Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Spring Break

When the hills turn green and the sun comes out, it's difficult to find a good excuse to sit in front of my computer. Au contraire, all my atoms are yelling "take us outdoors!" And so I race up to our bare garden and mess about in the dirt, dreaming of more colorful days to come. soon. It is because the weather, though still quite chilly, has been bright that I have been tempted away from my normal routine. 


My blogging friend Amanda did a post about zines recently. She always has something interesting and constructive to say. It got me thinking about my own collection of zines and non-commercial little books. I have it in mind this year to make a few of these myself. I find them so appealing. Strictly speaking, according to Wikipedia a zine can be considered as any self-published work with a distribution of less than 5000. 

If You're Afraid of the Dark, Remember the Night Rainbow is not strictly a zine, or even a self-published work. It was, however, a real break-through book when it was first published in 1978. I bought my copy in the 1980s. It was one of the first soft cover and small children's books to be published and it was easy to sell in gift shops for this reason, so on the West Coast of the U.S. it took off like a rocket. It had no competition whatsoever. Green Tiger Press was a small and avant garde (and at the same time retro) publishing company run by the same kind of people who make zines today.

The illustrations and even the lettering were done by hand, before computers had such a central role in the art we do these days.

I still love this little book. Tiger Press seems no longer to exist.

One of my favorite little books is actually printed, rather than photocopied. It can't be called a zine, but it is an art book, made at a very small press. I believe it came from Twinrocker, although it is not branded, which is a real shame. 

In Paris one year we went to the show where French children's book publishers present their new titles. I buy children's books for myself. My favorite stall, however, was a little independent press. Jacques Benoît produces his own little books. They are fabulous and his very funny website is well worth visiting.

The puzzles in this book are all completely absurd and unsolvable. 

Flip books are also among my favorites. They're so simple, so funny and so low tech. Muji, a very popular store here in France, used to have an entire collection of them. I've given many of mine away. My other flip book has a little video here where you can see the crazy action that takes place when you thumb the book.

Frankly, the most authentic zine I own was all handmade and reproduced by my Australian printmaking friend Wendy. The book, so beautifully drawn, produced and bound, was a gift to us, sent after she and her partner had stayed here for a few days of etching.

The zine tells of their adventures traveling around France and of course my favorite page features our atelier and house! I know this project took her some time to accomplish. I only wish I had the patience to create such a wonderful memory for important parts of my own life.

My friend Françoise sent me this lovely little book. It tells in detail about one day in an artist's life.  It was created by a small publishing company. It's a bit more like a journal than a zine.

But it's filled with photos and drawings. It would be a wonderful exercise to find so much to describe about a single day.

I find that many bookstores in France have an entire section devoted to zines and self-published graphic books. Is this now true in other locales as well? I'm always drawn to that section since I like looking at pictures. 

Étienne Davodeau publishes his own work and sells it directly to bookstores and individuals. They are beautifully reproduced and bound. 

I bought this one just a few weeks ago at the bookstore at Parc de la Villette. I particularly liked it's format. It's about one apartment building and all the people who live there. You slip the book out of it's attractive sleeve and then it opens left to right and top to bottom in various levels.

Someday I hope to steal this wonderful design! I am really making myself impatient to get back into my studio!

The last zine I bought very recently is by one of my favorite artist's Becca Stadtlander. It has no dialog or words or any kind. I guess you can make up your own story.

It was published by Little Otsu, which seems like a great little publisher. Have you ever noticed how many clever people and creative enterprises are based in Portland?


In personal news, the grandchildren came to visit over their own spring break. Quinn generously shared his cars with Zinnie, but she didn't seem to care too much about them.

We've been sharing our garden space with a man from the village for the last few years. He decided to abandon his vegetable plot at exactly the same time that we got the itch to redo the entire garden. We've cut down a lot of old trees, torn down the raggedy wire fence and intend to plant a nice hedge and lawn. I spent two days pulling old ivy vines off the wall (which was built in the Middle Ages!).

If I go silent, you can imagine me there, transplanting roses and lavender bushes.


  1. Very interesting post Nancy, about "zines". I had to check that zine is what we call in French fanzine !
    You had a wonderful friendly treat with your friend Wendy. Her book is gorgeous.
    I don't know what exactly is the tatus of self editing books in the States, but in France, it is difficult. But you have to go on with this project! I wish I could draw like all these people or I have to build a partnership with someone else to propose some stories ...
    I want to share with the blog the info of this zine : "georges" said petit-petit-petit magazine edited by grains de sel found at :
    also :

  2. Oups ! forgottent to mntion that on website magazine georges, you have to go on "bonus" to get many activities displayed and to be computer printed

  3. I don't know how build it but it is nice

  4. Absolutely hilarious Wikipedia definition of zine (a term which I have to say I hadn't come across before, but I understand as a self-published, distributed among friends and fellow-enthusiasts, publication.) Under 5000? That includes most books...

  5. I seem to be here very late for some reason... Anyway, great post Nancy and thank-you for letting us take a look at your lovely collection. They are all so inviting. I love L'atelier - anything with a cat, and Wendy Bayliss's work is just beautiful. Thanks too for the Little Otsu link - I'm sure I won't be able to resist buying something/s from there.
    I love the photo of Quinn and Zinnie - although they don't look entirely comfortable in that pose! Good on Quinn for sharing even if it goes unappreciated at this stage.
    I'm wondering whether you think you'll be making any trips to Paris to visit your grandchildren between about May 10th and early June? I'll let you wonder why I'm asking....