Assignment 1

Your zine

The brief for this assignment required that I create a 16-page folded and stapled A5 fanzine based on my interest in books and their design. It needed to enable my tutor to better know me and my work. There were specific mentions of ‘cut and paste’, not working too preciously, being creative with the content and presentation, and using previous exercises as a starting point. I had lots of choices to make, including whether or not I wanted to add additional pages, change the scale, and work on a larger scale then reduce the artwork. Additionally, I had freedom with my choice of materials and medium.

Initial stages

I began by breaking down the guide to the zine into sections:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Your creative process
  • Looking at books
  • Global influence
  • The future of the book
  • Book-related sayings

I cut these out and stuck them into my A3 sketchbook ready to help me generate initial ideas and ways I could incorporate these into the zine. There were already starting points from previous exercises, such as the book-related sayings, the future of the book, and my list of books that influenced me and their links. I used the next few pages to write and sketch as many ideas as I could. I also drew the layout to help me visualise how the zine would work. For the ‘creative process’ prompt in the guide, I decided to let the whole zine show this off by using predominantly traditional and tactile methods and trying out new methods too; I was keen to use my new lino cutting kit as this linked with the zine style.

Once I had some ideas, I started to consider how to sequence these across the pages. I went through a process of creating A6 mock-ups and also playing with the wording I wanted to use for each “section” of the zine. Throughout this process, I ensured I kept referring to the brief and to the guide. I also ordered some paper samples ahead of time, and one company included a beautiful letter with their sample book. This inspired me to include some of the phrases in my zine. I had already aimed to convey how much I love the physicality of a book, so this fit perfectly.

Researching and developing

My ideas generation soon flowed naturally into a stage of researching and developing my ideas further. I explored ways of presenting my favourite books as trees or leaves, as I thought this would be a clever way of incorporating a physical piece of each book and also used a cut and paste approach of sorts. I tried lots of ways of presenting this but settled on a huge tree, with each leaf being from a different book.

Some of my ideas development involved finding old photographs of myself to use in my zine. I quite liked the thought of showing progression and a journey, as books have always been a part of my life, but also I find books to be extremely nostalgic and of great sentimental value, so I wanted to convey this. There are references to books tapping into memories and being synonymous with various stages of my life. I wanted that personal relationship with books to be clear in my zine.

I also spent time creating reference sketches of items I needed to draw in my zine. For example, I observed hanging fabrics and curtains in my own house and from internet image searches to practise capturing the heavy folds. I looked at detailed picture frames for my ‘memory’ page. My hand ‘dancing’ was something I drew a few times to get the position correct. I also explored the various illustrative styles of some of the drawings I wanted to reference in my zine, including Quentin Blake, Geoff Taylor, and Shaun Tan.

Mocking up, editing, and critiquing

I started creating mock ups in the initial stages of this process, but this was where these mock ups were vital and I could pick out what was working and what was not. At one point, I had a 24-page mock up, but soon realised this was unrealistic, both in terms of the time it would take to complete to the standard I wanted, but also because the pages did not sit well and some of the content was being repeated or spread out too much – there were just too many pages! I refined my sequence and eventually settled on a 20-page booklet. I had created a mock up (see below) but was still not quite happy with the colours.

I noticed that I had been focusing on some colours more than others and decided to ensure these colours appeared regularly throughout the zine to tie it all together. I did a very quick sequence with these colours and liked the theme. Although other colours would appear in the zine – particularly because of the cut and paste nature – there would at least be some consistency.

Creating the final zine

Once I was happy with this mock-up, I began the process of creating each page. I knew that I wanted to create the pages on A4 paper so that each individual page could be reduced to A5 for the final zine. There were a few technical issues with my printer/scanner, but I did manage to get this to scan each A4 page in colour onto my laptop. I feel that my creative process can be seen in the final pages, but I wanted to explain some processes in more depth.

Lino cutting and printing

For the cover, I wanted to create a lino cutting of the text that could be printed. If this became a zine that was made on a regular basis, having the title as a stamp would be very useful for ‘mass’ production. I also liked having the gap for the glasses of the bookworm, as this means the character could change position a little on each issue. The process of creating the lino cutting was a lengthy one! I drew the letters myself as I had a very specific vision in mind. I then used tracing paper to draw over the letters, then transferred these onto the lino (ensuring they were mirrored, so that they would print in the correct direction). I then cut around the letters, which was the most time-consuming part of the process! Once this was complete, I used double-sided sticky tape to secure each lino cutting to a piece of cardboard to create the whole stamp.

As I do not have access to a proper press, I simply rubbed the paper onto the stamp carefully, in order to create the print. The effect is quite pleasing! I enjoyed the satisfaction of creating this myself and I now have this to use again and again.

To complete the cover, I drew the book worm character, added yellow watercolour spots (a subtle reference to the cover of one of my chosen books, A Clockwork Orange) and used cut and paste letters to add my name to the bottom corner. From the photographs above, you can see I tried out the spot placement on my other lino print before committing to it on the final cover.

Overall, I was pleased with the effect of the printing. The cover is eye-catching and has that splash of colour too. Although the process was time-consuming, I think for something that could be produced several times, it is worth the effort.

Cut and paste

Throughout the zine, I aimed to use cut and paste. This was done both for the text, whether I cut individual words that I had typed or I cut individual letters from various locations to build words, and for some images. Some of my favourite examples that, I feel, add humour to the zine, are the memory pages (where versions of me are running upstairs) and the hand with a face dancing across the cover.

The versions of me on the stairs were inspired by three of my chosen books – I did one in the style of Quentin Blake from George’s Marvellous Medicine, another in the style of Shaun Tan from The Arrival, and the final one was in the style of Geoff Taylor from The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness. On the opposite page is the chopped up picture frame, which, again, was inspired by a chosen book – the cover of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I burnt the matches and photographed these in order to create the frame. These references to my favourite books were important to include throughout the zine (for instance, the magic pages link to Harry Potter).

The hand with the face was an instinctive decision. I felt that the spread was a little dull, so I found eyes and a mouth to add to the hand and thought this looked much more interesting, funny, and it felt more like a zine page. The beautiful thing about cutting and pasting is that you can try out an idea without having to commit to it – you do not have to stick it down if it does not work.

My use of cut and paste definitely added to the ‘zine’ feel. I also loved how much fun it could be and the unexpected results that emerged. It certainly felt informal, personal, and different. The method lends itself to the creation of imagery and pages that defy expectations and standards.

Half pages

For page 3 and 4, and page 17 and 18, I designed them to be half pages or cut slightly smaller (width ways). Page 3 depicts me behind a curtain – to do this, I started with a watercolour base, then used pencil crayons to add the detail to the curtain – and page 4 is part of the ‘Hey presto!’ magic page, taken from my initial idea based on ‘oldest trick in the book’. This proved to be fairly simple, but the snag was that I wanted the parts of page 1 and page 4 that were exposed to make sense with the half pages. This is why I ended up included a pile of books on page 1; this ensured that when the ‘Hey presto!’ spread was open, it looked good with the pile of books on the left.

Pages 17 and 18 were a little more tricky. I had to line everything up precisely to ensure that turning the page would be smooth. The ‘normal’ me is reading with ‘once upon a time’ emerging from the book. When the page turns, this reveals half of me turning into a worm and the large worm wriggling towards the left, with the statement, “I will always be a proud bookworm.” I was very pleased with the result, but it certainly was not simple to execute!

The reason I was so set on creating these pages was to emphasise my love of turning a page and the physicality of a book. Having pages that changed the image or revealed something new conveys the excitement I feel when holding a book and turning each page. It was fiddly, but it was worth it. I am unsure as to the ease of creating this for the masses, but for a few copies I suspect it should be fine.

Watercolour

In this zine, I used lots of watercolour paint, which is unusual for me, as I tend to stick to dry materials, or acrylic paint. I felt that the watercolour paint gave the zine a magical, whimsical feel that I wanted to achieve. It also allowed subtle additions of colour, such as the spots on the cover, and interesting, galactic effects, such as the planets on the ‘global influence’ pages.

Although I am very happy with the visual impact of the global influence spread, I am not sure I emphasised the books themselves. The titles and their themes are small and not easy to see, and I did not particularly focus on these books in the rest of my zine, unlike my list of books, which I tried to include references to throughout. I think this is the spread I would change if I went back again.

Layout and printing

Once all the pages were scanned, I could focus on layout and printing. I started by printing tiny copies of each page to manipulate and stick into the correct layout. This is the way I work best!

Next, I worked to layout the pages digitally, reducing them from A4 to A5 and created a PDF booklet document. There were some fiddly parts, particularly the half pages, which had to align and be the correct width.

I decided to print this on my home printer on cheap printer paper, just to check for any errors. After an unsuccessful attempt where I selected the pages to flip on the long edge rather than the short edge, I managed to print a final mock up. Below is a video showing me flip through this.

I was pretty pleased with the result! As a default, my home printer adds a white border around the pages, which I do not particularly want, but this was fine for a mock up. I also need to slightly adjust the half page with the worm towards the end of the book, as the text got slightly cut off. Overall though, for a zine produced at home, I was happy.

I will be sending the document to be printed professionally so I can order a few copies and hopefully eliminate that white border! I have some idea of the paper I would like after looking through samples; it will be exciting to see the finished product. I will update this as soon as they have arrived!

Printed zines

I picked up my completed zines from the printers and I am thrilled with the results! It makes such a difference to hold a book printed using quality materials and equipment. The images and colours look so vivid and full. The text all fits on the pages now (I sorted the half page!) and I trimmed the oddly shaped pages after picking them up.

Here is a flip through the final book, which hopefully shows the quality of paper and printing a little more clearly.

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