, because we were both in the print department. We would see each other in the print shop all of the time. We both just spent a lot of our time in the print shop. What was the print department like there? Liana: It was really great when we were there! Clay: I think we both kind of fell into it because it felt like one of the only departments in that school that didn’t really push a lot of conceptual ideas. It was more about learning the techniques. Liana: Yeah, like you couldn’t make anything if you didn’t know the processes. It was more than putting paint on a canvas, it was like guessing how much acid to put on a

stone and hoping for the best. I think for me, that was sort of a buffer for when I didn’t know what to do. I was like, Well, I have to do four days of processing anyways, so I’ll just figure it out. Clay: It also just sort of felt like a cool kind of community— the print department specifically. Later I realized that every department sort of had that. All of the drawing and painting students hung out—that’s just what naturally happens. But at the time I was like, This is cool! This is a different scene! These people are into this really specific thing, and they just spend all of their time in this shop. I think there is a little bit more of a community aspect to printmaking than there is to painting, because there’s a lot of times when you’re just in your studio alone while you’re painting. But most printmakers have to share a shop. Liana: Yeah, there were no private studios in printmaking until well after we both left school. Clay: So I think that was a draw. Liana: If you hung up your stuff to look at it before a

Liana: It was more than putting paint on a canvas, it was like guessing how much acid to put on a stone and hoping for the best. I think for me, that was sort of a buffer for when I didn’t know what to do. Clay Hickson


critique, anybody walking through there to get to any of the three areas was going to see it and talk to you about it. I definitely felt like I had a lot of good professors in it too, because they were all printmakers themselves, so they were all into weird printmaking techniques, Clay: It was just a cool era of teachers, because they had lived through a cool time in Chicago with interesting things happening in art. So they were bringing in a lot of cool influences and exposing us to artists like the Chicago Imagists. Liana: At the time it was mind-blowing. Clay: I didn’t know anything about them—and I’m sure a lot of people did—but I didn’t, so it was really cool to get exposed to that kind of stuff. Liana: You also never declare a major there. It’s all interdisciplinary, and everyone graduates with a BFA. I think that was part of its appeal to me—that I didn’t have to make that decision. I had already spent a year being like, “I don’t even know what college to go to.” Then once I picked out, instead of picking a major I could just do anything and see what stuck. We were talking about this last night. Both of us kind of wished we explored a little more in the other departments. Once you were in a department, it was pretty hard to convince yourself to try anything else. I wish I had done ceramics when I was there, but I did printmaking. Clay: Yeah, you just kind of fall into things. Certain things start to speak to you more than others, and then you don’t take advantage of that ability to take a class in any department. We both did a few weird ones. I took a weaving class. It was awesome. But we just got into printmaking and sort of stuck with it. Liana: I don’t think either one of us would call ourselves printmakers now though. I think two years ago I finally deleted that line from my website bio. Other than a riso print—which is still a print—but you just have to push a button and it comes out. Clay: Yeah, it’s different. Did you continue to pursue printmaking right after finishing school? How did you start to develop your work after finishing school? Liana: I feel like I just stumbled around for a while. I feel like it was a nice time on the internet, because a lot of social media platforms for artists were still really fun. Instagram was really fun in the beginning, because you’d just put your stuff on there, and all of your friends who liked you would see it. Then you’d find these other people. Tumblr was sort of the same way too. I remember, probably six months after graduating, I started this monthly zine

called The Pendulum that I would print on the risograph. I could get someone to write something—like 500 words about time. They could write whatever they wanted, as long as it was about time. Then someone would make a little postcard illustration, and I would fold them up every month and send them in the mail. I did that for like two or three years. I remember, I sent one to It’s Nice That, and then they some how found my tumblr and posted my drawings on their site, and that was the first time I was like, “Oh, these need to have a purpose! I need to do something with them.” Then I think I started to get asked to illustrate more things after that. Then I just kept doing it. Clay: Yeah, I just kind of fell into it. I moved to Canada right after school. I moved to Montreal, and didn’t have any plans. I was too uptight for the cool, grimy screen printing shops that people had in Montreal. I was like, “I need something tidier… with heat.” So that’s when I really started to focus more on drawing. I moved there in the middle of winter and didn’t know anybody. I couldn’t work and I couldn’t speak the language. So I just spent a lot of time drawing. I had a Tumblr and I would post a weekly drawing on there. Eventually, people just started approaching me to do little editorial illustrations. The first few jobs I got were really intense. They would just email you at like 10 in the morning and be like “Do you want to do this job? We just need sketches by 2 and a final by 5, and we’ll pay you $400.” I would be like, “$400?! Hell yeah! that’s insane.” But it was so stressful and I was so bad at it. Liana: We looked over those drawings like a year ago… Clay: It’s insane. Liana: They’re so terrible—I’m sorry! Clay: I won’t show the readers, but I’ll show you afterwards, haha. Liana: I mean, it’s probably good to look back on things and be like, “Wow, I’ve grown a lot as an artist.” It’s interesting how the internet has created this paper trail of everyone’s work from early on in their career. Liana: Paul (Windle) and I talked about this last night. You just can’t escape the stuff you made five years ago. People will send me a mood board for their project, and it’s all shit I made so long ago that I’m like, “I don’t even want to draw this anymore. I don’t draw like this and I don’t like this subject matter.” But it’s also hard to say no. “Yeah, I guess if you want a piece of fruit, I’m happy to draw a fruit for you. It’s easy.” But it can be really hard to escape that—especially with things like Pinterest that just regurgitates that stuff.

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What work did you come across after school that informed what you ultimately wanted to do? What work did you see that left a big impression on you? Clay: For me it was 100 present Memphis, the Italian design studio. I feel like I got in at an earlier time, and then it just took over the internet for a period. I don’t know if that was just in the circles that I was witnessing. Liana: No, it seemed like it was everywhere. Clay: It was just everywhere, and I was super into all of that early ‘80s, gaudy, ugly, heavily patterned furniture. Liana: Maybe that’s why we didn’t work together for so long, haha. Clay: Yeah, slowly our tastes have drifted closer. They were polar opposites. But that was 100 present the stuff that I was looking at. There were some early riso shops that I was really into. They were putting out really cool prints that you could tell had the same influences. So I spent a lot of time ripping off those people, haha. What were you into?

Liana: I don’t know. Two weeks after I graduated I got a job at the Art Institute of Chicago–the museum– photographing everything in their prints and drawings collection, which was like… 60,000 objects? Clay: So you were just inundated with work. Liana: So, not only could I look up basically anything I’ve ever wanted to look at in person—there collection is insane—but I was also systematically going through their vaults where everything is in these boxes based on size and place and artist’s last name. I would just see all of this stuff that I would have never encountered on my own in the real world. It was really good in that way, because I found a lot of artists that I was later like, “Oh I guess they’re super popular” but it felt special. At the time I just didn’t know about them, and I saw some dinky little drawing they made. It also went through phases where it was very overwhelming and I felt like, I don’t want to make art, I don’t want to look at art. I’ve looked at too much stuff. That would always happen right before a big show or if someone was working on a book they’d be like “Hey, we’re working on a new Matisse book. You need to

Liana: Two weeks after I graduated I got a job at the Art Institute of Chicago photographing everything in their prints and drawings collection, which was like… 60,000 objects?

Clay Hickson


Liana Jegers

Clay: I started Tan & Loose in 2012. I wouldn’t really say I started it, but it was something I was doing more as a hobby. I didn’t have a plan for it or imagine that I would still be doing it now. re-photograph all of the Matisse stuff.” Then I would look at only Matisse for a month. and I felt like I never wanted to do it again. Wow, that must have been such an interesting lesson in art history. Liana: Yeah! Especially the stuff that was forgotten. Ages ago in the 1920s, the Art Institute would just buy batches of stuff. They still do that, but I don’t think it’s quite as recklessly. But they would buy an old album that someone had just put together of all the prints they owned. The art institute would get it because they would know that there would be two or three really great things in there. I think they have a drawing of a hand by Raphael, which was just in one of the things they bought. Clay: They would just buy bulk renaissance drawings— just a pile of them. Liana: Yeah exactly! Half of them would be unmarked, and with some of them you’d find this total gem in there.

So it was crazy to see how much of that stuff was there. Some of it was really generic or like “Cool, this person was technically very skilled, but not interesting.” Sometimes you would see these beautiful things and you wouldn’t know who the artist was. Up until my last year at that job, I had a size limit on the copy stand that I was photographing stuff on, so when I finally got a bigger one I was now dealing with stuff that was the size of this table, which was like a whole different game. Basically all modern/ contemporary printmakers were making big prints. You’d get a few weird old German things, but for the most part it was all like Andy Warhol and Robert Indiana and stuff like that. It was cool to see all of that stuff. I like to think that I helped people rediscover it, because as soon as there was a photo of it, it would go on the website and classes would come in in the mornings and look at stuff. The woman who ran the study room was like, “People are pulling all of this weird stuff now that I’ve never seen before.” Hopefully it’s because my photo of it was on the website.

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When did you two both reconnect after the years that you lived in different places? I’m trying to figure out the chronology of the work you were making when you lived together and when you didn’t live together. Clay: You want to hear about the romance? Haha. Haha, not necessarily all of those details. Clay: Okay okay, I’ll break it down. I graduated school in 2010. When did you graduate? Liana: 2013. Clay: Okay, so in 2010 I moved to Montreal and was there for a year and a half. So I came back half way through 2012. And then… Liana: We were friends, haha. Clay: Then we started living together in 2015. That’s when she had been working at the museum and I also had a job at the museum, in their library. Then we moved out here in 2017. What was the first project that you worked on together? How did that lead to you working together more consistently? Clay: I mean honestly, I would say The Smudge is actually the first thing we’ve done totally together. We’ve helped each other on things along the way, but it was always kind of… Liana: “Can I get your opinion on this?” or “Help me fold these.” Clay: It was like, “These are your projects, and these are mine.” but then The Smudge was the first conscious thing that we were like “Okay, let’s start this thing together.” We both have pretty different tastes. Liana: Very opposite, haha. Clay: There’s a lot of compromising. I think we both bring important things to the table, and it’s nice to have that balance because, I could definitely push it way weirder, and I feel like she could push it—I don’t want to say “conservative” haha. Liana: *gasp* Clay: I don’t think either one would be good, so it’s nice to have a little push and pull in both directions. Liana: Clay had no experience laying out type, and I knew enough to tell him, “You can’t do that. That looks terrible.” or “Here’s the rule for that.” Especially in the beginning,

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there was a lot more learning together. Although, not learning too much. We did not retain a lot. Clay: Yeah it was more about figuring out things along the way. Liana: I definitely felt self-conscious when my old letterpress teacher subscribed to it, haha. I got a real nice note from her saying that she shows it to her class because there’s an issue we did entirely by hand. Some of it was typed on a typewriter, some of it was Letraset. People hand wrote stuff. That was when she wrote me the note, and she was like “It gives me hope for the future that people are still using this!” When did Clay start the publishing project Tan & Loose? How did you eventually start doing fair together for it? Clay: I started Tan & Loose in 2012. I wouldn’t really say I started it, but it was something I was doing more as a hobby. I didn’t have a plan for it or imagine that I would still be doing it now. It was mostly that I found a riso printer, and I had really wanted one, so I got it and I was just looking for reasons to use it. It’s sort of a big thing to have around if you’re not going to use it, haha. So I just started publishing zines for people. Liana made a few. It was mostly friends, and then I started emailing people and asking if they would do one. It just went on like that for a few years. It started to take up more and more time, and I started to invest more time into it. Liana: Then eventually one year we did one of the Printed Matter book fairs. I don’t even remember which one it was. Clay: Yeah, people just kept telling us that we should do these fairs, and we had never been to them, but we checked them out and it seemed like, Yeah, everyone is doing exactly what we want to be doing. How come we didn’t know about this? We got into it later than a lot of people. We had been meeting people through the riso scene. George Wietor in Grand Rapids, the Colour Code people in Toronto, Paul Windle and Rand Renfrow— we started meeting those guys because we had been following each other online for a while. Then I met all of them at the 2014 LA Art Book Fair. We just came out to see the fair—we didn’t have a table or anything. Then we went to a cool beach house party because the Toronto gang had rented a giant beach house, and we met all of these people that I had been following online. It was just such a cool crew, and they were all so supportive. They were like, “You really should do these fairs.” So that was the first exposure to those fairs. They had all been doing them for years. Liana: We just had no idea.


What else was going on in Chicago once you guys started to become more active in the community? What were illustrators, cartoonists, and zine makers doing there at the time? Clay: I mean, Chicago is huge. It’s a huge printmaking city. There are a lot of screen printing shops. And it’s also a big comic book city. I think we were kind of peripherally involved in both of those. We weren’t super into comics, but we were friends with a lot of the people that were really involved in the comic world. Liana: Same with screen-printing.

or three days a week I think. Then the rest of the week we could do our own stuff. Liana: I worked full time for like three years. But even with that, my boss at the Art Institute had this way of managing where she was very trustful of me. I always got my work done, but if I had an hour to kill at the end of the day and knew I had work to do for something else, I would just leave early or I would just work on it there. As long as the work was done, it didn’t really matter what else I was doing. I also had access to a huge photography system, so it was great to bring in our own art and shoot it professionally.

Clay: Yeah, we had both been working in print shops and had friends that ran print shops. But once we got into riso printing, it was sort of like, Enough with these print shops, we’ll just do this at home. But there was a lot going on. BRAIN FRAME had started, which was this live comic book reading that Lyra Hill started putting on and did for several years. That was kind of my entry into the comic book world.

Clay: We’re also both really big home bodies and we don’t get out a whole lot, so we’re generally not the best people to ask about “scenes.” We’re always pretty peripheral to things. We mostly live vicariously through our friends who are involved with projects, haha.

Liana: For the posters for those performances, she would have a Chicago illustrator design them and it would be screen printed. I think that was sort of a way that things were wrapped together. They were also just super fun and weird.

Clay: We mostly just stay home.

Clay: So, there was just a lot of stuff like that. People were always doing “drink and draws.” There was this shop called Golden Age that was a cool art book and zine store. Liana: Quimby’s. Clay: Then there was this other one called No Coast. Just these little projects that people started. They would have bands play and there’d be printmaking nights. I think there was a 24 hour screen printing jam—I never did it, haha. But there was stuff like that. It just seemed like there was always something going on.

Liana: That’s how we find out about anything, haha. Someone else tells us.

Well despite being maybe being shut ins, it definitely seems like you put a lot of effort into working with a wide range of different types of artists. Because of that I feel like your projects make sense in a lot of different contexts and you often introduce artists to new audiences through the books that you publish. Once the ball was rolling with Tan and Loose and you began reaching out to more people, what dictated who you wanted to work with and what you wanted to publish?

Liana: Yeah, but I’m not necessarily sure how to describe it though.

Clay: It’s definitely something that I never thought about before. It’s something that we’ve both started thinking about more actively, Who are the people that we’re approaching? We’ve established a platform to promote people, and we didn’t really use to think about it in that way before. But now I think we’re trying to do it a little bit more responsibly. We have a vision for how we want things to come out and the work that we like. But we’re also trying to actively work with a more diverse range of people and seek out people rather than just defaulting to the people we follow on instagram who’s work we know we like.

Clay: Yeah, I can’t really pinpoint “uniquely Chicago” things, but Chicago is really affordable. It’s obviously getting more expensive, but it’s really affordable, so people have time. In a place like here or New York…

Liana: I think the algorithm also made us be like, “Okay, we’ve got to figure out how to search for people on our own. Now we’re just getting a bunch of stuff that looks the same.”

Liana: To make rent every month you have to get a lot of freelance work or also work a day job.

Clay: I think we’ve kind of realized that there’s a certain responsibility to publishing, you know? I really just want to keep doing it the way that I’ve always done it, which is pretty thoughtless, haha. But I don’t know, I think it’s

Do you feel like work that comes out of Chicago has some sort of unifying quality? Do you feel like Chicago breeds a certain type of artist or community?

Clay: We both had day jobs, but we were working like two

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Liana: With Clay working in the library at the museum and me in the prints and drawings department, we were looking through all of these old archives of stuff. Old newspapers and underground things—it was cool to see those in the flesh and realize what they existed for. important to be actively inclusive, because I’ve never wanted to think of myself as being exclusive. But unless you’re actively including people that maybe wouldn’t normally be included, you’re basically exclusive. But because we have this platform, we’re just trying to make more of an effort to find a more diverse range of people. You bring up a really good point with what you’re saying about “responsibility of a publisher.” Not a lot of small press projects have lasted as long or as sustainably as Tan and Loose or The Smudge. It seems like you’ve figured out how to operate in a way where people like working with you and people value what you’re doing. But what are some of the pitfalls that people starting a small press often run into that you’ve tried to avoid? Clay: I think we got pretty lucky with The Smudge. It was kind of like a perfect storm of situations. We already had the infrastructure to do something like this. We had the printer setup, and we had a shipping set up—which are both huge! Trying to figuring out that stuff when you’re

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just getting into it is kind of a huge pain in the ass. There’s a lot to navigate. So the fact that we already had that established from doing zines and stuff made it really easy to start this project. Liana: It’s all of the least glamorous stuff that is the backbone of it. If people knew how much time we spent just sitting and stuffing things into envelopes and sealing them, they would not want to do this, haha. Clay: We had paper sources and shipping supplies and all of that figured out. Then the election happened in 2016 and there was just suddenly a real urgency that people were feeling to express all of these concerns. Liana: We had also been talking about putting out something monthly or even a few times a year before that because, with Clay working in the library at the museum and me in the prints and drawings department, we were looking through all of these old archives of stuff. Old newspapers and underground things—it was cool to see those in the flesh and realize what they existed for.


We couldn’t agree on a reason of what this monthly zine would be about, I guess. Then it was like, “Well I guess now we know!” Clay: So there were all of those aspects. Then people were also maybe getting burnt out on digital media just because of the impact it had on the election. There was this sudden distrust for these social media platforms, and they were also changing in ways that people didn’t like. Honestly, I think a lot of people subscribed because they like getting mail. That’s fine with me! Liana: I feel like half of our subscribers don’t even read it. There are people who I talk to at fairs and will give us a suggestion, and we’ll be like, “Oh yeah, no we did that already. That was like three issues ago.” haha. Clay: Which, as an appreciator of ephemera, I’m fine with people collecting it as an object and appreciating the look of it. That’s honestly where I approach it from—what does this thing look and feel like. I don’t like to admit that, but the content sometimes comes second for me. Liana: I think that’s what we struggle with the most. We’re not writers, so we don’t have this pool of writers to email.

So we kind of just rely on word of mouth or people sending us a cold email saying, “Hey, I wrote this thing. Do you want to publish it? Sometime we don’t and other times it’s like, “Cool! It’s perfect. Toss it in this month!” Clay: To answer your question, I don’t really know if there are pitfalls that publishers often fall into when they start these projects. But I would imagine a major one, which is boring, is that basic infrastructure stuff—figuring out all of the shipping and distribution. I think if you can get over that, and just maintain momentum, you can do it. With finding an audience, we just got really lucky, and the audience was ready for it. People were in a headspace where it was appealing. I think there’s a history of people starting these projects and they weren’t very well received, but then two decades later they get discovered and it’s like, “Whoa! What happened to this incredible magazine?” I would imagine that that is where most things fail. I don’t know about the social reasons why projects might not work out. Liana: I feel like you can also do so much planning in advance, but so much of that is unpredictable—how people will react to it or how interested in it people will actually be. I think it’s a lot more about learning. Even with setting up that infrastructure—everyone has a different

Clay: People were also maybe getting burnt out on digital media just because of the impact it had on the election. There was this sudden distrust for these social media platforms, and they were also changing in ways that people didn’t like.

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shipping system. We could tell you exactly we do and you could buy all of the equipment and you could do it the exact same way, but it might not actually work for you. The Smudge and your other projects definitely have a strong presence in a lot of stores in cities around the country, so the distribution of your books definitely also makes them a really good entry for new people to discover the artists you publish. Liana: I feel, for us personally, it just comes from having this other side of our jobs which is being freelance illustrators. I feel like because we already had a following from our illustration careers, when we launched The Smudge there were all of these other places that were interested in talking about it, because what business do we have making a political magazine?

that way. That wasn’t a reason why we wanted to do it, but we’re getting our work into people’s hands every month and we have this momentum to generate content. That is really helpful and we get a lot of illustration jobs from people that just know The Smudge, and vice versa. People who know our illustration work see this other project we’re doing. Liana: But for the distribution, Clay does the heavy lifting with that. I sort of dip out. Clay: Yeah that’s my job, haha. Liana: I’ll pack an order occasionally.

Liana: They’re both sort of unpredictable.

Clay: It’s a big part of it. I get lazier with it and will put off shipping things for a while. But generally, every other day I spend an hour or two just packing and shipping stuff. It all happened pretty slowly. From starting to make zines and figuring out just how to ship a few. Then it would grow and we would ship more. Then you get better software. It was a pretty natural progression.

Clay: And honestly, The Smudge is a huge promo for us too, haha. That’s certainly not the intention, but it functions

Liana: Even the book fairs helped too. A lot of times, people with shops will come around and just wholesale

Clay: It’s definitely been helpful to do both and have both sides of things leverage the other.

Liana: The internet is great that it allowed for all of these independent people to grow their own communities through it. But at the same time, it definitely has bad shit about it.


whatever you have left. Clay: Yeah, I would say the book fair has been the biggest tool for exposure. We’ve met so many people at those fairs. Shoppers for stores always go through. Liana: I feel like there has also been a growing number of small shops, whether it be a little magazine store or a bookstore. I guess you would call it a “gift shop” where you would find ceramics and zines and stuff like that. Clay: We don’t distribute that widely, but we have a handful of places that carry our stuff and a lot of them are well known zine places. We just kind of like making friends and meeting their friends. How has the internet helped make what you guys do possible? Liana: It has made it possible, haha. Clay: Yeah I would day 100 percent of it is possible because of the internet. Which I hate… But I’m also very grateful.

Liana: Yeah, I’m super grateful. I can’t even comprehend how people did this before the internet. I have no idea how you would be an illustrator or how you would distribute books. Clay: I just wouldn’t be. I wouldn’t be doing any of this. I mean, maybe I’d be making zines, but it wouldn’t sustain me, I don’t think. It would just be something that I did for fun, and I would not be illustrating. I don’t know what I would be doing really. Liana: I always thought I would be managing an Anthropologie store, haha. I don’t know what else I’d be doing. Clay: Yeah, I’d probably be working at a coffee shop. Which would have been cool! But I’m happy to be doing what I’m doing now. It’s kind of a… Would you call that a double edged sword? Liana: I would. The internet is great that it allowed for all of these independent people to grow their own communities through it. But at the same time, it definitely has bad shit about it.

Clay: We don’t distribute that widely, but we have a handful of places that carry our stuff and a lot of them are well known zine places. We just kind of like making friends and meeting their friends.


Clay: It’s also just that now we’re kind of tied to it. I don’t know how long we could keep doing this if we both stopped using instagram. Who would keep paying attention? I just imagine our Smudge readership would drop drastically if we weren’t constantly being like, “Hey, don’t forget to subscribe!” or “Check out this new thing in the new issue!” That’s just how people find things now, for the most part. So, it sucks. We would both like to spend much less time on there. Liana: Also, with a lot of social media platforms, everyone became a “curator” which drove actual curators nuts at the museum I worked. You’re not a curator because you have a Pinterest board or a Tumblr. It’s so much research and effort. I guess that’s the thing that always frustrates me. Pinterests is my one thing that I’m very angry about, because it’s so easy for attribution to get lost. Sometimes I’ll see an image of mine on there and it won’t be linked back directly to me in anyway. So I’ve started having them remove those images. I’m tempted to have them remove all of my images on Pinterest, because that seems to be the place where people take stuff and don’t give attribution to the artist and allow it to get used somewhere else. I had this drawing of an apple that was used by this company in Australia, and they got it through their fabric manufacturer on some little island. This should not have gotten there, and it’s crazy to me. It’s like the wild west and there are no rules. I mean, there are rules—when you put something on Pinterest they ask you, “Do you have permission?” and you’re like, “Yeah of course I do!” But the reality is that you don’t. No one is going to patrol that because the other side of it is a lot of exposure and people give you jobs from that. So I don’t know what the middle ground is or how you can balance it as an individual. What led to your decision to relocate to LA in 2017? How has the move impacted what you guys do and how you do it?

psychologically. I mean you know, the stereotypical LA person, I think is real. “I’m an influencer.” you know, that kind of thing. I think that is totally real here. Liana: I think LA is also a very hard working city, which I don’t think a lot of people who don’t live here realize. First and foremost, I think it’s just the time difference. By the time everyone is up and starting to work, everyone is done with work in New York. So I think it seems very lazy. Part of that is also the weather. You can take your time and go on a hike in the morning, and you’ll still have enough energy the rest of the day. But it didn’t dawn on me until we moved here, how much of an actual industry Hollywood is. Everyone we know has some association with it. It’s what keeps the city going. I didn’t think about that before then. Clay: I like the pace out here, but I miss the bad weather honestly. Liana: Every time it rains here he’s like, “Yes!” and he turns on all of the lamps and gets a bunch of work done. Clay: I feel like that’s the most productive time, you know? Liana: I miss it too, but I remember how long it lasted, and that’s what I don’t miss. I loved winter and snow and being cozy and making soup. But the fact that it lasted through April—I just couldn’t deal with that. Was there any sort of mission statement with The Smudge when you started it? How has the newspaper changed over time? Clay: I guess it had a mission statement. Liana: The mission statement was, “We have no idea what we’re doing, but we have a printer!”

Clay: It was great. The decision making was just that we had been in Chicago for a long time.

Clay: Yeah, it was at a time when people were looking for ways to contribute to this coming fight.

Liana: My contract was up at the museum and it wasn’t going to be renewed.

Liana: It was also a time for people to slow down in their lives, which is the reason behind having it show up in the mail every month. Almost none of it is on the internet. You can see the cover and maybe a few illustrations. But you have to get it in the mail.

Clay: I also wanted to be a little closer to my family, who are still in Northern California. I always kind of assumed LA would be the next place that I would go. So it was just a good time. Liana: Yeah. There was nothing keeping us there, but also nothing pushing us out. So it was a pretty chill way to move halfway across the country. Clay: It hasn’t had much of an affect on our work, I don’t think, mostly because we work from home. It’s just kind of the same, no matter where we go. But it’s nice that it’s warm every day. That’s probably had some affect

Clay: But I think the idea was that—we’re not writers or journalists and we don’t know how to get our thoughts down in that way. But we know how to publish, and we have the tools for that. So we’re going to try to start this thing and maybe help other people get their thoughts out. Honestly, it hasn’t evolved very much, haha. Liana: It’s still a scramble every month. We added an extra page. That was a big step.

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Clay: We’ve kept it very small because every month is kind of a struggle to get it together every month because we have other stuff going on. So we’ve intentionally kept it pretty manageable. At some point we’ll expand on it and add another page, one page at a time. We’ve learned a few lessons about the kind of stuff that we want to publish. We’ve gotten a little bit more picky about the stuff that we’re putting out. And also a little bit more experimental too. Liana: When it starts to get too easy to lay it out and print it—that was sort of the point when we were like, “We should do an issue by hand entirely. So we definitely wanted to push ourselves to make it visually a little bit more difficult on ourselves. Clay: But also when you decide you’re going to keep it going indefinitely… Liana: That’s terrifying! Don’t say it! haha.

Clay: But it’s a huge shift in the way that you approach it. Suddenly there’s an infinite number of issues coming and each one is a little less precious. So it kind of frees you up to get weirder, which is always what I want to do. I just want to make it looser and more experimental. We have some issues coming up that are going to be some curveballs for people with no explanation, just because we can. We didn’t promise anything to anyone. Liana: We have no investors that we have to talk to. There’s no board here. It’s just two idiots and two idiot cats in a room, haha. Clay: Yeah, and I think it’s cool to keep people on their toes or try to get people to think about things a little differently. So that for me has been the major evolution of it. Recognizing that we have no idea how many of these we’ll put out, so I don’t have to stress about each one as much. That’s probably good and bad. Liana: I feel like it makes it easier for us too to know that

Clay: Suddenly there’s an infinite number of issues coming and each one is a little less precious. So it kind of frees you up to get weirder, which is always what I want to do. I just want to make it looser and more experimental.


some issues are going to be less good than others. We don’t have this perfect thing that it all has to fit into. It’s more like, “Well, we dropped the ball on July, so let’s make August better.” Has working on that project changed your attitude about art making in general. Does your approach to the paper influence your work outside of The Smudge? Liana: I think so. In some way. Clay: For me, it’s mostly been that most of the work that I’m making is for The Smudge now, because it’s such a great outlet for me. Because of those things, I can get weird and loose and I don’t have to explain it, and it’s easier to justify because it’s just one out of many. I actually find it a little harder when I’m trying to make other stuff, because I get really uptight about it. I wish that I could maintain that looseness in everything. But I think it’s a printmakers mindset that both of us have, where we like these restrictions… Liana: And figuring out how to work within them. Clay: That’s why the zines and The Smudge are a really good outlet for each of us. It’s like having an assignment, as opposed to, “What should I draw today?” Liana: The first two years of doing The Smudge, whenever someone would approach us saying “Hey, I want to write something for you guys. What should I write about?” we were like, “Anything you want!” That was usually fine, but we realized it was beneficial to us to have some sort of guidelines, so now we have these very broad themes so that we can tell people, “You should write about this!” Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t, haha. It’s good to have some sort of structure. What have you learned about working with other artists through the projects that you’ve done? Liana: The hard part is fixing all of their files before we go to print, haha. Clay: I’ve just learned that people will be as cool as I am to them. When I approach people I try to keep it really casual, generally because we can’t pay people, so I don’t feel like I can be very demanding. But I also don’t want to have that relationship with people. When I ask somebody to illustrate something for us or write an article, I want them to feel like it’s an opportunity to get something off of their chest that they’ve been thinking about. That’s one thing I’ve learned from working with people in general. They’re just people! There’s no reason for me to put on some sort of business facade when I’m talking. Liana: Yeah, like our business cards don’t say “Editors of The Smudge.” His use to say “Owner, operator of Tan

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and Loose Press” and mine said “I’m with stupid” with an arrow pointing at his, haha. Clay: When I actually stop and think about the person I’m writing to, even when I don’t know them, I just kind of have a sense of who these people are. I’m just like, This is just a person sitting in their bedroom just like me sitting in mine. We’re probably both eating cereal. haha. But since it’s just us, there’s no reason to get all business-y on them. Let’s just talk like I would talk to somebody if they were here in person. That’s been a big lesson, especially in freelance work too. When you start working with art directors or editors, at some point I realize that a lot of these art directors are just people my age who saw me on the internet. They’re cool. We don’t have to struggle through this—let’s just be cool with each other and be honest. How does working with a physical media platform affect the pacing of people’s experience with The Smudge. What are the positives of not making all of the articles and information in each issue online? Clay: Like Liana said, we did like the idea of it only existing in print, because it’s just a slower experience. The whole process is slower from making it to consuming it. Because we’re all guilty of reading something online and immediately jumping to a conclusion about it and believing it and making these rapid decisions constantly, I like just having to absorb something slowly. It’s not a unique experience—people read all of the time. Liana: It changes the way you approach something when you have to carve out a little bit of time to consume it. Not that you can’t read The Smudge in 20 minutes—but the fact that you even have to find a place to sit and do that changes your interaction with what you’re reading and what you’re thinking. Clay: It was just a conscious decision that we made to not have it be digital. It also creates a really different circumstance for how you get a response from your readers. It’s a lot more difficult to spit out a gut reaction to something if there isn’t a comment section below it. Liana: That’s actually one of my biggest pet peeves. If I read anything on the internet, I immediately scroll down and am like, “What are people saying about this?” because I know it’s going to be awful regardless of what the article is. Sometimes it’s cool to see what people are saying, but it can be frustrating. Clay: We don’t get a lot of comments, probably because of that. I think the stuff we do get is pretty thoughtful. Liana: It’s very thoughtful!


Clay: Somebody had to take the extra step of either looking up our email and writing us. Or some people send us stuff in the actual mail. Liana: I love that. I wish more people did that. Clay: Yeah, we love getting mail. So the lack of comments wasn’t such a conscious thing. We weren’t like, “We don’t want to hear comments!” But it just so happens that the way we’ve set it up, it doesn’t really allow for people to make those quick judgements and write their shitty thing. But just the other day—in the last issue we had written a thing that was about our support of Obama, and somebody wrote us an email that was like, “Totally, but do you know about all of the drone strikes that Obama ordered and all of the civilians it killed?” and provided links to articles. Liana: Yeah, basically it was like, “Because we made an exception for Obama, it also made this exception for the current president.” The Trump administration is just upping drone strikes because the Obama administration could. Clay: So it’s nice to get comments like that where you feel like, Yeah, that’s a good point. But I don’t want to have those discussions publicly on instagram. And we’re going to print that response in the next issue, so we’re not trying to hide it or anything. But I also don’t need it to play out in those public forums. What direction do you see print going in general? How do you see small presses changing? Clay: I mean, I don’t think it’s going anyway. On the large publishing scale, they’re navigating the new digital territory and figuring it out. But for us—people just like zines. I don’t think people’s desire to have stuff is going to go away anytime soon. We’re consumers and we want to buy things. These art book fairs seem like they get bigger and bigger and there are more and more of them every year, so it has obviously tapped into something that people want. On our level, we just don’t feel the really big changes that are happening. Liana: I feel like people always romanticize thing on paper—which I guess we do too. But you really do experience it differently and it looks different when it’s printed out. The Smudge would not look the same in anyway if it was on the internet. It has to go through this other machine in order to make it feel the way it feels. What do you guys have coming up with Tan and Loose and The Smudge that you can talk about? Clay: It’s pretty much just more of the same, haha. No major changes. Hopefully we’ll step it up a little bit and do some more ambitious projects. We have a few ideas for

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things we want to do. But we’re mostly just going to stay the course and ride this thing out. Drive this thing into the ground… haha. We’d like to explore other mediums. I’ve been wanting to do something with flexi discs. I also want to put out some more substantial books. Maybe some non-riso printed books, because riso printing is just not great for every project. We’re both going to try and focus a little more on our own work too. What do you both still struggle with in your work as artists and publishers? Are there any obstacles that you’d like to overcome? Liana: For myself as an artist—it’s so silly—but I’ve been struggling with the amount of time I spend on Instagram. It’s hard to work through things while that is always screaming in your pocket for your attention. If I ever sit down and I’m stuck on something, I’ll just take out Instagram and scroll through a bunch of stuff being like, I’m going to get inspired by what my friends are working on. But instead it’s much more like, I’m just going to get really jealous and mad and still not do the thing that’s sitting in front of me. Clay: I think we’re really fortunate in that our hurdles are generally self imposed. Liana: Yeah. Like I can just put my phone in another room, haha. Clay: It’s mostly just making the time to do the things we want to do, and getting better at getting away from the distractions. Liana: For me too, a part of that is—I never really make work in photoshop, but I’ll often work out of my sketchbook and then scan it into photoshop and make it into its final piece—so I’ve been trying to focus on just getting a sheet of paper and thinking, Okay, so how do I make this the piece? I’ve just been trying to think about what other means to an end there might be that aren’t just like pencil on paper.


Photography by Matthew James-Wilson


Eli Howey @ CALA


Xia Gordon, Fifi Martinez, and Laura Lannes @ CALA


Mia Acuna & Lili Todd @ CALA


Helen Jo @ CALA


Becca Tobin @ CALA


Ako Castuera & Rosie Brand @ CALA


Evan M. Cohen @ CALA


Lyle Partridge & Carta Monir @ CALA


Poochie & Iggy @ CALA


Sophia Foster-Dimino @ CALA


Hannah K Lee w/ Ryan Sands of Youth in Decline @ CALA


Richie Pope @ CALA


Kevin Czap of Czap Books @ CALA

G.W. Duncanson @ @ Paper Jam 5


Seo Kim @ CALA


Dirt Buyer @ The Rec Center


Dirt Buyer @ The Rec Center


Dirt Buyer @ The Rec Center


Momma @ The Rec Center


Momma @ The Rec Center


Momma @ The Rec Center


Current Joys @ The Rec Center


Shit Giver @ The Echo


Shit Giver @ The Echo


Shit Giver @ The Echo


Automatic @ The Echo


Automatic @ The Echo


Automatic @ The Echo


Automatic @ The Echo


Michael Vidal @ The Bootleg


Michael Vidal @ The Bootleg


Kaz Mirblouk @ Zebulon


Kaz Mirblouk @ Zebulon


Kaz Mirblouk @ Zebulon


Automatic @ Zebulon


Automatic @ Zebulon


Automatic @ Zebulon


Momma @ The Roxy


Momma @ The Roxy


Telecaves @ The Echoplex


Duster @ The Echoplex


Duster @ The Echoplex


Duster @ The Echoplex


Duster @ The Echoplex


BABY @ The Smell


BABY @ The Smell


IAN SWEET @ The Smell


IAN SWEET @ The Smell


French Vanilla @ Zebulon


French Vanilla @ Zebulon


French Vanilla @ Zebulon


French Vanilla @ Zebulon


French Vanilla @ Zebulon


French Vanilla @ Zebulon


David Scott Stone @ Zebulon


David Scott Stone @ Zebulon


Automatic @ Zebulon


Automatic @ Zebulon


Automatic @ Zebulon


Automatic @ Zebulon


Automatic @ Zebulon


Moaning @ Zebulon


Moaning @ Zebulon


Moaning @ Zebulon


Moaning @ Zebulon


Moaning @ Zebulon


THANK YOU: KENDRA YEE ROBERT WOLFE KINGSTON POPLAR BRIANNA ROSE BROOKS JAMIE EDLER GENIE LIANG JESSICA TAYLOR JULIA ST.CLAIR LILY COZZENS DAN HOWDEN DARYL RAINBOW ANNA VIE SARAH JACOBS STEVE TEARE PEONY GENT OLICIA BEELBY SYMONE SALIB EUNICE LUK ETTA FRIEDMAN ALLEGRA WEINGARTEN SIMON HANSELMANN CLAY HICKSON LIANA JEGERS BEC HAC TOMMI PARRISH REED KANTER JAI CHEBAIA TALLULAH FONTAINE JULIA SHAPIRO RAFAEL ALANIZ RYAN SANDS ALEC MOSS AMANDA JASNOWSKI PASCUAL EMILY YACINA MOLLY SODA COLLEEN BARRY KATIE GARCIA JACOB RUBECK NICK RATTIGAN GRETA KLINE PASCAL STEVENSON MIKE CARIDI BJ RUBIN AMBAR NAVARO SONIA JAMES-WILSON... LINDA & SONNY SHARROCK MIKE JUDGE AKO CASTUERA LILA RAMANI NICK NONEMAN AGNES VARDA FRANCO ROSSO ERIC DOLPHY CHRYSTIA CABRAL BRANDON STANCIELL WENDY YAO DWIGHT SYKES MICKEY DUZYI JAMES DEWITT YANCEY KINGSLEY BUCKNOR CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR DONNA SUMMER JEN WANG BOB ANDY MARCIA GRIFFITHS


E D I T E D BY M AT T H E W JA M E S -W I L S O N

Profile for FORGE. Art Magazine

FORGE. Issue 22: Intimacy