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A New Zine Produced by the Illustrator Collective of Your Dreams

A Berlin-based clubhouse of illustrators? Expect a lively experiment in anti-narrative + collaborative thinking.

Imagine the most colorful, charming, and beautifully drawn game of Pass It On that you’ve ever seen. Then imagine the most enviable, talented clubhouse of illustrators and self-publishing wiz kids sitting together in a Berlin risograph print studio—one that’s adorned with lively scraps of color and doodled all over with geometric madness—who continuously play their own version of the game to their heart’s desire: one draws an image, the second continues the narrative, together producing lively, dynamic shapes, patterns, and stories.

This is no fantasy or daydream. In fact, it’s a very real monthly event called Clubhouse that comic artists and publishers Aisha Franz and Johanna Maierski have hosted at their publishing print studio Colorama since 2016. The intense, week-long workshop invites 15 artists to collaborate together on an illustrative call-and-response, resulting in the production of a limited edition zine called Clubhouse Colorama. Edition number six is now available to purchase, and it’s a dashing array of Eye on Design favorites, with contributions from Patrick KyleAnna HaifischLiam CobbJack Sachs, and more.

The rules of the workshop are simple: one illustrator draws and prints a riso-poster, then hands it off to another illustrator, who designs a corresponding narrative comic in response. At the end of the week, Colorama prints 250 copies of a special book that collects all 30 pieces together, pairing poster and comic side-by-side. As the latest Clubhouse Colorama aptly shows, the project is an experiment in collaborative thinking, graphic dynamism—and a probe into the ways pattern and abstraction can twist and evolve into narrative.

It also joins Printed Matter’s recent comic exhibition ‘Something Unusual is Happening,’ and the French comic journal Gouffre, released in January of this year, in furthering a discussion around plasticity of form and the possibilities of anti-narrative in contemporary comic production. As with many of the works in the exhibition and journal, Colorama Clubhouse straddle the line between storytelling and pure, abstracted pattern.

Today, Franz and Maierski take us through three of the final pairings from their workshop, which feature in the new book. First, they show us a poster, then the accompanying comic—telling us not only a little bit about the artists involved, but also why they created the varied responses that they did.

The Poster: Bettina Henni

Bettina Henni co-runs the print studio Papier Machine, which is located somewhere in the beautiful French Alps and is most well known for publishing the Lagon Review. Her images move seamlessly between narration and illustration using a very simple but unique language. And, she has a great sense of humor. We thought that a poster by her would especially work in the context of Clubhouse: her artfully reduced forms would supply a collaborator with the perfect trigger to develop a narrative comic.”

The Comic: Burn Björn

“The perfect partner for Henni was Burn Björn, who can turn just a tiny glimpse of humor into something absolutely absurd. The Italian-Austrian illustrator is based in Vienna, and is co-founder of a risograph printing studio and publishing house called SOYBOT. You can tell that he used to be a stone-cutter from looking at his work: most of his characters look like they’re made from granite, and his comics are often about collision and emerging, about transforming from one state to another. Burn Björn lifted the image of pints of beer from Bettina’s subtle nod to Germany and turned them into the core-element of his piece: in the comic, strange stone characters fight with pint glasses clasped in their rocky hands.”

The Poster: Milena Bassen

“The Berlin-based illustrator Milena Bassen invites those who look upon her work into a foreign and strange world. At a first glimpse, it might seem like she’s depicting an ordinary situation, but when you look closer at the details, the image’s logic becomes entangled. A lot of ideas and symbols can be found in Bassen’s work, which are puzzling, and beguiling, and which require as much studied attention as a renaissance painting.”

The Comic: Jose Ja Ja Ja

“We paired Bassen with Jose Ja Ja Ja. Whose work also forces the reader to solve riddles and crack codes. His work stands out because it is minimal and makes use of very determined lines, which may or may not be influenced by the fact he is studying architecture in Madrid. After living in London for a few years, he’s now based in Rotterdam. It almost seems as if his style changes whenever he moves to a new place, making it even more exciting to continuously follow his work. For Clubhouse, he adopted the riddle already introduced by Bassen in her poster design and transformed it into a rhythmic sequence, while playing with recognizable symbols that seem an analogy of our current political times.”

The Poster: Marc Hennes

“Marc Hennes’ work is exciting—it is a little bit disgusting, it is estranged and kind of serious, it comes straight from feverish dreams, maybe it comes from hell. It’s in sharp contrast to this very clean, modest man himself! Hennes is based in Berlin and has published nothing to date. He just continues to pop up in group shows, and does illustrations for magazines and small publications. His upcoming comic is one to watch out for, though: Gaia7, a collaboration with Paul Paetzel, will be published by Colorama in the winter.

“Hennes should be given loads of money so he can just focus on his comics and drawings. He’s a genius. When he gave me the file for his poster—6 colors, opposing gradients in every layer, overprint lines—he asked me if it would be possible to print it. I knew it wouldn’t be, but I had to do it somehow…. The printing process involved a lot of signs of joy, and we eventually made it work.”


The Comic: Jon Vaughn

“We matched Hennes with Jon Vaughn, a visual artist, curator, and musician from Saskatoon, Canada. He is the Master of Scribbles. His work looks casual, but is rigorously planned, leaving a perfect arrangement of lines. Drawing from Hennes’ poster, he decided to pick out certain elements and translate them into a sequence. The very organic, otherworldly imagery drawn by Hennes is deconstructed until what is left seems to be pure spirit, a scent, a melody, or a rhythm.” 

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