Zine Art

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Related terms: Zine, Fanart
See also: Zine Production, History of Fanart
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Fanart is an important element in print zines. Fanart can be incorporated into the cover design, illustrate a specific story, showcase the work of an artist, or just be delicious eye-candy.

Comments and LoCs about fanart in zines are relatively scarce when compared to the number that discuss fanfiction. While the reasons for this lack of fannish comment vary, one common reason is that fans often remarked they did not know enough about art and/or its vocabulary to make educated and interesting comments.

In 2008, a fanartist referred to the "pride and gratitude" she felt "when someone takes a few minutes to tell me they enjoyed one of my photo manipulations. Yes, I prefer a detailed explanation of why the picture appeals to them, that they appreciate the clarity, the color, the way the guys are posed. But not everyone can express their appreciation in such a way -- it is very difficult for me to review art because I don't know why I like it, it, I just know that it makes me feel good inside. So, let me tell you that if all you can say is "Wow!" or that made me feel good," that will be just fine with me." [1]

The Challenges of Reproduction

In 2007, a number of fanartists answered this question: "Were you conscious of the difficulties of reproduction which choosing a medium?"

[from Marilyn Cole] “What a horror that was back in the dark ages... remember, no PCs, no internet, no email, no cell phones. Color was expensive to reproduce, so most illos were done in black and white. I drew on coquille board which had an imbedded pattern in the paper. This enabled me to render the shadows in a way that would print nicely. I used black wax based pencils, since graphite in an ordinary pencil would reflect back in the Xerox machine. I remember when the scanner was first introduced. ‘Wow. What will they think of next?’”

[from Suzan Lovett] “...getting pencil work reproduced was expensive, so I was told to draw in ink if I wanted to be in a zine, and for a while I did. It’s an unforgiving medium, and my work needs a lot of forgiving, then and now, so I was really happy when I was finally able to get pencil drawings accepted.”

[from Caren Parnes] “... for zines that were doing high quality screening for pencil or offset printing for color, I would use pencil or color pencil when I could (I enjoyed those more than pen and ink). However if I knew that the zine editor did not have a particularly good track record with reproducing art (and I was very picky about this!), I would choose pen and ink so it would reproduce well.”

[from Vel Jaeger]: "“Without a doubt pencil is the easiest medium for drawing: mistakes can be erased and it’s fun to make subtle shadings. But from the editor’s viewpoint it was the most expensive to print. Pencil (and ink with a wash—think black and white photos) have to be screened before they can be printed, a costly process 30 years ago in pre-computer days. Even the best screens lost some of the quality of the original. The best medium for offset printing or photocopy is pen and ink, and over the years I came to appreciate the precision that could be attained with it.[2]

The Cover

Cover art for fanzines is considered by some editors to be one of the more crucial factors in selling zines. Some zine covers are designed to entice the reader into buying. Others are there to inform the reader of the zine's contents. And some covers are whatever the zine publisher could put their hands on when the zine went to press.

Even the contents of a zine cover vary. Usually (but not always) zine covers will contain the title of the zine. Usually (but not always) the zine cover features a character or some aspect from the fandoms that are represented in a zine. Usually (but not always) the zine covers contain art - although many zine covers consist of nothing but the title. And some zines have neither titles nor art on their covers. One fanzine publisher attempted to use cover art to push the value of the first print runs by replacing the full cover art in subsequent printings with silhouetted plain line drawings of the original. See: First Time.

Some fans and publishers created very unique physical covers. See Unique Bindings. Also see Custom Zine.

The importance of cover art has long been reflected in the numerous fan art awards with cover art having its own category separate from interior art. And, to some fans, the inclusion of art on a zine cover elevates the artwork (or at least signals an increased desirability). Numerous talented and well-respected fan artists have never appeared on fanzine covers.

Some fans buy zines solely for the cover art. In 1996, Charlotte Hill discussed the various ways in which cover art influenced her decisions to buy fanzines:

I *definitely* consider good artwork an excellent reason to pay more for a zine. I've had more than one experience where people have purchased two copies of "Whisper of a Kill," Lois Welling's novel, so they could cut off the wraparound cover from one and frame it, whilst still keeping an intact copy for reading. I bought Harlequin Airs solely on the strength of the artwork (not knocking the story here; the cover was just very striking). Same for Master of the Revels, which was superb. I've been misguided into buying anthology zines because the cover art was so good (sometimes to find that there wasn't even a story about the cover-art characters inside the multimedia zine!). Those were often disappointments, but the art *definitely* determined my decision to purchase. I also bought my very first Wiseguy story (a novel, actually) because the cover art was in the art show at ESCAPADE I. I was happily drooling over the piece of art (which I couldn't afford at the time) and Megan Kent said, "It's a cover, you know. It's on a zine in the dealer's room." (Imagine cartoon scene here, art hanging in mid-air as Megan struggles to catch it, smoke trail denoting where Charlotte rocketed out of the room and sprinted to the dealer's room for--you guessed it, Melody C.'s "A River That Runs Both Ways" with Caren Parnes' beautiful "I Know but One Code of Morality for Men" cover.[3]

Another fan writes: A number of fans admit they were not "into the fandom" but bought a zine because of the art.[4] "Okay, okay, I bought this for Suzi Lovett's art. It's gorgeous... The story's okay; it was serialized on the circuit, so it doesn't build the way a novel should. but each chapter is a solid short story on its own, and each one has a climax to itself. Highly recommended if anyone ever decides to part with it." [5]

Having a zine with an excellent cover, like the fan above mentions, can also be a disappointment to fans if the rest of the zine doesn't live up to fannish expectations. Some fans also resent having to pay more money for a zine with an expensive cover when they discovered that the fiction within was not of the same standards:

There was a zine some years back that sold a lot of copies on the basis of its cover. (This is what the editor told me -- she was not happy about it.) The cover, one of Faddis' acrylic paintings, was beautifully produced, protected by a plastic topsheet, first-class treatment all the way ... but the zine itself was a series of Mary Sue stories featuring Princess Leia. Not a bad zine, but it didn't live up to its cover. This is an example of form over content.[6]

On whether art and fic quality go hand-in-hand:

It used to be that there was an at least partly reliable rule of thumb: Care taken with good art and aesthetic production values tended to parallel care taken in choosing and editing stories. Of course, not every editor who appreciates good art and takes care with how her/his zine looks necessarily has equal skill working with stories. And then, there are the editors who don't care for art, or who don't use it because they want to keep costs down. Good art reproduction does add noticeably to the price of a zine. In these past several years of less affluence, this trend does make some practical sense.

But I'm still influenced enough by habit that I assume good art might mean good editorial taste in general. And I've been known to buy a zine for the sake of its cover alone. Sometimes this was a Lovett cover. But this is at cons, where I can see the cover. I won't buy for the sole sake of any artist's work, sight unseen. Though I won't notice it first on a dealer's table, I'll look at a severe, artless zine, if it's cleanly produced and legibly reproduced (the look of the Oblaque zines is about what I mean by this). If I'm going by the flyer and can't see the zine, I've been burned too many times by an interesting story setup in a blurb to rely much on those. I buy zines usually either because I've paged through them, or because I know I like a certain writer's work.

The only kind of zine I WON'T give a thought to is one where both the art and the production look junky. At least, that's true these days, when anybody who wants to take the trouble can at least rent time on a decent printer and find a good xerox machine. But yeah, to make a long answer short, I do figure good taste in art and production might mean good taste in stories.[7]

Examples of Cover Art

Over 8,000 fanzines have been listed Fanlore and it is impossible to offer even a small representative sample of the styles of cover art. However, you can see many examples of Star Trek slash zine covers and Beauty and the Beast novel zine covers.

Art Parts of Zines: The Interior and Its Importance

Interior art generally falls into one of several caetgories

  • Border art
  • Centerfolds and Foldouts
  • Frontpieces
  • Illos (Illustrations)
  • Cartoons
  • Doodles

Early fanzines (1970s-1980s) contained extensive interior art. Most art was black and white due to limitations of fanzine production methods. Line art was most popular as it was easier to reproduce, but in early fanzines pencil art, with its more subtle shadings, can also be found. On a rare occasion, two-toned art was included, something that was widely advertised in zine flyers as this made the zine more desirable and more expensive. In the 1980s, advances in small press publishing allowed some zine publishers to include full interior color plates.

Centerfolds, which could be unfolded to be twice their original size (and in the case of Alternative: Continuing the Epilog to Orion, four times!), were printed on high-quality glossy paper. The better paper and the larger canvas size allowed artists to include more detail. Centerfolds could also tell a visual story - folded you can see only part of the image. Unfolded you see the full picture which tells a different story with multiple POVs. (See the Suzan Lovett centerfold from Night Music in B and D below as an example of this type of interior art). Like two-toned art, the inclusion of a centerfold could drive up cost of the zine and, even today, affects the collectability of a zine (more centerfold examples below).

Frontpieces is art located just inside the front cover a zine, often before or after the title page. Frontpieces are very much like a modified version of centerfolds (printed on high quality paper) except they are letter-sized to fit within the zine. Frontpieces can also be used to showcase nudes or other artforms considered too 'racy' for the zine cover (see examples below).

Fanzines that were mimeographed or professionally printed using offset printing could "embed' interior art into the text, much like today’s higher end book and magazine designs. Back then, however, unless you could afford to pay for a professional publisher, embedded art was manual (scissors and glue ) and required much patience, making it an editor’s labor of love.

The selection of interior art could be deliberate (for example art that served to illustrate events of the story) or haphazard (such as portraits of the characters with generic background settings). Some interior artists were never featured on the front or back covers of fanzines. As a result many talented and prolific interior artists remain relatively unknown and are subject to historical marginalization. Complicating matters is that some zine editors, even today, fail to credit artists for their interior artwork.

Even though art was a major draw it sometimes received short shrift by the publishers as it was almost always presented without formal titles, forcing fans to refer to it by page number. This was something that reduced the amount art feedback. A fan in 2002 commented on the zine Beyond Dreams:

I’m so pleased to see actual titles for all the artwork in this zine. I have always thought it so important to have titles instead of page numbers! Imagine how you would feel if you wrote a story and it was untitled with only a page number. So this is a wonderful detail that Jenna and Dusky paid attention to and one that I really appreciate.[8]

As word processing became more widely available, interior art continued to shift towards simpler line art which could be copy and pasted into word processing programs. In more recent years, fanzine interior art has dwindled with the majority being black and white photomanips.

Border art is most often found on pages with significant white space, such as poetry. It usually takes the form of graphic designs or calligraphy. Usually overlooked as background art, border art has, on occasion been called out in zine reviews: "Even the borders are a statement, done by the editor herself, they are refreshing and a change from what sometimes seems to be the same book half of all editors use for graphics." [9] Caro Hedge is an example of an artist who is well-known known for her border work in zines.

[insert something about cartoons]

[insert something about doodles and what was called filler art]

A brief note about documenting and preserving interior art: scanning interior art presents a challenge. While comb-bound or spiral zines can be laid flat onto scanners, perfect bound, taped or stapled zines cannot be easily opened for scanning. Centerfolds present special challenges because, due to their large size, they will not fit onto scanners and often must be photographed while being manually propped open. Some centerfolds are scanned in sections and then the photos are edited together. These technical difficulties limit not only the selection but also the amount and quality of interior art that can be documented.

Examples of zines with extensive interior art

Gallery of examples of interior art still to add:

  • art wrapped around text (would like one more example)
  • silkscreened (Interphase)
  • Black and white photomanips (would like one more example)
  • Cartoons
  • any post-1995 zines with extensive interior art

Sample Gallery

Trends in Art

  • hand-drawn
  • photography
  • collages
  • photomanips
  • silkscreen
  • clip art

As new trends in art appeared, fans had plenty to say.

In 1998, one fan had this to say about clip art: "I don't like computer art, or clip art, or whatever it's called. It's distracting, silly, and gives the zines using it a decided amateurish look—in my humble opinion. FT47 [#47] has lovely covers and some good interior art so it hardly needs "artisic parsley". I can see perhaps having something garnish the titles, but that's it.... I resented the graphics which do not enlighten the story and only serve to waste space." [10]

In December 2000, a fan expressed her opinion about a new trend: "There is a manipulated computer photo on the page starting "The Hug Sonnets" series of poems. It is a B&W "photo" of Kirk lying in Spock's arms. There is a hazy effect to it as if it were an actual artwork. Part of me hesitates to call this art, but I know in some fandoms computerized photos are considered art so I am guessing that that might be true in K/S as well. I know HIGHLANDER, in particular, has computer photos as art. I was even at two Escapade cons where computer photo art sold for major bucks in the art auction. And I will confess (shame on me!) that I even own some BLAKE'S 7 computer art on canvas as well as B7 art just on plain glossy computer paper (you know the stuff that gets sticky and then discolors eventually with age). So if K/S as a fandom now accepts computer photos as art, this piece on p. 81 is K/S art. The one advantage to it is that the characters really do look like Kirk and Spock. This photo/artwork is nothing I would ever be tempted to buy a copy of, but it is pleasant to look at and does decorate the page." [11]

Art Choice

Zine eds chose the art for their zines in many ways.

Some printed everything they received as fan artists were far fewer than writers. Submission requests and letters in zines were filled with zine eds begging for artists' submissions.

Other zine eds were able to be more picky, printing finer art.

Fans sometimes mentioned in LoCs how they often preferred a zine with no art rather than one with poor art. Some fans also wrote that they preferred fiction to art, and that even "good" art took up valuable space.

Some zine eds made decisions on what they included in their zines based not only on the quality of what they had received, but also whether the art was appropriate to the zine's content. One fan comments: "You will notice that there is almost no artwork in this issue. The reason is simple -- editors are cheap. And when you have 120 pages of typing, before artwork, well, you just cut down drastically on the artwork. And then there are the problems with the artwork we did, and did not, include. Allan Asherman's beautiful illustration of Commodore Spock, you might notice, shows him with a full head of hair. He is supposed to have a receeding hairline. But one just does not tamper with an Asherman drawing." [12]

The Scarcity of Artists

Zine eds were often beating the bushes for fan artists, begging for art for their zines (need some example comments)

No Frills Zines

As early as 1981, some zine eds started to put out no frills zine, citing reduced cost, the inability to find artists, and, some fans felt that it was better to have no art at all than mediocre material. Susan Crites discusses the new no-frills trend in zines in "They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Typewriter" a column in Datazine: "It's done as a way of holding down costs, but I can't help but think it also reflects the growing opinion that no art is better than printing mediocre stuff." [13]

One fan did not find a lack of zine art to be a bad thing. In a review of Cheap Thrills, she writes: "The zine is affordable ($7.75) and is devoid of the erotic art of greats such as Gayle F. In fact, it is the paucity of art that allows the zine to be so cheap. There are actually several advantages to this, other than price. One is that it allows the imagination to run free rein to picture K/S in many of the bizarre situations they have been thrust into this time around. Secondly, it makes the zine one of your best choices for a traveling companion. I read mine on a flight home from FebCon '81. If you've ever tried to read a Gayle F illoed zine in public, you know what I mean." [14]

Despite these no frills zines, fan art blossomed during most of the eighties, the Golden Age of fannish artistic feats.

Zine Art: A Decline in Amount

The amount of zine art started to diminish around the late 1980s and early 1990s. While zine eds had always constantly asked for fiction submissions, they often now begging for fan art, something that was always much scarcer than other fannish creations.

From the editor of a zine in 1992: "One thing you'll notice right away with this issue -- there is no interior art. The main reason for this is that it is just becoming too difficult to obtain illustrations. I had to ask our SH artists to work double duty this year anyway, for Distant Shores and Nightlight #2, so I didn't want to burden anyone for art for this Fix." [15]

In 1993, a fan wrote an LoC to a zine and said, "The explicit art surprised me a little, but then I'm not used to seeing it." The editor of the zine replied, "Actually, there used to be a lot more explicit K/S art. There is still great art in various convention art shows, the explicit art at 'slash' and K/S conventions in the past has been legion. Perhaps some art is never published, or published in obscure or out of print zines. That explains why so many fans these days haven't been exposed to it.... You really have to look around for art. It's out there. And it depicts anything you can imagine. I'd print more art if I could get it." [16]

One thing that may have coincided with the rise of word processing programs on early computers. With this new-fangled tool at their disposal, zine eds were able to add borders and other artistic embellishments themselves, including the dreaded clip art. They no longer needed to have a stable of artists and an important community was lost as artists moved on and away. "We also have illustrations this time which would not have been possible except for the great screen grabs of Carbook. They and a fun new photoshop plug- in kept April Valentine busy making some cool filler art." [17]

The rise of word processing programs is one reason for less art. But another one is image accessibility. Before the easy internet access to images, fans had been dependent on magazines, newspapers, and film clips to fill their visual curiosity and needs. Abundant fan art was part of this circle, giving fans plenty to feast on. The availability of images and photos on the internet starting around the mid-1990s also put a damper on zine art. No longer did fans need to ask each other for scarce photographs and images, something that had fed a hunger and created community and connection. There was part of a generation of fans that were not familiar with the custom of zine art, and did not feel a need to search it out or create it.

Photo Manipulations

When fans discovered photo manipulations, not all were enthusiastic about this new art form.

Artistic Expression and Practicality

from Datazine #12 (artist: Eluki), a fan artist gets conflicting direction

In 1975, a fan artist complained about the restrictions placed upon her: In an article called "To Censor the Art Critic" by Merrie K. writes:

"I am really quite angry at the directions given of what media should be used, how (size, layout, margins) it should be presented, and the general underlaying snide feeling that artists have no preference for themselves of what media lends itself best to the feeling wished to be engendered... No one [should] ever proscribe what, or how, a piece of artwork is to be born but the artist himself! Once made, it can be reduced or blown up to fit the format if need be. I would like to have seen the person who would have deigned to ask Picasso to produce so-and-so, in a certain ink, in a certain size, on a certain paper. Damn, that takes gall!... I resent limited schooled people, in the art field, making unqualified judgements about other people's work and publishing these comments as Godlike!!!")" [18]

She was reminded by other fans that there was no difference between fan artists and fan writers: both had to work hard to fit into the vision of the zine for which they were creating.

Notes on the History of Fan Art

Buying Used Zines: Buyer Beware

Be an alert consumer when buying used zines, especially those with art:. From a 2012 discussion:

...zine condition and art stripping. With older zines that have been sold or passed on several times, the condition of the zine can really suffer.

Also, the art may be missing - ESPECIALLY if it is by a well known and loved artist like Suzan Lovett. That's even more likely if it is a color print. I've seen this happen many times in both Pros and Star Trek:TOS. I know that many of the used copies of HA that have been for sale have had the color, two-page fold-out illo stripped from the zine.

Sometimes the reseller doesn't know the art is missing. The reseller might buy a zine used herself and not know there was supposed to be art (which isn't always listed in the TOC or they might not check closely) and so didn't mention it. Or if the reseller handles a large volume of used zines, they might not even look inside the zine, just make a cursory outside inspection for zine condition. Or if someone is selling off zines from which they removed art 10-15 years ago, they might genuinely not remember it.

Or they might just not tell you and figure buyer beware. That's why I think it's always a good idea to ask. The seller/reseller can than check and can't say they didn't know if there is a problem once you've received the zine.

Same goes with the actual zine - is it a used original, an authorized reprint, or merely a pirated Xerox copy? Pros has a LOT of pirated Xerox copies of zines floating around, particularly with OOP, older, Australian zines. Always ask! A reputable seller will never take offense and should be willing to describe the zine and its condition so you can check.[19]

Influential Print Zine Fan Artists

Lorraine Brevig | Shelley Butler | Marilyn Cole | Gamin Davis | Merle Decker | Deeb | Enednoviel | Gayle F| Connie Faddis | Geli | Barbara P. Gordon | Hindman | Jean Kluge | Ruth Kurz | Vel Jaeger | J. Jones | KOZ | Signe Landon | Ann Larimer | Suzan Lovett | Gee Moaven | Chris Myers | Caren Parnes | Karen River | Romanse | Marty Siegrist | Chris Soto | Pat Stall | Gennie Summers | TACS | Zaquia Tarhuntassa | Deb Walsh | Carol Walske | K9


  1. ^ from The K/S Press #139
  2. ^ from Dribbling Scribbling Women: The History of Our Art
  3. ^ Posted to the Virgule-L mailing list March 23, 1996.
  4. ^ See Cold Fish and Stale Chips #8.
  5. ^ from a fan's top five favorite zine list in Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? #4
  6. ^ from The Blackwood Project #11
  7. ^ Lysator, Tashery S., dated September 4, 1994.
  8. ^ from The K/S Press #46 (2000)
  9. ^ Review from As I Do Thee #4.
  10. ^ from The K/S Press #24
  11. ^ from a fan's comment in The K/S Press #52 (December 2000) about the art in T'hy'la #21
  12. ^ from the editorial in Kraith Collected #4
  13. ^ from Datazine #12
  14. ^ from Datazine #11
  15. ^ from The Fix #11
  16. ^ from Charisma #17
  17. ^ from The Fix #21
  18. ^ from Spectrum #25, May 1976
  19. ^ comment by taverymate in a discussion at Prosfinder, Archived version