Zine Time

Last night I attended an online workshop at the National Gallery of Art called Virtual Studio: Zine-making with Sarah Matthews, Printmaker & Book Artist.

I was interested in this topic because I’ve enjoyed the zine form for some years. I have done one myself that you may remember: Mom Takes the Train to Pittsburgh, Has a Great Time, and Then Goes Home, from 2013. At the time my son lived in that city and the zine tells the story of a visit I made to see him.

During this trip I visited the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, which has a special collection of zines to be read in the library. I spent a whole day there, read zines, and talked to librarians (a couple of them gave me a really nice tour of the library, which I thoroughly enjoyed). From this visit I was inspired to write my own zine about the train trip (which I also loved). And…guess what, my zine is now in the library’s collection. To read about how that came about, check out this post from 2013.

The author and her work.

I have also done a lot of artist books, generally using a discarded library book as the base and adding paint and collage for the images, and then writing poetry to fit the pictures. You may remember some of these, too:

In November

Carefree Light-hearted Travel Outing

Today and Tomorrow and Today Again

and one that is very precious to me, a joint project with a friend, Sharon Mann, who is no longer living here on earth, but always in my memory, Nothing But Sunshine.

These days, I express my book making motivations with my various artist sketchbooks. Some have poetry to accompany the pictures and others, well, they just have lots of pictures! I usually post these books bit by bit. The current version, Large Artist Sketchbook 2021 , is now in progress with a page spread posted each week.

Here’s a random selection from a past sketchbook as an example.


So – back to the topic of this post, the zine workshop! I was eager to see what we’d be doing. Sarah Matthews, our instructor, a printmaker and book artist (and an excellent teacher, I can say, after attending this workshop) gave us a simple list of materials we would need:

  • two sheets of any paper 8.5 x 11 inches or larger
  • various household scrap paper like newspaper, magazines, pattern paper, construction paper or wrapping paper
  • markers
  • scissors
  • glue stick or liquid glue
  • pencil

I assembled these items on my work table, plus a few others.

After some introductory remarks and a chance to look at some examples of artist books in the National Gallery’s collections, we got right to work. Sarah had a well-defined process for us to follow in this workshop and guided us with clear instructions and demonstrations so that we could end up with a finished tiny zine.

And, before I forget, this session was popular! There were 90 attendees from all over the US and some other countries too – I noticed Sweden and Argentina as we entered our home locations in the Chat on Zoom.

I won’t go through the steps of the workshop in detail – but basically, we took the large piece of paper and first covered it with a pattern – swirly loops, circles, whatever. I took out my India ink and a dip pen and did some asemic writing. I’m very fond of the rhythm of writing meaningless words!

Then we chose words (actual words) and wrote them over the patterns. I decided upon writing random words that popped into mind and went in alphabetical order.

By now a theme for my book was emerging – BOOKS! WORDS! and best of all, READING! If you know me, you know that I read a lot, and it’s my favorite thing to do. So it’s not surprising that I would make a book about…books.

All right. Next we did some folding of this paper and by making one cut with the scissors, we created a tiny booklet.

The last step was to collage or further enhance the interior. I did some tiny drawings with my pen and India ink and put them into the book along with some other papers.


Here’s what I came up with. The book is a little thing, maybe 3 1/2 inches tall or so. This is the front cover.

Here are the page spreads.

Here’s the back cover. I’m not sure why this guy is so cross, maybe someone interrupted him in the middle of a good novel?

Well, that’s the story! Thanks for coming along with me. I enjoyed making this little book and I’d like to do more of them. And of course, I will continue with the book projects I already have going. Books!


Look here for a previous workshop I did with the National Gallery involving poetry and art.

And if you want to try a workshop with the National Gallery of Art, Virtual Studio programs occur every couple of weeks and are free, but you need to register. Why don’t you check it out?

The website of the workshop’s instructor, Sarah Matthews, has a lot to show you. Take a look.

17 thoughts on “Zine Time

  1. memadtwo

    This looks like fun. Maybe I’ll try to get myself together to do one. I’ve had mixed success with the few I’ve tried, but I think it’s probably more me than the class. (K)

  2. lifelessons

    I love all of your pages! Looked back through a number of them that no longer allow comments. This is such a fun genre and you have it mastered.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. I like making books. It has been some time since I did any, other than my sketchbooks. This class has got me thinking about it again. I do like doing it and there are infinite ways to make it work.

  3. Laura (PA Pict)

    I have never attempted making a zine but I always think they look like fun when I see others create them. This methodology really seems to suit your style and your love of layering and mixing text with illustration.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      It was a lot of fun, and having a guide to start us off helped me relax into the project without the angst of “what will I make” what will it mean”. It was just able to happen. I think I could do a lot more of these and they are small, quick projects. I found an explanation online of the way we did the folding: https://www.jilliantamaki.com/how-to-make-a-zine
      if you are interested.

  4. Pingback: Story Time with Mom – Diane Podolsky

        1. Claudia McGill Post author

          I was thinking of your fabric books and who knows, maybe this would work too. When making the zine in the class, we only considered one side of the paper when we made the zine, with the other one plain, which was folded out of sight. But, I am sort of thinking that it should be decorated too, and can the book be refolded to show it? I can see this idea working in fabric really well. I think. I need to try it with my hands to see if it could work and the zine is a double zine. Wonder what you think.

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