Zine Supreme #5: Anna Campomanes
Welcome to Zine Supreme, a series in which I ask women and gender non-conforming folks making magic happen through the written and printed word about their work. Today's interview is with Anna Campomanes, who started making zines as an actual child and never stopped.
What prompted you to become a creator? How did you start making zines?
The number one most influential aspect of my life is I grew up in a nomadic life style - my mother was in the Air Force my whole childhood and that meant we moved every three years from base to base all over the country and for one international stint in Germany. New place, new house, new setting, no friends - that meant that my brain was constantly stimulated learning new things and moving gave me a taste for discovery. Not knowing a person or place is a wonderful space for a mind to get creative inventing stories and making up histories. Having no friends is also fertile land to learn how to entertain yourself.
My zine making started while living in Wyoming in the fourth grade. My family got a personal computer where I promptly discovered Microsoft Publisher. I made my first publication called "Animal Facts" for which I researched animals, wrote about them and carefully selected the type and color of font that would best represent that animal. I also wrote an editors column which asked for donations for the World Wildlife Fund. I ended up creating four issues and distributed it to family. Pretty good for a fourth grader!
I didn't actually find out what a zine was until 12 years later when i was making a "booklet" about spiders at the natural history museum I used to work at. Someone came up to me and said, "You're making a zine!" and I haven't looked back! I find the zine format very freeing - I can create something without worrying about making a masterpiece - the whole cut and paste ethos really sings to me.
What are your intentions as a creator? What do you hope to achieve when you make a zine?
My only intention as a creator and the only thing I hope to achieve is to pull work that percolates in my subconscious and interpret that through my physical body into a reality. As a creator I am not driven by an end result but definitely by process. My subconscious is, of course, informed by my values and philosophies about life. One of which is melding together art, science, and spirituality. Many people are taught to believe that these things are mutually exclusive - even dividing sciences into specialties leads people to believe these things are separate. When in reality everything is tied to everything else in the universe by unknown threads. In my work I like to harmonize and string these threads together.
And as far as intentions of achievement through my readers? I hope they learn something, I hope they can see the process, an alternate way of thinking. But what is wonderful about zines is that once they are made and released out into the universe it is out of my control.
How do you feel like your identities impact your work?
I'm a woman, a person of mixed heritage, and a military brat (what the children of military members call themselves); I was born to be an anthropologist, an outsider allowed to operate and thrive in different social spheres without ever being fully assimilated. I carry with me those identities and have developed a way of interacting with the world that makes me feel like a liberated outsider. A woman in a patriarchal society, a person with overlapping and conflicting cultures and someone who is essentially from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. I can adapt and change to new places and new people and do well but I will always be an outsider, I've never been able to stay in a place long enough to not be one. This fact is very liberating, however, because I can operate slightly askew from societal expectations. Anyone who's ever reinvented themselves in a new place understands this, artists understand this. It is incredibly freeing.
What materials do you use in your zines? What's your creative process like?
My creative process is basically a balance of my conscious and subconscious minds. If my conscious mind is working too hard it gets in the way of my creative flow and I get bogged down in the how to to bring out the conceptualization. On the other hand if my subconscious runs away with itself I'm left in a tangential day dream and I just sit on the couch fantasizing about how great my work is going to be and not actually do anything. My best work ends up being neither what my conscious or subconscious mind had imagined but really a collaboration between two parts of myself. It has taken a lot of practice to find a balance - mostly trying less planning, getting a more of a general idea of what I think I want to do and allowing room for on the spot problem solving.
I enjoy using mediums that lend themselves well to this loose style like drawing and colored pencils. Eventually I would like to be able to mix paint colors and pick up a brush as comfortably as I do a colored pencil, but I need more practice. A medium that requires a lot of planning that I do have success with is printmaking, and I'm most fond of reductive printing. What I like most about printmaking however is once you're done with the planning, there is an element of surprise in how a print will turn out.
What is the hardest part of this work - and why is it worth it?
I think the hardest part of any work is letting go of what you think you should be making, letting go of how you think it should look and trying not to control what feelings it elicits from people. It can be so easy to be disappointed in the execution and reception of your initial vision and that can really kill your drive to create and deaden the discipline it takes to make it. The hard part is realizing that your work is a product of you and was meant to be that way. If it's not something you like, or not received in a manner you were wishing it to, go back to the beginning and practice and try again. The work you make is the work you make. The hardest part is to have the discipline to do it again, to remake it, to do something new, to practice, to keep going.
Which of your zines or zines you've been a part of is your won favorite and why?
My Patron Saints of Space Exploration, because it is the first zine that I had synthesized my interests - art, science, religion and how-tos - to create something that I love and other people love. It is made purely from my imagination, after being informed by scientific research. I get a perverse glee in bending science to my artistic will but still maintaining its integrity. They are both beautiful ways to observe the world and I refuse to pick one.