November Artist Spotlight: Zinester Fiona Avocado

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Hey Fiona, thanks a lot for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to COMPAS. To begin with, can you tell us a little about what your background and what your art form is?

I am a cartoonist, zinester, illustrator, and printmaker. I have always identified as a writer and an artist. Since I was young, I knew that both of these things were going to direct my life. I fell in love with cartooning when I was a junior in college. Around that same time, I discovered zines through my involvement in the DIY/Punk/Activist communities, and especially resonated with perzines (personal zines) and comic zines, and saw how the writing I had been doing could easily translate into comics and zines.

When did you first become interested in visual arts? How did it happen? Who were some of your influences?

I was always surrounded by art but I really began to hone my style and interests when I was a teenager. When I was 16, I was an exchange student in Sweden. Part of this experience was taking in a lot of art, making a lot of art (I was really into doodling and ceramics at the time) and visiting a lot of museums. I realized upon my return to Sweden a few years back that Swedish design/illustration/aesthetic had a deeply profound impact on my art and my style. I am also inspired by my favorite cartoonists including Jillian Tamaki and Lynda Barry.

What motivates you to create new work?

New experiences, reflecting, daydreaming, reading really good books or watching movies, traveling, the natural world, the political and social climate.

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You are a cartoonist, zinester, illustrator and printmaker, do you have a favorite medium? Which role is the most challenging for you?

That's tricky because the reason I work in all of those mediums is because they overlap, and they all serve their own purpose. All of the mediums I work in are used in politically and socially engaged art making. Prints, zines, and comics are meant to be widely distributed to share narratives and information, which is a core part of my art practice. In the past couple years I've made more prints and illustrations, mostly because of teaching and an urgency to get new work out. With cartooning, I love creating story-lines and other worlds, especially the worlds I wish existed. Cartooning is the most challenging because it is the most time consuming and the most vulnerable medium that I work in. In addition, I use cartooning to process some really deep, intense feelings and story lines, and it's sometimes really scary when you use your practice to expose such experiences and feelings! Especially because you never know how your audience will respond.

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What do you get out of teaching versus creating your own work? What do you enjoy the most about teaching?

I believe in sharing my knowledge and skill-sets as part of my art practice. I definitely don't make as much when I am teaching, but to share the knowledge I have and see what my students do with that knowledge is deeply rewarding and I always learn something from every group I work with.

What do you see as the benefits of working in Minnesota’s art scene?

I have found that there is a pretty amazing amount of support for artists here. There are a lot of really amazing arts nonprofits, my general experience in Minneapolis is that people are eager to support the arts, especially in the DIY art scenes.

You recently did some illustrations for COMPAS 38th book of student writing. What were some of your thoughts when you read the student work to create the illustrations from?

I remember reading some of the student work and thinking, "DANG these kids are poetic geniuses!" There is some really beautiful writing in the upcoming COMPAS Anthology. I can't wait to read the hard copy and delve into it even more.

Have you been working on any new projects lately?

I'm about to print tote bags with some of my prints and illustrations! Also, this winter I’m looking forward to things slowing down and working on a comic I’ve been sitting on for a couple of years. And some prints. And some illustrations. And some zines. I have a solo show at the Seward Cafe in February. After that, I'm an open book.

How do you practice creativity in your everyday life?

Being an artist and maker is a core part of my identity, thus directing much of what I do with my life. I'm a daily writer, I doodle when I can, and my side creative hobby is knitting. I give myself permission to live life and to give myself space to not make work constantly, because it's important to have a balance between creativity and living. For me, creativity and living everyday life fuel each other.