Get to Know Your Zinester: Fiona Avocado

What was your first zine about and when was it made?

The first zine I made was called I’d Rather Be Here. I made it in 2010 in college when I took a comics course at Michigan State University. It’s four autobiographical (or semi-autobiographical) comics that are all horrifically corny, embarrassing, and naïve. I’ll probably never re-print it.

Describe your most recent zine.

My most recent zine is called The Fika Diaries. It’s a montage of travel journal  and memoir comics about my time in Sweden. I lived in Gävle, Sweden as an exchange student in 2005-2006 for a year, and returned for a visit last spring for the first time in seven years. The title stems from the Swedish word fika, which means a coffee break where you will eat sandwiches or baked goods or some kind of snack. It’s kind of the Swedish equivalent of English tea time. In the comic, I mostly focus on my time back more recently, but I do include some memoir. My experience in Sweden had a pretty profound effect on who I am and my identity, as a person, and strangely enough as an artist. I don’t get super in depth about my time there, I’ll probably do a sequel at some point in the future (no promises as to when.)

Of all the things you’ve ever made, zine-related or otherwise, what’s your one favorite?

I’m pretty excited about The Fika Diaries because it mixes all of my styles/focuses into one zine. However, Jade was exciting  because it was a huge breakthrough in my comics. I felt that it took my work to the next level.

Name three of your influences and how they affected your work.

Oooooof. Three?! I have so many!

Anyway, Lynda Barry is incredible. Any time I’m feeling stuck I read What It Is or Picture This. Both books really help me overcome any creative blocks and creative fears I have. I bring a lot of her ideas into my teaching work, especially with youth and non-creative types who are overcoming their artistic fears. There is a part in What It Is that really resonates with me. She talks about being a kid and how when we were kids we’d make so much art and music and nothing stops us. Yet as we get older we run into critical voices of discouragement that tell us that our work isn’t good enough, we thus become self conscious and stop making art and music. I think that was me for a really long time, especially after being a Studio Art major for two years in college. I never felt like my work was good enough and that I was wasting my time and money. When I started making comics and printmaking, I got over that and realized that a lot of the criticism I was getting in art school was total bullshit. Reading the work of folks like Lynda Barry really made me overcome a lot of my internal criticism and take creative risks.

Cindy Crabb of Doris is a strong zine influence. I remember when I was 18, before I realized I was making my own zines. I was on a train to Chicago with a copy of the Doris Anthology my sister gave me. I was some freshman college kid in the midwest. From the first page in, I was totally sucked in and blown away. Some really amazing thing had happened to small town angsty teenage girl me once I read Doris. I realized I wasn’t alone. I realized that it was ok to write about yourself and share it. To this day it’s still one of my favorite zines.

Another huge influence on my work is Justseeds, a radical printmaking cooperative of artists from North America. The collective is pretty diverse, but the political bent in their work was what got me into printmaking, and in some senses, politically engaged comics and zine making. Dylan Miner, a member of Justseeds, was my professor and thesis advisor during my undergraduate years at MSU (My zine Pedagogy As Dissent was my undergraduate thesis). Working with him was really influential in shaping my work during those years and beyond. Another Justseeds artist who has left a profound impression on me is Favianna Rodriguez, a printmaker, digital artist, and activist. She’s not a cartoonist, and I don’t follow her style, but the subject matter of her work and what shes does is super inspiring. Her words are amazing. She’s unapologetic about everything in ways I wish more people were and it’s awesome.

What do you do when you’re not creating and how does it help or harm what you do artistically?

I’m almost always creating something, even though it’s not always involving making comics. I’m also a printmaker, knitter,  writer, and arts educator. I also love cooking and homemaking. I ride my bike a lot. I used to work a lot with arts non-profits, but I’ve stepped back to focus more on my artistic and writing goals.

I think not creating is just as important as creating, because it helps inspire my creative work. When I’m not creating, I’m a huge daydreamer. I journal like crazy. I think a lot about political and social justice work. I haven’t been directly involved in many activist projects lately, but I see myself as an artist/activist, and strive for most of my work to have a political bent to it. Lately i’ve been thinking a lot about white privilege and anti-oppression work, and my place in that as a queer, white politically and socially engaged artist, storyteller, and educator.

See more from Fiona Avocado over here!

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