Zines, risk and contemplation: Four questions with Jon Vaughn

Canzine Saskatoon is this Saturday, and we’re beyond stoked to have Saskatoon native and art book extraordinaire Jon Vaughn in the building. Vaughn will sharing a range of experimental zines, books, and prints and will also take part in the panel discussion Zines as Tools at 3pm. Ahead of the big day, we asked Jon about starting out in zines, Saskatchewan nascent print culture and publishing’s role in an interdisciplinary practice.

How did you get your start with zines and self-publishing, and what or who has shaped your practice as you’ve followed that path?

ve made photocopied and one-off zines for ages, but it was actually an artist named Massimiliano Bomba (who runs the publishing house Raw Raw Edizioni based out of Rome, Italy) who reached out to me in 2007 to include my drawings in his first anthology, and that encouraged me to take zine work more seriously.  It broke my work internationally. This timely inclusion produced a snowball effect and I was subsequently featured in many other anthologies. I continue to contribute to group projects, but I focus more on solo, collaborative and my own curatorial projects now.

I really enjoy collaborating. I find that when I co-publish with an artist friend and we debut it together, it not only is an experience of mutual growth, it also can help build bridges between communities. This combination of personal growth and community building is the kind of work and project I thrive on.

What’s going on — or not going on — in SK or the Prairies with zines and self-publishing? Where do you think it may go?

Activity for self-publishing and zines comes and goes in the Prairies. Other than entertainment expos and the odd bookstore or comic store, there are not a lot of opportunities to sell this kind of work, so it usually does not seem like its being made consistently. VOID Gallery does a lot of workshops, reaching  out to emerging artists and community members with screenprinting and Risograph. I know Amazing Stories has had a local section for many years.

Becoming a professional in the field usually takes moving to where there are bigger communities to engage with and longer traditions of supporting self-publishing and zines. In the last couple years there has been considerable growth in smaller centres, due to outreach efforts like CanZine and more and more artists buying Risographs.

Your work of straddles many themes, histories and political affects. But it also teases at the limits of different genres and media. What role does print and the book form play in that threshold space?

Fantastic question! I love the medium of the art zine or book for the very reason that an artist can try out a lot of things. Printed matter can easily be integrated into everyday life with low risk and commitment, which allows creators to test out new associations and experimental connections. This is contrast to an art exhibition, with its necessity of very particular social and physical spaces. A book or zine sets the foundation for an experience of contemplation that is easily bypassed by the endless scroll we might experience even the same images and or text.


What projects are you working on, and what will you be tabling at Canzine?

I just finished four self-published books that I debuted at Comic Arts Brooklyn on November 2nd, which I’ll have. I haven’t put the books up for sale yet online, but they will soon be available at Printed Matter and Desert Island in New York, and currently at Floating World Comics in Portland, Oregon.

Jon Vaughn is a multidisciplinary artist, curator and editor-in-chief for independent publishing house Ecstasy Editions, and experimental musician and DJ known also as VC Vibes. 

Vaughn was born in Treaty 4, Saskatoon and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Art History from the University of Saskatchewan. Vaughn makes drawings, paintings, and prints that integrate abstract expressionism and surrealistic representation to explore themes of modern mysticism, cultural and family history, empathic reality, the stigma of the outcast and diasporic identity. References to films, comics, music and toy culture create points of access to Vaughn’s interior and cultural world. Their artwork has been exhibited and published across Canada in Saskatoon, Regina, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Moncton, North Bay, Sechelt. Vaughn has also exhibited and published extensively around the world in England, France, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Latvia, Argentina, Bulgaria, Germany, The Czech Republic, Japan, China and the United States. Vaughn is currently enrolled in the MFA program at the University of Regina. Recent achievements include a solo zine for renowned publisher Nieves Books in Switzerland and exhibiting at Comic Arts Brooklyn hosted by Desert Island Comics in November of 2019.