HYDROCHLORIC is a great and inspiring zine project that was started in 2013 by Daniel Zender, as a way to collaborate with illustrators and designers. We invited Daniel to share some insight on the venture and how it continues to evolve over time.
Illustration Age: Could you give us a basic introduction to what Hydrochloric is all about?
Daniel Zender: Hydrochloric was started as a personal project, where I was producing my own zines based on themes, or sketchbook ideas, or experiments. I started my career as a designer and sort of drifted into illustration, so it was a way to get back into designing and illustrating my own content, as well as start producing small publications, which I have always enjoyed making, but also collecting. At some point, I decided it would be really fun to start reaching out to other illustrators and artists that I respect, to see if they would be interested in collaborating on a theme.
IA: What was the inspiration for inviting other illustrators and designers to contribute to the zine?
DZ: It was really just an excuse for me to reach out to people I respected, admired, or was already friends with. I really like the sense of community in the world of illustration, and Hydrochloric was a way for me to contribute to that in a small way. I am also really interested in the other side of the profession, the art direction side, and this was a way to sort of play that role without being too serious about it. No money or profit is really involved, and I don’t censor or communicate changes to the illustrators that are participating. I dont ask for sketches or anything unless someone wants an opinion. I am only trying to encourage experimentation, community, and most importantly fun. Some really great stuff has come out of people, who took some risks with their contributions, and that is exciting for me, and hopefully for them as well.
IA: How do you go about choosing topics for each zine, as well as artists to collaborate with? Do the two decisions affect each other at all?
DZ: The topic aspect of it is really spontaneous. For the first two issues I just brainstormed things that I wanted to see people making, decided on the concept, and stuck with it. I knew that Dadu Shin would do something rad for the theme of Demons (#1), and that Edel Rodriguez had an affinity for Skulls (issue 2). I wanted to know how someone like Sue Jean Ko would translate that theme as well. Jensine Eckwall and I are friends, so I just like asking her a lot. I didn’t overthink it too much. For the third issue, “Skin”, Alexandra Zsigmond suggested the theme at a SOI party and I thought that was pretty good, so I went with it. For the newest issue, “Summer Vacation”, I wanted something that allowed for more narrative possibilities, and also something a little more light hearted. I will probably go back to the dark stuff for #5. When I am getting my email list together for the issue, I think about a few things: who do I really WANT to start a dialogue with, who would interpret the theme perfectly, and who would be approaching the theme from left field completely. I really love when art directors use an illustrator for a project that seems like a weird fit, it is when the most interesting stuff comes out, in my opinion.
IA: Once you’ve got a finished product, where does it go from there, and what has the response been so far?
DZ: I have been doing 200 copies of each issue. I evenly distribute copies to the contributors, to art directors, and to friends and fans, and the rest get given away or hopefully sold. I don’t ever expect it to be a money-maker by any means, I barely made back the cost of the cover paper and cost of shipping to people last issue. But the response has been overwhelmingly positive…Printed Matter, the book and zine store in Manhattan, started stocking copies, and illustrators I really like have reached out to ask if can participate. I would say %80 of the people I have asked have taken the time to make something, which is cool. I am just hoping to keep people’s interest and keep on doing it. It seems like every time I send out a new prompt more people are showing interest, and the work is getting better and better as well. It is really exciting!
Thanks very much to Daniel Zender for taking the time to speak with us about Hydrochloric, which you can learn more about here.