Archive for the ‘design’ Category

Tuesday, January 25th

Eff Yeah, Bookstores!: Desert Island Comics.


You surface from the Lorimer L stop onto Lorimer and Metropolitan. You walk west towards the droning BQE. Nestled between the hardware stores, cuban restaurants and noodle joints, embedded in the wood siding facades of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is a weathered white and yellow storefront sign announcing SPARACINO’S BAKERY: ITALIAN FRENCH SICILIAN BREAD. Underneath the subtitle is a less-weathered yellow sign with red lettering reading AND COMIC BOOKLETS. In the storefront window is an art installation lifted from a Roald Dahl fever dream: bright colors and angular shapes, fantastical creatures made of paper, three dimensional sci-fi landscapes and the strange and beautiful creatures that inhabit them. Welcome to Desert Island Comics, an independent bookstore specializing in comics and prints, owned and operated by indie comic guru and Mad Magazine enthusiast, Gabe Fowler. Gabe was kind enough to speak via email concerning the lonliness of the internet and how it’s good to have impossible standards.

1. What’s the Desert Island’s origin story?

I grew up loving Mad Magazine, punk rock, and skateboarding, eventually studied fine art, and spent years working at art galleries. I decided it was time to put all of these interests together in a visual book store. I’ve always loved comics, graphic art, and artists’ books, and thought they would be served well by coexisting in the same environment. I’ve also always loved book stores. After years of obsessing over particular shops, it was fun to design my own and try to address the positives and negatives of other places. I started with little money and looked for a full year for a decent affordable place to rent. And I ended up with the third place I saw!


2. What’s the curatorial process when choosing books to stock?

In keeping with the “desert island” concept, ideally every item in the store should hold interest for a lifetime. Obviously this is impossible, but I think about it when I’m selecting books. If you had to live the rest of your life with this book, would it still pull it’s weight? It’s good to have impossible standards.

3. What helps a book sell? What are some of the more successful books at DI?

If I knew the answer to this one I’d one step ahead of everybody else. There’s a million intangible factors in the hard reality of selling something, especially a poetic product like an illustrated book. Why does anybody buy anything? Long-awaited work from particular artists always sell well. So does nicely handmade work, like sewn binding or screen printed covers. I also do well with limited edition items from known artists, including prints or signed books.


4. Williamsburg has a storied history in the last decade of being both the epicenter of the art/creative world as well as a neighborhood that’s become synonymous with drastic gentrification. What’s it like running a comic book shop there?

Yeah, it still hurts when rich people ruin a creative community by pricing out the artists. It has happened a million times in this town, and it will probably happen to me. Anyway, it’s great to have a comic store in Williamsburg as long creative people still live nearby. Every scene on Earth has originators, participants and spectators, and it’s always the spectators that kill it.

5. How does a brick-and-mortar shop maintain relevance in the age of online commerce? How do you compete with Amazon?

The internet is lonely. My shop is a social place full of surprising stuff, a lot of which you can’t find on Amazon. I host tons of artist signings and provide a place for people to sell their self-published books and prints. There’s tons of reasons why a physical store is not just relevant but crucial.


6. Please describe the store mascot.

Do I have a mascot? Maybe you’re referring to the pirate drawing by Matti Hagelberg which has been on my website for a few years. I don’t think I have a mascot, but I’ve been lucky to work with tons of amazing artists over the years on prints and other projects. Hagelberg is from Finland, and I approached him blindly to design a poster for the store when I first opened. With no further instructions, he created a killer geometric scratchboard piece of a pirate holding a hockey stick with a parrot on his nose. This image has been closely associated with the shop ever since.

Desert Island is a now stocking Annalemma Issue Seven: Endurance.


Friday, January 7th

Reading in 2011.

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My lady got me the Best American Nonrequired Reading 2010 for Christmas. I was all pumped about this edition since I found out Anne Elizabeth Moore‘s essay from Issue Five got a head-nod in the “Notable Nonrequired Reading of 2009” section. I hadn’t picked up one of these in a while. I’m not sure why. They’re always good. I’d rather have one of the pieces we publish reprinted there than in Best American Short Stories or BA Essays. It starts with an incredible short story by Sherman Alexie from his collection War Dances. In the midst of getting a growth in his brain checked out by the doctors, the narrator juggles his children, his dying father, and the very real possibility that he may be dying soon too. Alexie hasn’t lost his edge. It feels like he’s grown more crotchety as he’s gotten older, which is great. He’s at his most entertaining when he’s barbed and thorny.

There’s an etherial comic by Lilli Carré that’s a good example of when tone and feel are enough to carry a story.

Rana Dasgupta‘s essay, Capital Gains, on India’s unregulated capitalism run amok is discomforting, shocking, and an enthralling read from start to finish. Dasgupta attempts to hold a mirror up to a hopelessly corrupt government and a national psyche obsessed with the accumulation of wealth above all other things.

An excerpt from the photo journal/graphic novel hybrid “The Photographer” by Emmanuel Guibert, Didier Lefévre and Frédéric Lemercier tracks a photojournalist covering a doctor’s travels in Northern Afganistan in 1986 treating mujahideen soldiers and residents of small villages effected by the war against the Soviet Union. The parts of the story unseen Lefévre’s photos have been dramatized by graphic artist, Emmanuel Guibert. I’m always thinking about roles that the arts play in politics and war, if they play any role at all other than Greek Chorus. “The Photographer” feels like a good example of commentary by-way-of objective storytelling.

I started reading War and Peace. I don’t really know why. I guess I felt like I was ready for it. For some reason it feels comforting in a way, to read about Russians in the 1800’s, to know that people haven’t changed all that much since then. We like to think we have but we haven’t. The settings and circumstances change, but we still behave the same. I’m having a hard time getting through the politics of it. If anyone’s read it before and or some advice for getting through the first few hundred pages (having difficulty keeping up with names and references) that’d be appreciated.

Thursday, November 11th


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Curator Meighan O’Toole presents a whole slew of low brow and contemporary artist on My Love For You is a Stampede of Horses. I was tempted to poach a lot of the artists she’s already showcases and do posts on them here but it made enough sense just to link you into her capable hands. Some of my favorites like Caitlin Hackett and AJ Fosik are extensively covered in interviews and images of artists in their process. If you are feeling culturally starved, consider MLFYIASOH an all day buffet.

Tuesday, November 9th

120 in 2010: Long View.

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The simple ideas are best ones. San Francisco artist Maria Forde was feeling lost and directionless. She decided to turn to perpetual founts of information and perspective: old folks. Forde interviewed and drew the portraits of 0ver a dozen elderly people living at her grandmother’s retirement village.


Forde’s style has a meticulous attention to detail but an innate sense of playfulness. She captures the spirit of people who’ve experienced good, bad, dark, light, up, down, everything in between and lived to tell the tale.


The most rewarding thing to take away from Long View is the message of happiness that permeates the portraits and interviews. A positive outlook on life is interconnected with longevity. Most zines are dripping with molten madness and youth played at full volume. Very rarely will a zine will warm your heart and give you fortitude. Like all great ideas, the simplicity of Long View effortlessly accomplishes this.

Click here to buy.

[images via]

Wednesday, October 27th

Party in FL!


I know who you are. You are a person who lives in Central Florida and loves empanadas. You are a person who loves delicious wine. You are a person who loves to read. You have a deep and ferocious love for the small, yet potent, arts and culture scene in your town. Most of all, you like free things. Guess what, friend. We’re hooking you up.

We’re celebrating the release of Annalemma Issue Seven: Endurance next month in Eatonville. We will see you there.

Friday, October 8th

Issue Seven Preview.

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Advance copies of the Annalemma Issue Seven: Endurance arrived and it looks so good it’s tear worthy. Here’s some Glamour Shots. Really proud of this one. I know I say this every time but it really is the best issue yet.

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Thursday, October 7th



Issue Six: Sacrifice contributor Charles Bergquist got some big ups at YTFT recently and it reminded me how much I like Charles’s s work.


Chuck’s style has come into its own in the last few years. Delicious saturated colors doubled exposed over thick ink clouds making for opiate-hazed dreamlike images.

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And then there’s these:

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After a long day at work when everything is settled and you have a moment of quiet to yourself, check out his video work. It will decompress your brain.

Well done, Charles.

Friday, October 1st

Public School.

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This weeks image contributor Matthew Genitempo is part of Austin based creative collective Public School. Check out their store where you can find a generous helping of original screen printed posters they’ve made for bands you are probably a fan of. I don’t really have much more to say on this subject other than I really like Austin and I really like art and design and Public School merges these things in a way that makes me pump my fist something fierce. Well done, fellas.

Wednesday, September 29th



After interviewing Justin Taylor earlier this year, I learned about The Word Made Flesh book he was working on. I got a Bible verse cut into me a while back so I took a pic and sent it his way and it made it into the book. I got a chance to see an advance copy last night and it looks amazing. There’s a running tumbler here, but if you’re into tattoos, books and hope to merge the two somehow, you’re gonna want to purchase this. It’s also going to be required material for every tattoo shop coffee table from now on. Well done, Justin and Eva, you put together a fun one.

Friday, September 17th

Cover Songs.


Behold, the cover of Annalemma Issue Seven: Endurance. The image was excerpted from the photo essay ZORA! by Ted Hollins. Ted’s been photographing the Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities since its inception 21 years ago. The essay focuses on some of the highlights of the event taking place annually in Eatonville, FL, where Zora Neale Hurston was raised. Ted is an incredible photographer and we’re very pleased to have his images grace our pages.

Going to print on Monday! More details to follow.