Young artists show skill with zines at Northwind Art

By Kirk Boxleitner
Posted 7/3/24



This spring and summer have seen a number of graduations, ranging from Jefferson County high school graduations, to alumni of those same local schools completing their …

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Young artists show skill with zines at Northwind Art




This spring and summer have seen a number of graduations, ranging from Jefferson County high school graduations, to alumni of those same local schools completing their specializations within the military, such as Chimacum High School Class of 2022 alum Isaac Reid graduating from the Coast Guard Intelligence Specialist A-School on June 7.

Perhaps among the most unorthodox of graduations, though, was the trio of young artists who went above and beyond a course offered by the Northwind Art School this spring.

Children’s book writer and illustrator Dana Sullivan taught a class of 12 students at his “After School Comix Camp,” at the Northwind Art School at Fort Worden, of which three took up his challenge to work with him for another month on their “zines,” to get them “up to snuff” for induction into the Port Townsend Public Library’s collection.

And on the afternoon of May 9, Northwind Art’s Jeanette Best Gallery offered a uniquely interactive exhibition, as two 11-year-olds and a 9-year-old not only presented copies of the miniature art publications they’d produced, but also demonstrated their drawing skills in front of a live audience, on easel-sized sheets of paper.

S’tša Ellis-Hall and Calder Howe, both 11-year-old students at the Sunfield Farm and Waldorf School in Port Hadlock, stood proudly with Aki Lee-Mäder, a 9-year-old student at the Swan School in Port Townsend, as Sullivan explained what “zines” are to the supportive crowd.

The term “zine” was coined in 1940, and originated in sci-fi fandom, to describe a small-circulation, self-published magazine, typically printed through inexpensive, low-tech media, and Sullivan’s students produced comic books as their zines.

Ellis-Hall chronicled the day-long camping trip of “Billy the Cat,” while Howe showcased the misadventures of a trio of penguins he’d dubbed “Ice Pals,” and Lee-Mäder explored the playful conflict between “Tuxedo the Cat and Mary Lou,” the cat’s owner, as she sought to keep him out of the trash.

“These kids were willing to work hard to get better at their craft,” Sullivan said. “They not only took direction from me, but also gave each other ideas on how to improve, which is rare.”

Sullivan noted that Jefferson County kids have historically performed well in producing zines, since previous winners of the Washington State Zine Contest — conducted by the Washington Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Library of Congress — include Kaylee Klebanow, now a 15-year-old student of the Olympic Peninsula Home Connection’s Port Townsend campus, who won in 2020 with “The Adventure of Unihorn,” and Gina “Will” Tran, now a 14-year-old freshman at Port Townsend High School, who won in 2023 with “Lead Head.”

Lee-Mäder was inspired by his real-life experiences with a garbage-eating dog named “Tuxedo,” while Howe’s interest in penguins owes in part to his concerns over how they’re being impacted by climate change, and Ellis-Hall freely conceded that his distinctive way of drawing “Billy the Cat” stems from a conscious embrace of brisk utility, since his cat sports neither whiskers nor a tail.

Sullivan then placed his students on the spot by challenging them to draw within a limited window of time, since he embraces jazz composer Duke Ellington’s quote: “I don’t need time. I need a deadline.”

Now that their zines are done, Lee-Mäder admitted he’d be taking a bit of a breather from art, while Howe has already begun producing a sequel to “Ice Pals,” and Ellis-Hall has embarked on a more ambitious, mural-style art project.

In the meantime, not only can their zines be found at the Port Townsend Public Library, but Sullivan informed them that afternoon that their zines would also be stocked at Strange Days Comics and Games, on the mezzanine inside Aldrich’s grocery store.

Sullivan concluded the afternoon’s proceedings by leading his trio of students in his “Pencil Power Pledge,” calling upon them to keep writing and drawing their stories, “because nobody can tell my stories the way I can,” before he exhorted them to “write on!”