For me zines are one of the purest forms of art. These little books of pure creation are often scrappy and printed by photocopier, rather than a proper press. It is hard to make any money out of them (artists are lucky to cover photocopier costs), so that takes at least one non-creative motive away. They are not often long-lasting, so that also takes the motivation of prosperity away. The aim of a zine has to be to appeal to readers on an individual scale, since they are unlikely to reach a large readership. As a result artists and writers are left with only one motivation when making a zine: to create.
For this review I looked at three example of zines, all sent to me by Tanya Rice. One of them was a lovely booklet of drawings by her young son called: ‘There are MONSTERS coming out of my head’, and another was by Tanya herself called ‘Font Lessons’. I also looked at various issues of ‘The Other Herald’, written by artists mainly from Western New York, but also from the rest of the world.
Gef and Tanya Rice’s zines show how creativity can be inherited. “There are MONSTERS coming out of my head’ was written by Gef when he was only nine years old. At this point he was already wildly creative, and used this creativity for self-expressive purposes. He says: ‘When I draw them (the monsters) they come out of my head’. His sketches of monsters are highly inventive, and appealingly childish. They have charm and a lot of humour.
The second zine ‘Font Lessons’ shows the works of a more mature artist and writer, but is just as creative. It features neat drawings in comparison to the sprawling work of her son; showing how zines have a vast scope of styles. Most of the artistic self-expression in this zine is shines through in the poems that go alongside the pictures. She takes on huge themes such as identity: ’Finding and defining your authentic self is more important than it sounds’. She also muses on the purpose of art as a health aid “Feeling productive and fulfilled is all we really seek…why do we not create? Maybe art really can save us.” This line sums up one explanation for the latest boom in zines. Etsy now has an entire section of its site dedicated to zines; and zine libraries are popping up everywhere. In modern times people have a burning urge to create, but find that this urge cannot come out in their ordinary lives; so many of them now turn to zines.
Meanwhile “The Other Herald” is just as much a literary journal as it is a zine. It is also produced by Tanya Rice, who collects writing, art and photos via submissions from around the world. Although the booklet is mostly made up of poetry and flash fiction, the range of themes couldn’t be cast wider. The separate issues have a set subject, but this doesn’t affect the vibrant variety of themes and subjects inside. Each piece ends with a brief biography, leading the reader to discover that the artists are as varied as their work. Humorous pieces are put alongside grim monologues from eccentric murderers.
However there is a link that connects pieces throughout the collection; this link is a sense of place- although not always New York. Some of the artists talk about places as far apart as Italy and Egypt, or simply describe their house, but a sense of place constantly re-occurs. Another link is the inspiring nature of the entire zine. My favourite quote has to be from French artist Ivan de Monbrison: ‘Art for me is the only answer in our modern world to the question of death and the fragility of human nature’.
TF Rice’s shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/TFRice
The Other Herald Website: http://www.otherherald.com/