Zine Supreme #3: Vivian Shih

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 Vivian Shih, an illustrator who learns about the world through her work and wants to tell stories with it. 

What prompted you to become a creator? How did you start making zines?

I have always loved drawing ever since I can remember. My sister and I loved making things when we were younger. We used to create a "newsletter" together around age eight about TV shows and music we liked, put together in Microsoft Word with drawings from Microsoft Paint and our own writing. We used to take crayons and draw all over the walls of my parent's living room. In my angsty adolescent years, I turned to art as an outlet and a form of self-expression. Eventually I went to Art Center College of Design to pursue a degree in illustration, and my studies have translated into my career as an illustrator and designer. I started making (legitimately) zines for the first time during a class in college, and fell in love with the process of pairing images together to create a story.

What are your intentions as a creator? What do you hope to achieve when you make a zine?

My intentions as a creator is to create something I personally find beautiful while sharing insight on things I find interesting and want to learn more about, or share a message I want to draw the viewer's attention to. I do this in forms of zines often. If there is a topic of interest I want to explore, deciding to create a zine is a perfect excuse for me to research and learn while visually depicting what I feel or see about the subject. For example, I have created zines on punk culture, rural homes, and Neo Soul singers. When I make a zine about a certain topic, the subject becomes a part of me.

How do you feel your identities impact your work?

It impacts it hugely! People often say that artists draw themselves, even if it's accidental. This resonates greatly with me. I like to draw myself as other people, and sometimes they end up looking like myself anyways. Even if I'm working on an illustration, I'll relate to a specific part of that story and illustrate that scene or idea.

What materials do you use in your zines, and what’s your creative process like?

My go-to materials are acrylic inks, watercolors, and the good old pen. I enjoy drawing and expressive lines, because it helps me feel out the subject of my artwork. My zines are often derived from my drawings, ink paintings, and sometimes writing, which I collect together digitally to create a booklet. Oftentimes I will print out test zines to see what I like or what I would like to change about the layout. It all goes back to storytelling and the way the somebody flips through your zine page by page is important to the story or aesthetic of a zine.

What’s the hardest part of this work - and why is it worth it?

Every single project I work on gets stressful at one point. I'll get insecure or start hating what I am working on, but usually this is the point when all I need is to step away and take a break. It's always more fun coming back to a zine project clear headed and inspired again. There have been times when I've created zines that I've hated or have been disappointed about, but these feelings are only encouragement to better the next one.

Which of your zines or zines you’ve been a part of is your own favorite, and why?

My favorite zine right now is one titled "The LA(nd) Around Us" which I created in collaboration with my friends Bijou Karman and Juliette Toma, risograph printed and published by our friends at Tiny Splendor. This zine is a collection of drawings, collage, and photos based on our home, Los Angeles. I love working with my friends collaboratively because it's great to see our work side by side and in a new light.

You can find Vivian on Instagram and Twitter.


Carmen Rios is the Managing Editor at Argot Magazine, Digital Editor at Ms., Community Director and Feminism Editor at Autostraddle, and a Contributor at Everyday Feminism. Her words have been published by BuzzFeed, BITCH, ElixHER, MEL, and Feministing, among others, and she was once a blogger and activist with the SPARK Movement, a writer at Mic, and Managing Editor of THE LINE Campaign blog. Carmen's successful work for over eight years in digital feminism—as a writer, social media maven, and activist leader—has earned her the titles of “digital native,” “intimidating to some,” and “vapid and uninteresting.” She's too honest on Twitter , too vague on Tumblr and consistently uses the same Instagram filter.

You can also find her at  carmenfuckingrios.com

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