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Helen Capewell
OCA Learning Log
Student Number: 522802
Degree: Illustration
Current Level: 2


Develop a small self-published book based on an idea from your sketchbooks. Produce a small photocopied fanzine or a one-off artist’s book.

In this exercise I decided against the idea of looking back at previous work as inspiration for a curated zine. Instead I took a topic of interest and decided to brainstorm what I could do to make an interesting short "publication" that I felt resinated with me at this present moment.

What I enjoy about zines is there anarchist way to mainstream. The indie, self published books that could be done cheaply and quickly. I love that there is rebellion in the art form. I get a sense that it was a way to protest, to share your opinion through print and that a niche audience would collect them. I like that there are no rules to what and how you created the content, using photocopying, handwritten text overlapping a collage of images and illustrations. The textures they create with the limited colours (in some cases) just feels punk.

With this in mind, I thought about a subject that makes me somewhat angry. There are many things wrong with the world right now, many of which do indeed make me angry, however one small little area that I personally find incredibly annoying is vegan "alternatives", more precisely, vegan meat.

I have been a vegan for many years now and have seen the growth in available vegan options in restaurants, shops and beyond. In some case it's great to see, finally it is less difficult to find food when out and about. However, there is just one thing I have also come to recognise over the years and that is the growth in fake meat alternatives, which has sadly become the main options in many "vegan friendly" restaurants, something I find disturbing. It's sad to see the same foods in almost all restaurants. My frustration doesn't just stop there, however I thought this might be interesting to turn into a zine. My rant about mainstream veganism and why it's blurring the line of being a healthy lifestyle as it floods the market with chemically made fake foods.

We couldn't just have healthy people eating healthy foods, there's no business in that. So they got their fingers into what being vegan really means, and have made it unhealthy, flooding the mainstream with claims that their meat cocktails are a plant based, protein powered alternative, almost suggesting that they are better for you!

There was a time when people thought Vegan's must be starving, because what else was there other than veg? And when you consider how veg would be used in a typical (non-vegan) household, the veg is often basic sitting next to meat, they're secondary to a dish. It must be boring to just eat that all day everyday - right? wrong. The imagination for food has become limited. And now that fake meat is becoming more and more popular with much more variety available, it is again being put in people's head to believe that you need something next to the veg for it to be a complete meal. It is taking you away from what your body actually needs and can live much happily on, to a place that could make you more dependant on other big businesses - if you know what I mean.

Whilst my common sense has gained clarity in recent years where observing food is concerned, I am far from being a specialist. That said, I definitely see potential in creating books that are designed to rebel against the mainstream. Making zines that can act as a stepping stone out of the hazy fog of distraction and to be slightly guided into a direction that at least tickles your interest to look further. I wouldn't want to create a book of facts, discussing truths about health and how bad processed food truly is (maybe one day), however I do like the idea of bringing awareness to a trend that is fooling everyone into bad habits.

I had the title in mind "There's more to Vegan than Fake Meat". I was going to focus on the small 8 page folded zine and so thought about what the contents would be, and how would I lay this out across the a zine. Did it need a resolved point, or narrative? I think not. Could this be a letter to restaurants perhaps? I like the idea of this being an opportunity to give suggestions for their menu. Or just simply saying not every vegan wants a burger or better still, not all vegans miss meat. Sometimes it's even hard to have a vegan salad!

Whilst brainstorming I also thought about the idea of making a zine that focused on ingredients that are listed on processed foods. Perhaps that's a follow up zine. I liked the idea of picking "popular" items that weren't necessarily vegan, and then just listing what is in them. How many people can say they read what is in the foods they buy, then how many people can say they know what half of the ingredients are? This could be an interesting way to throw labels under a microscope, hang out the dirty laundry and force people to question what they consume, better still, ask the question why they are ok to accept it?

It's not to say I wouldn't eat a burger, but when it is the majority of the options when dining out, I do see a slight issue with it, and this is pointing fingers at so called vegan only restaurants. Where is the imagination, the inventiveness? Is it due to a demand of fake versions of what people used to eat, or is it just been given and expected of vegans that it is what they desire?

I hate to say it, but environment and animal welfare is not the only reasons to go vegan, it is your health. But that seems to be less of a priority and instead making people believe the reason to go vegan is to save the world, and not your gut. You used to eat meat, so you must miss meat is the leader of marketing. You miss the texture of real meat and the bloody, greasy juicy stuff that oozes from it - yes that is what you must miss. So let us replicate it in any way we can, even the colour so that it is pink when uncooked and brown when cooked, really nail the performance so that you believe it is meat - but better for the world, meat.

I wasn't exactly sure what my direction for this zine was going to be as I had a lot of directions to go in, which felt to be of the same argument. I had only a few pages and really I wanted them to be a bit random yet have something constructive to them. I thought it would be good to play with irony, including some packaging of "plant-based" meat and their wording, then flow into dining out with the copy paste culture. Was I questioning why this had become a standard for vegan on the road, or did I want to simply highlight how boring it was?



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