Spring Zines, Spring Cleaning and a New Updated Zine Catalogue!

March 22, 2019 | Brent

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Is there such a thing as a pastoral zine?

Many zines have aesthetic roots in the Hairy Who, the artists (also known as the Chicago Imagists) whose own publications perfected a proto-punk vocabulary of demented cartoons. Later, Queer Punk zines like JDs invented a whole subculture by stylishly exploiting the gloppy aesthetics of cheap, bad photocopying to establish a visual corollary to their anarchic bona fides.

But Canzine last September left me wondering if zines with a quieter domestic side were becoming like...a thing? Zines can also work more like DIY examples of fine printing: really nice objects that appear in small run limited editions. The work I liked the most (and happily bought for the Toronto Reference Library's zine collection) could still be cynical and wise-ass but were also equally concerned abut how the ink works with the paper and how it all works as an aesthetic whole. Let's start a revolution with small and smart gifts.

Take for example Laura K. Watson's Correspondences: Prayers to Whom it May Concern and Conversations with the Mute.

Correspondences Zine

Her fragile drawings of figurines on dusty bookshelves are lovely in themselves but also cutting critiques of Western colonization.

Dust Poems

Similarly, her Dear Correspondent counterbalances loose highway-side drawings that recall David Hockney or Jennifer Bartlett with correspondences between the body and landscapes that "persistently resist domesticated charm."

Dear Correspondent

The same goes for Tender by Katie Carey and Erin McPhee. It's a two-hander (each artist gets one half of the zine) and while both artists' gorgeous blue-on-blue drawings have domesticated charm to spare, they're also very arch dissections of romantic cliches. 

Tender Zine Cover
Tender Zine Cover Two

One drawing engages in baldfaced lamp-shading by declaring “This Flower is a metaphor for our relationship.” Another drawing titled How Plants Can Hurt You exemplifies their quirky humour : "They mistook you for someone else/You got too close/It's just in their nature." 

Full page spread of faces and planters

 Joining the two is A Garden in Manila by Olivia Ongai that joins watercolor paintings of flora from her native Philippines (complete with a pronunciation guide and a vlog.)

Birds of False Paradise

Ongai's stories blend practical botany and personal narrative. But she never makes it exactly clear how much is metaphorical and how much is just instructional. Read one way her description of santans make them a botanical cousin of Proust's madeleine :

Santans are usually used as hedges. They seem to always be flowering. We had red-orange as well as yellow blossoms and occasionally bright pink. Every Filipino garden probably has a santan bush, and yes, they are also brought to school as a quick and cheap mass offering.

How to extract and taste santan nectar as passed on from schoolchild to schoolchild:

Take a single floret pull the stigma the yellow bit that sticks out of the top of the floret from the long straw like style in either direction (up from the middle of the flower or down from the bottom of the style. Pulling the stigma forces the nectar out of the floret. Immediately lick the nectar. The nectar is a clear fluid barely more than a drop but you’d be able to taste its sweetness nonetheless.


If you're still suffering from spring fever, Natalie Draz' Pop-Up Toronto joins a loopy inventiveness with soft Toronto landmarks.

Pop-Up Toronto
Even paper Trinity Bellwoods sounds really good right now.


And although they're not necessarily pastoral, a shout out is definitely in order to the artists of the Wavering Line Collective. The latest edition of their biannual magazine Wavering Line 4 features a bunch of artists trying to make the most of green and brown ink. Everyone contributes impressive work but the fantasy illustrations by founding member Jean deMers won me over first.

Wavering Line Fantasy Drawing

All these new additions to our zine collection on the 5th floor Arts Department of Toronto Reference Library are probably a good indicator that it's time to update our 
Online Zine Catalogue (2019). Our collection is now up to over 800 titles.

Perhaps the best news about pastoral zines is knowing that Zineland Terrace will be coming back this May as part of TCAF: The Toronto Comic Arts Festival . The zine festival will be in the Cumberland Terrace just next to the big comics show that takes over Toronto Reference Library. Now I really can't wait for Spring.

Zineland Terrace
This year's Zine Terrace runs from May 12-13, 2019.