Save-worthy Illustration Promotions, Part I: The Zine


Above: Some of Mark Todd’s zines. From top: John: Issue 1 (2 different versions shown), Troy: Issue 2, and Bad Ass Girls 2.

I am both an art director and illustrator so I receive promotions from illustrators and I make my own illustration promotions to give out. As an illustrator, I always hope my promotion pieces make an impression on those who receive them. As an art director, I’ve received lots of great promos over the years but I have saved only a few. So, what makes an illustration promotion save-worthy? This post is the first in a series on just that topic.

Remember when zines first became popular? Well they are still a really great way to catch an art director’s attention. For those of you who don’t know, a zine—pronounced zeen)—is a self-published mini-magazine, comic, or book. About 10 years ago, I received a series of awesome zines from the illustrators Mark Todd and Esther Pearl Watson. I STILL HAVE THEM. They’ve survived three moves and several office purges.

Some of Mark Todd’s zines.
From top: John: Issue 1 (2 different versions shown), Troy: Issue 2, and Bad Ass Girls 2.

Unlovable: Volumes 1 and 3 (back cover) by Esther Pearl Watson

Interior spread of Unlovable: Volume 1 by Esther Pearl Watson

Mark created a series of little comics about various interesting people he knew growing up. Esther’s piece, Unlovable, is based on a diary she found in the women’s restroom at a gas station while she was on a road trip. This piece started as a mini-comic and ended up getting serialized in Bust magazine and published by Fantagraphics Books.

I love that Mark and Esther tell a story with these pieces and give me a glimpse into their personalities and senses of humor. I also love the details of these pieces. Some of the bindings on Mark’s pieces are sewn with a sewing machine and the page trim does not always neatly line up.

Mark and Esther wrote Whatcha Mean, What’s a Zine?, an amazing book about how to create your own zines from start to finish, including great tips and ideas about different formats, bindings, and inexpensive printing techniques.

Check out more of Mark and Esther’s books here.