It’s sunny and hot, and a new issue of The Green Bean – all about summer walks and picnics – is here.
When I pick up Green Beans from the printers, they look a bit drab: my work isn’t quite done. Part of what I think people like about the Green Bean is its handmade feel, and a lot of that is down to the touches I add after the printers, when many people would consider it finished.
I am a pathological perfectionist. The first change I make to the freshly pressed Green Beans is to sharpen the crease with a (vegetarian) bone folder, then trim the three edges to make them flush. I do this by hand with a scalpel, and have a fine callus on my index finger from the 2000+ Green Beans that I’ve finished this way. One day, I will invest in a guillotine.
After the trimming, I punch the corners. My Zutter heavy-duty lifetime-guaranteed corner-rounder has indeed lived up to its claim, and continues to plough through whole Green Beans in one clunk.
Next, the best bit! I pick from my generous supply of Neon Green Lyra Colour Giant pencils and colour the beans on the front by hand.
Finally I sign and number the issue and send it on its merry way out into the world…
Once I’ve done the inking, my work on paper for a Green Bean is done for the time being. I scan the artwork (which is drawn at print size) and work in Photoshop to remove my pencil lines and yellowy choice of paper, leaving a crisp black and white illustration.
I do this for each double page, gradually over the space of a few weeks – sometimes months! – until I have 32 pages of artwork and a front cover. These I assemble into a PDF document and then trundle along to the printers, rucksack full of precious recycled paper.
It took me a bit of trial and error and a couple of bad print runs to find the right printer for The Green Bean. I knew I wanted it to be somewhere local, so I could visit in person to explain my very specific requirements and check proofs. I didn’t really mind how much I had to pay so long as the zines looked right, and in the end I found competitive prices and great service at Clifton Print Services, who’ve been printing The Green Beans ever since. I can’t recommend them highly enough and, though it will complicate matters slightly, I hope to keep using them to print The Green Bean even when I no longer live in Bristol!
A little over three years ago, I set pen to paper on Volume 1, Issue 1 of a little something I called The Green Bean.
When I decided I wanted to make my own magazine (I didn’t even really know what a zine was), I didn’t really think much about whether anyone would read it. I mean, I knew I wanted to sell it, but I never really expected anyone to buy, except perhaps well-meaning and polite friends and family who probably wouldn’t read it anyway.
Volume 1, Issue 1 came out in May 2010, and I was fortunate enough to have it reviewed on Pikaland which gave it a great headstart. Since then my regular(ish) paper ramblings have found a steadily growing audience all over the world, and I’m still not sure quite how! Perhaps it’s best not to question these things, and just be thankful to the people that support me to keep doing something that I love so much.
As the Green Bean heads into it’s fourth year of publication, production has become quite streamlined. It’s had to be, really, for me to keep it going alongside work on much bigger projects, Lighter Than My Shadow and The Crystal Mirror. Every issue begins life as a page of notes or a list, and I’m usually 2-3 issues ahead of myself with the planning. Sometimes I’ll settle on a theme that guides the content, other times I just add ideas to the list as and when the come and an issue ends up being a nice hotch-potch.
The issue I’m working on now is loosely about picnics and summer walks. I have other issues in the pipeline for later this year: one about moving to a new town, one about turning 30, and always my favourite ones to produce: an issue about an upcoming holiday.
Once I’ve planned a whole issue, I can start drawing (that’s tomorrow’s blog).
Two years ago, and again a year before that, I spent three weeks on a working retreat in the English countryside. The purpose was to leave all distractions and commitments behind and give myself time to focus completely on Lighter Than My Shadow. After both of those retreats I came back with a new draft of the entire book.
I also made some friends, and after the second retreat I published a (now sold out) zine about them. And, well, it’s been two years and I have a new project that needs my complete time and attention. I also miss these nine woolly ladies. So I’m off to spend a week with them, getting my head down and making some progress on The Crystal Mirror and Other Stories. But who knows, perhaps I’ll come back with some new sheep drawings too…