I’ve printed on the Big Fag before, but that was a pretty simple job so I was really excited by the prospect of spending three weeks in the company of the big rig.
I make zines and comic books. I’m not really interested in fine art or gallery work but I really love carefully produced published material and art books. My favorite kinds of artwork can be sent through the mail.
“zines are for try-hards”
I spent the first day or two getting re-acquainted with the press and having my mind blown by the different possibilities that the press made available to us during the residency. We poked our fingers into different bottles of pantone ink, dusty varnishes, metallic goo and we flicked through a stack of paper swatches.
I had an idea in my head that I wanted to make an extremely small-edition zine about making comics, which is something that I’ve been doing for the past few years. I like drawing pictures of people drawing pictures and I know a bunch of cartoonists who’d probably like to look at these so I went with that.
The thing that the Fag does best is print big stuff, maps and diagrams. Like, seriously, imagine if they printed this fricken amazing thing? So I decided to try mapping out all the weird and interesting things that go into a comic book project and all of the weird and interesting things that come out of it. In the middle, in between the tedious talks of planning and the even more tedious talks of publishing is this magic moment that I like to think of as a performance when a comic book is being inked. This is the essential cartooning moment if there is one
Once I had a plan and made a bodgy prototype for the zine I sat down and drew. I did nothing but draw in the Firstdraft Art Cave for 11 days straight. I got a sore back.
The basketball jocks playing in the court that looms over the First Draft had to watch me doing daggy stretches and silly walks around the car park every half hour. While I was drawing I listened to three audiobooks, all of which are embarrassing so I’m not going to tell you what they were. You should just pretend I was listening to Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace and that there were no swords or zombies or anything.
I finished the drawing on the hottest day of all time in Sydney, and did the prepress in the rainy few days that followed. I got the plates made in Marrickville. Then we got the press rolling.
One thing I’ve noticed about printing machines is that the people who know them best treat them like a loving stockman treats his favorite horse. The machine has attitudes and moods and sometimes gets stubborn. Sometimes you need to bring in “the whisperer”. The collective is full of “fag whisperers”.
An interesting thing happened when we were printing the brown plate. The ink ran low on the edges of the rollers and was printing noticeably lighter than in the center of the plate. We were about to fix it when I realized that the error worked conceptually with the print. The diffuse activities on the edge of the drawing were printed lighter, while the more focused, concentrated efforts in the center of the drawing remained dark and crisp. It gave the whole picture an additional subtle layer of meaning so I decided to run with it. This is a fun example of the production as a kind of language that lives within the workflow of publishing projects.
On the last day I made some packaging for the zine but I only got two copies of the thing made before the residency was done. I still have to put aside a long day for folding and assembly, which is the part of zine making that I hate the most. I get through it by reminding myself that after I’ve assembled them all I get to dump them into the mailbox which, of course, is the part of zinemaking that I love the most.
Here’s a big version of the illustration. Have yourself a good, long perve. X p