Letraset, Zip-A-Tone and my first art piece for press.

In the summer of 1983 my best friend was an anti-nuke protester. He was hanging out with Dana Beal and the Yippies at the Yippie headquarters at 9 Bleecker St.

This meant that I was hanging out with them too, like a Pulp Fiction Vegetarian. Even though I thought they were mainly creeps who used politics to get close to attractive young people. I was sixteen, and we were drinking and taking drugs there, but nobody cared.

My friend was mostly hanging out to be with a girl, I think, and I wanted to get with her too. One night we had a bananapants threesome there involving jug wine and queening with red wings.

Overthrow 1982On the second floor loft level of the HQ there was a workstation where the nice artist/illustrator who put together the YIP newsletter, Overthrow, worked.

I wandered over to him one time in the haze of some drunken summer night and he showed me the paste-up he was doing. He was using a swirling checkerboard Zip-A-Tone or LetraSet decal on a pasteup illo of a Cheshire Cat. I was absolutely fascinated as he told me about this old-school – even then – material for print art. You can see his use of it in the cover above!

I did my first print-ready commercial illo, for the YIP newsletter, when I was sixteen, because of this cool guy.

I offered to help, and wound up doing an illo of a homeless guy sitting on the steps of a fancy Village brownstone with a big Christmas wreath on the door.

It was in my usual meticulous Rapidograph style, black and white. I intended to be a book illustrator, fashion illustrator, or some other kind of commercial artist, back then.

I can see the drawing so clearly in my mind, still, but I don’t have a copy. I realize, to my shock, that I could probably find the issue – printed somewhere in the second half of 1983 – online, and buy it and hold it in my hands. Isn’t that weird?

LetraSet and Zip-A-Tone are gone now, of course. Like paste-up and the YIP headquarters. So it goes.

This entry was posted in Art, New York in the 80s and tagged , , , , on by .

About Suzanne Forbes

Suzanne Forbes is a traditionally trained figurative artist who makes documentary art of queer culture and Berlin life. She also works in mixed media. She is a former New Yorker who immigrated to Berlin with her third husband and their two cats. Her work is crowdfunded by the support of her Patrons on Patreon; you could help! In previous lives Suzanne was a graffiti artist in downtown NY, a courtroom artist for CBS and CNN, a penciller for DC Comics on Star Trek, and a live-drawing chronicler of Bay Area alternative culture.

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