Drawings From The Milwaukee Zine Fest Part 4: Madonna

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Here's the final batch of drawings collected at last Saturday's Milwaukee Zine Fest. Check out the other great drawings here, here, and here. Thanks again to the festival's organizers, everyone who attended, and everyone who made a drawing for this project.


Drawings From The Milwaukee Zine Fest Part 3: Glenn Danzig

Monday, December 12, 2011

Here is a third set of drawings from the fourth annual Milwaukee Zine Fest, which happened on Saturday. This set is comprised of drawings inspired by Glenn Danzig's hairdo. Thanks as always to the amazing drawers who keep this project going. Check out Saturday's Elvis drawings here and the Gloria Gaynor drawings here, and check back soon for some great renditions of Madonna.

Drawings From The Milwaukee Zine Fest 2011 Part 2: Gloria Gaynor

As promised, here is another batch of drawings acquired for The Famous Hairdos of Popular Music at the fourth annual Milwaukee Zine Fest, held last Saturday. You can see the first post here, featuring a recap of the event and all of the drawings inspired by Elvis' famous hairdo. Today is Gloria Gaynor's turn. Thanks as always to all the drawers, to whose creativity and generosity this project is actually dedicated. Check back soon for more drawings.

Milwaukee Zine Fest 2011 Part 1: Elvis

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Milwaukee Zine Fest 2011
Above: Outside The Polish Falcon, Milwaukee, WI, December 10, 2011

The fourth annual Milwaukee Zine Fest happened today, and I was in attendance representing Lemon o Books and The Famous Hairdos of Popular Music. With absolutely zero offense meant towards zine fests of the Chicago or Madison persuasions (which I've attended and at which I've had splendid times), this was the best festival I've tabled. And right in my backyard, too! My heart swells with pride.

So, what made this event so great? Was it the awesome crew of organizers, all the great folks who came out, all my fellow exhibitors, the bottomless cup of coffee, my gregarious table-neighbor Ben with the firm handshake, all my friends and family who came to say hello, the abundance of crazy, little kids being their crazy, little selves? Well, I'll tell you what it wasn't-- the weather! It was super cold. But all those other things, those are the things which set the day apart. When five o'clock rolled around, it was like last call after a great night out: bittersweet with a desire to keep the party going. Thanks for a great day, Milwaukee!

Below, behold some Elvis drawings that were done by festival attendees. Deep (like deep-sea-chasm-deep) thanks as always to the drawers without whom The Famous Hairdos of Popular Music project would not exist. And keep your browser glued to this spot for more drawings in the coming days.

I believe the artist of this first drawing told me it represents a bobble-head on skis.

A word of explanation about the next drawing. This one was drawn by my nephew Jonathan (age four). Here's the play by play about the guy depicted: he's making tacos, right? And he's cutting a jalepeno, but somehow he cuts both his eyes. And he has to see the doctor right away. And that's why he's frowning. I hope that clears up any confusion.

The above drawing is by Eric Bartholomew who makes a zine called Junk Drawer. He's been a welcome presence at every zine fest I've ever attended. Read more about Eric's work and travels here.

One more drawing, this one by my friend Kate. If you read this, Kate, it was good catching up.

Thanks for looking. There are more drawings coming soon. Here's looking forward to a great Milwaukee Zine Fest 2012, which should happen just before the Apocalypse doesn't.

Fall Breaks and Back to Winter

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Here's some autumn news and events.

First off, Quimby's Bookstore in Chicago is selling copies of Actual Bird Song at their store and online. They have been super supportive of The Famous Hairdos of Popular Music project, and I'm very excited and thankful that they are showing love for this latest endeavor, too. Check out their listing here.

On Saturday December 10th, the fourth annual Milwaukee Zine Fest will be taking place in Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood. I'll be there behind a table all day, so if you'll be in Milwaukee that day, please come and say hello. In the meantime, check out the festival's website here. I'm very excited to be attending again after a year off.

Finally, be sure to check back for details about future projects from Lemon o Books. Already in the works are the next volume of The Famous Hairdos of Popular Music (volume seven!) and a sort of follow-up/successor to Actual Bird Song. This book will be another quasi-field guide with a CD of accompanying music by one or more musicians. Count on more details about these projects as they continue to take shape.

Happy fall, everyone.

The Copy Machines I Have Known

Friday, November 4, 2011

gravander_1 - Punch Yourself In The Face Machine, 2011
Above: Neil Gravander, Punch-Yourself-In-The-Face Machine, 2011
(Photo Courtesy of Lynden Sculpture Garden)

The biggest news here at The Famous Hairdos of Poplar Music/Lemon o Books in a month of big news and activity is the publication of Actual Bird Song. Actual Bird Song is a collaborative art project comprising a short zine and a 30-minute CD featuring sound collages, both inspired by birds and bird song. You can read the original post unveiling this long-brewing project here.

I made the book, and I've yakked about that at some length already, but the audio side of the project hasn't been featured as much. The CD features two tracks, the first by Lucky Bone and the second by Slow Owls. These two Milwaukee musicians took actual bird songs (well, recordings of actual bird songs) and used them as raw material to create audio collage. I would like to write here about Lucky Bone and his current art projects and then abruptly grind gears to express some ideas about how his work might relate to my own book projects.

Lucky Bone is the alias for the sound-making projects and performances of Neil Gravander. The original, germinal idea for Actual Bird Song was Neil’s, but it’s amazing that he got his part completed by our self-imposed October deadline. This is not due to any laziness on his part; rather, it's the opposite, because just before our idea was born, he received a grant to make a large art installation. This work is currently on display at the Inova/Kenilworth Gallery here in Milwaukee, and it's quite an accomplishment. You can check it out at 2155 North Prospect Avenue before it comes down December 4th. If you can, you definitely should.

Much of Neil's recent sculptural work uses VCRs and tube TVs, once-ubiquitous electronic devices which are now viewed as obsolete. One fascinating element of this work, besides the pieces' interactivity and sometimes flat-out beauty, is the recognition that they could not have been realized with any other technology. Hearing Neil's tales of scouring Milwaukee-area thrift stores for his materials, I know how specific his parameters could be for the ideal materials for his project. Adam Krause's catalog essay for the installation elaborates on this theme:
E.F. Schumacher popularized the notion of “appropriate technology” – the idea that the latest technology is not necessarily the proper means for achieving one’s ends. What has been deemed obsolete may actually prove to be the best tool for a particular task. Neil Gravander uses supposedly antiquated technologies...to generate sounds and images that could not be realized any other way.

Experiencing Neil’s pieces, there is a certain nostalgic recognition of the original function of the televisions, but the work resists becoming a commentary on our culture’s passive consumption of media. For one thing, many pieces require interactivity to fully function. They are all clearly handmade, often clumsily so, and shrug off didactic meaning by instead calling for the viewer to participate in the sense of play that obviously went into their creation. As Neil writes in his artist statement for the exhibition, “Within the realm of electronics, I know just enough to not get myself killed and to have some idea of what might be possible.” Taking these electronic devices as raw materials (as he did with recordings of bird song for our collaboration), he toyed with them until they unleashed the results he was after.

gravander_Colliding Circles, 2011
Above: Neil Gravander, Colliding Circles: Epileptic Electrons, 2011
(Photo Courtesy of Lynden Sculpture Garden)

Thinking about these ideas led me to ponder my own relation to an electronic device also seemingly at the twilight of its mass utility, the copy machine. This is on my mind especially while trying to promote Actual Bird Song. Elsewhere, I recently declared that for me this project was either six months or 28 years in the making. I meant to express my extreme pride, the way it formalized all my years of bird obsession, and how I think this is far and away my best book creation. I tend to use the word book way more than zine when describing my work, not out of any antipathy toward zines but because I am concerned with the way in which books (zine or otherwise) function. Some zinemakers are more concerned with the content of their zines outside of its relation to the book form, and this is valid. Others emphasize the handmade and embrace a rough aesthetic (equally valid). I strive to make formally beautiful books, and I do this with a photocopier, creating them with this means of production in mind.

In 1992, when I was eight or nine years old, my father got his first copy machine for his home office, although it was not new when he acquired it. It was a massive machine whose exact color, like much office equipment of its vintage, resides at that unnamable nexus of beige, light gray, and off-white. Or perhaps my memory is untrustworthy, and it was in fact light gray. Today, in 2011, I had to call my mother who confirmed that this copy machine was manufactured by Ricoh. Had she said Xerox, Canon, or Toshiba, I am sure I could have pictured each company’s logo just as easily as Ricoh’s. Believe me, though, that this copy machine was an important part of my life. When it finally broke (my fault, age 18), it was like the death of a family pet.

The arrival of that copy machine in 1992 means that for almost 20 years I have been using photocopiers to make and reproduce artwork. When that first copier arrived at our home, I was immediately trying to convince my dad to let me copy a drawing I had just made on a Post-It note.

As a zinemaker, my work exists in the context of the handmade books and zines that came before me and those being made today. One common conception of zines is that their means (typically they are photocopied, handmade) are a by-product of necessity, and this is not untrue. Photocopying small editions of books has long been a more viable option for many than offset printing and professional binding (although this is becoming less and less true). However, these traits do not guarantee that an artistic compromise was made, as though, if not for poverty, every photocopied book would have been printed through some "better" means. A photocopy is not simply a low-cost reproduction, it is a form of printing with its own intrinsic qualities which can be considered and exploited for artistic effect.

As a kid, my photocopied output was largely confined to making duplicates of drawings. The originals were usually ballpoint pen renderings on sheets of copy paper. I remember showing one of my reproductions to one of my brothers . He said that it looked like a photocopy of one of my drawings, and I didn’t know how to respond. Of course it was. I could not then articulate and maybe I still can't, but I was infected by the joy of seeing something reproduced, of an image duplicated. An ephemeral drawing somehow became more official and more real when reiterated. And my tool was my dad's copy machine.

In the winter of 2005, in my second to last year of college, I used some of my student loan disbursement to purchase my own copy machine. It was a cheap desktop machine made by Canon, that same nameless gray color but much smaller and slower than the old Ricoh and without the ability to reduce or enlarge. Still, I was excited, and I tried to share with friends my excitement to once again have a copy machine in my home. They invariably explained to me, as though breaking bad news, that an all-in-one copier, scanner, printer could be had for up to half what I had paid for my new copier. They didn’t understand the joy of toner. Inkjet prints cannot compare to copies, not because one is superior, necessarily, but because they are produced by very different devices.

Physically, a copy is toner melted to paper with heat and pressure on a cylindrical drum. A copy comes out of the copy machine warm and smelling like a hair-dryer. Photocopiers can make velvety blacks or graphite-like grays, depending on the specific machine or the settings used or the original being copied. They are very limiting in many ways, and limitations, I think, are good for artists. You can’t register with fine accuracy. They print in one color, and that color is almost always black. Successive generations of copies degrade in quality quickly. But having grown up with a photocopier, I know all this, and I know how to make art that I am proud of using these means.

An inkjet printer does many things that a copy machine can do and it does many things better, but this does not mean that one should replace the other, at least as far as an artist should be concerned. If an idea is conceived to be reproduced on a copy machine, it can be beautiful for what it is, not as a compromise to be apologized for. While techniques like letterpress and silkscreen printing are enjoying a revival at the moment, photocopying retains its lowly stature. The photocopy was never state of the art as a printing method. Its primary association is with office work. None of this should invalidate its use for artmaking or limit the scope of what this art can take on. Just as Neil Gravander's art unapologetically utilizes outmoded video technology for its intrinsic technological and aesthetic qualities, an artist who primarily uses a copy machine should hope for his or her work to be encountered on its own terms.

I hope to continue making books, and I am confident that a copy machine will continue to play some part. Maybe one day I will conceive a project that will be produced in some other way, and it will be created with that in mind. In the meantime, please consider checking out Actual Bird Song, the newest photocopied book from Lemon o Books.

Madison Zine Fest

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Hello again! It feels great to be posting a second time in one week.

Monday saw the grand Internet unveiling of Actual Bird Song, a zine that has nothing to do with hairdos, famous or otherwise. In fact, it is all about creatures with feathers. I am very excited about that book and its accompanying CD, but don’t think that The Famous Hairdos of Popular Music project has been abandoned, forgotten, or neglected. Below are three sets of hairdo drawings collected at the Madison Zine Fest, which was held this past weekend in Madison, Wisconsin on a beautiful fall Saturday. I was there, manning a table, for most of the day. Thanks to the organizers and everyone who came out.


The above set of drawings was done by a quiet fellow whose name I wish I knew, who came to the festival all the way from Portland (Oregon, I presume) and sat at the table to my immediate right.


This second batch was done by Brad Gottschalk (www.silenttheatercomics.com), a cartoonist who sat to my left and the acquaintance of whom I am glad to have made. We discussed Aldo Leopold, coffee, architecture, and the runaway popularity of the name Ethan. The third set of drawings is by a festival-attendee who was kind enough to stop and make drawings for me.


Thanks to everyone who came to the Madison Zine Fest, checked out books, made a drawing, or said hello. And thanks again to Jason and family for the air mattress, coffee, and companionship.

Actual Bird Song

Monday, October 24, 2011

Actual Bird Song

The newest publication from Lemon o Books is the first to be totally unrelated to the ongoing Famous Hairdos of Popular Music project. I am incredibly proud of this one.

A "field guide and audio companion," Actual Bird Song is a short visual zine and a two track, 30 minute compact disc. I designed and produced the book, while Milwaukee musicians Lucky Bone and Slow Owls each contributed a track. These three parts were created in isolation but, I think, complement each other in interesting ways. Together they comprise an open-ended meditation on bird song and humanity’s relationship to the natural world. They are waiting for readers and listeners to join the conversation.

Below are some more images, a brief explanation, and information for obtaining a copy through the mail.

Actual Bird Song
Actual Bird Song
Actual Bird Song
Actual Bird Song
Actual Bird Song
Actual Bird Song

Writing here as the book designer, I can only explain my own motivations for the visual component of the project. Despite the title’s implication of scientific rigor and accuracy, Actual Bird Song is an exercise in pseudo-science-- book design and illustration as a vehicle for abstractly considering our relationship to nature as outside observers, our frequent inability to contain and grasp the wildness from which we have secluded ourselves and for which many simultaneously yearn. I tried to avoid using birds as a ready metaphor for human desires and ended up doing just that anyway. Taking the idea of a “field guide” literally, Actual Bird Song is an attempt to visually depict the sensation of standing in a field surrounded by the sounds of avian activity using the language of textbook illustration.

The books and CDs were produced in an edition of 100. The covers and endpapers are beautiful French Paper products, milled in the Midwest with hydroelectric power. The fore-edge corners are rounded to resemble the pocket field guides on my nightstand that never seem to make the trip to actual fields. The printing was done at Milwaukee’s own Clark Graphics, where their professionalism is matched only by their patience. Thanks to them and to Lucky Bone and Slow Owls for making this project real.
Anyone who wants a copy should mail $5.00 well-concealed cash to:
P.O. Box 11872
Milwaukee, WI 53211
Shipping costs are included in the price for anyone living in the contiguous United States. International friends should email for more information. Update: This title is sold out.

Three New Drawings or Back to Life, Back to Reality

Monday, October 10, 2011

Welcome back, everybody! Above is one of three new drawings submitted over the weekend to The Famous Hairdos of Popular Music project by a fine fellow named Zach. You can scroll down to see the other two (please do...I like them a lot). If you then scroll a little further down, you can ascertain by the date of the last post that almost two months have elapsed between those drawings and these. In that time the humid days of August have given way to a fleeting Indian Summer, and winter is surely on its way. Sorry, folks. But don't worry because there is exciting news on the horizon here at The Famous Hairdos HQ and Lemon o Books!

Before the end of October, this space will have news of a brand new zine for you to cherish. This publication will have nothing to do with hair, but it will be beautiful. I am very excited to share it with the world. The grand public unveiling will occur at the Madison Zine Fest on October 22nd, 2011. If you happen to be in Wisconsin's fair capitol that day, I highly recommend you attend this event. And then, on December 10th, before the full force of winter strikes the Midwest like a linebacker at the Ice Bowl, I'll be making an appearance at the Milwaukee Zine Fest with boxes of zines for sale and trade.

Check back here for more information about all these doings. I promise it won't be as quiet as it has been. Thanks for looking, and thanks again, Zach, for these great drawings! Best wishes, all.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Check out these new drawings. They're done by a friend named Joe who has had drawings featured here before. Thanks, Joe!


Drawings from Utah

Monday, August 1, 2011

Here are just a couple drawings from a stack of images that were waiting in an envelope in the Famous Hairdos P.O. Box this morning.

The drawings came here to Milwaukee from a state prison in Utah, and, as you can see, the url for the artist's blog is written around each picture. Please check it out at brandongreensblog.blogspot.com. Thank you so much for the drawings, Brandon.