Interviews with Great Folks #19: Ramsey Beyer

April 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

Ramsey will be at Drawing Power: Comics Zines and Books in Pittsburgh and Beyond this Saturday, April 20th from 10am-5pm in the Carnegie Museum of Art Theatre!

Hi! Tell us who you are!

Hi. I’m Ramsey Beyer. I’m a comic book artist living in Philadelphia. I work as a nanny by day, and a comic book artist by night. I’m 28, have a dog named Rover, and love to work on big projects. I have an organizational brain so coordinating things is really satisfying to me.


When did you start making zines? Why did you start making zines?

I started making zines in 2003 after I went away to art school. I had kept a really active livejournal and before that even had an “online journal” on my own personal website (which was pretty rudimentary back then). I loved sharing stories and connecting with other people, mostly strangers, over similar feelings and experiences. At the same time, I had just started art school and loved making mix tapes and cds using cut and paste materials, so when I discovered zines it seemed like a really obvious way to merge the physical, hands-on, art making stuff that I loved with the personal reflection and chronicling I was doing in my livejournal. It made sense immediately as a medium for me. I first heard about zines when I got a few from a show when I was 15. Then they popped up in a teen lit book I had read in high school called Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger,  and then my first best friend in college made his own political zines throughout high school and that was the final push I needed to actually try it myself.

What do you write/draw/whatever about?

The first zine I started in 2003 is the same zine I continued to do for the next 10 years! It’s called List and was filled with autobiographical lists about anything pertaining to my life; goals for the next five years, things i liked/disliked about myself, personality traits i admired, the toughest things i had ever been through, etc. The first five issues were just cut and paste zines filled with typewritten lists, but by issue 6 I had discovered indie comics and started supplementing the list with pretty terrible illustrations. You would think that attending art school at the time I would be good at drawing, but I was only good at fine art rendering and observational drawing and painting. I couldn’t make stuff up for the life of me! So it was a totally fun thing to do on the side of my “serious art” that was totally different from the stuff I was going to school for. I stuck with the quirky (read: bad) illustrations for my zine, List, from there on out, and with each issue got better and better at drawing comics. By issue 13 of List, I was ready to start branching out and actually drawing paneled stories of their own, rather than just illustrating the lists I had written. That’s how I started drawing the comics that I draw now.

Now, my work is about being self-motivated, self-critical, and reflective. It’s about being active in a diy punk scene. It’s about being confident and creative. It’s often about new chapters in my life where I’ve had to re-evaluate what I know and how I approach things. I write comics as a way to connect to other people, and tell personal stories with some sort of universal feeling behind them. I put out my short comics in a zine called Everydaypants, and I’ve written two novel-length books, Year One (all about my first year in Philadelphia after I moved there from Chicago), and Little Fish (all about my freshman year in art school in Baltimore.)

What do you think is great about zines?

They let you be completely uninhibited. You can literally write whatever you want and hand it to whoever you want to. There’s no right or wrong way of doing it. The only limitation is the cost of printing (which CAN be limiting, but there are inventive ways to find cheap printing!). It has a sense of immediacy and intimacy that other mediums lack. When you look at a zine, you can tell how much time someone put into it and you can actually imagine them in their bedroom laboring over this little piece of work that they decided to share with the world. The hand is entirely visible.

Thank you, Ramsey!

– Jude

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