Cristy C Road has been writing zines and drawing since she was 14. At the age of 24 she has an insanely large resume; from the 14 issues of Green Zine to a couple of books / graphic novels. For many though she’s probably best known for her drawings documenting misfits, punks, queers, revolutionaries and all those dreamers that make our world interesting. Each one is a detailed slice of life, with a past, present and future; each with characters so familiar you feel they could have stepped out of your local infoshop and had their photo taken. I came across Cristy’s work relatively recently, back in 2003, when I got a copy of Green Zine from Microcosm Publishing, I was taken aback by the sincerity and wit of the writing from someone only a year older than me. Cristy’s lived so hard and fast that she has fifty years worth of stories before she’s even hit 25. We’d been in sporadic email contact for a while, and at the tail end of 2006 I finally asked if she’d be interested in doing an interview for this zine; she readily agreed and this is what follows:
LH: What inspires you to draw and write? Is it other artists, or those creating music, or those trying to create social change?
Cristy: All of the above does. Drawing and writing have always been these inevitable crafts that I have to do in order to function and feel complete. I have a slew of passions like playing punk music, BMX, Broadway musicals and collecting taxidermy – but drawing and writing are my consistent lifeblood. Everything I feel or see or experience or am moved by is somehow translated in that. I was just kidding, I don’t collect taxidermy. But I should, right?
LH: You recently went on a speaking tour with other zinesters (Dave Roche, Joe Biel, etc.) in the States. How did you find it? Was it intimidating to talk about your work, or read from your zines? What was the reception like?
C: It was rad. I was the resident pothead, who was reading fiction, in the van. I thought it would be an eclectic bunch of people, but we all got along and had a good time. It wasn’t a stressful suffocating van situation which is what I’ve experienced in the past. I needed alone time and it wasn’t difficult.
The tour happened during a shitty time, so I didn’t want to be gone from Brooklyn, (where I live) for too long, so I was only around for a week. The crowds were awesome and pretty dense and I got pretty consistently sweet remarks. I’ve never been hesitant to perform in front of people. It’s always felt relatively natural whether it’s reading or singing in a band. I like reading because I get to give the characters with dialogue shitty fake accents.
LH: You mentioned in Indestructible, which was kind of indirectly subtitled Greenzine #15 that this would be the final issue of Greenzine you put out. Is that still the case, and why? What other projects are you going to be focusing on?
C: Well, I don’t really tell anyone it’s Greenzine #15 and not many people consider that; which I’m happy with – not because I hate zines. I like them and I may make a new one (not Greenzine) between now and a graphic novel I’m working on. But Greenzine is done – it was a series of stories, written in a certain short-scale format, about my life and it’s misadventures, through a certain time in my life. I was always traveling and touring with bands and living in crazy houses and viewing things in a certain young, borderline idealistic way – it was always my method of hopefulness.
Now, I want to make new projects that still tell stories, but clearly are from an older person than the one who made Greenzine. Hell, I started that when I was 14. I don’t want my new projects to be so closely connected to something I had written or said a billion years ago.
I’m 25 now and I want to have my big projects be manifested in forums that aren’t limited to a small community. It’s rad when I hear from people who aren’t punk or know what zines are, but have read Indestructible and identify with it – whether it’s because of gender, culture, drugs, whatever. It’s rad to hear that they got it at an indie bookstore in their town in the ‘graphic novels’ and ‘womens studies’ sections. Right now I’m working on Bad Habits, a graphic novel about crazy living situations, drugs, depression, several love stories, and how the development of NYC can relate to the deterioration of the human soul.
LH: You have a very distinctive typographical style, where did it develop from? Was it a conscious effort to mark it out as something different?
C: I like when text is different and either hand-written or manipulated – damaged, and distressed fonts – whether it be on computer or through Letraset letter transfers. I think most simple fonts are ugly.
LH: How are you finding surviving off your artwork? Have you found any difficulties marrying up your personal beliefs with any of the projects you’re commissioned to do? What do you do when that sort of stuff comes up?
C: I think that if you know how it feels to be piss broke, you’re not gonna turn down a gig that is giving you £2,000 for a small drawing of Good Charlotte. I’ve never gotten shit for drawing things I don’t care about, but I guess that is because I have intelligent people in my life.
It’s a big class issue for me; a lot of militant radicals who have never financially struggled can decline a job from a big corporation purely based on the fact that they can get money elsewhere and money isn’t a primary concern. Your stupid job with the big magazine isn’t representing you – its representing your ability to be autonomous and make your own living off some talent that YOU have and that shitty corporate magazine, obviously, does not.
I live off freelance – and I’ve done work for JANE and Spin and they’re pretty big. I truthfully haven’t really got offers from big corporations who don’t, at least, try to come off as ‘alternative’ or are inherently fucked up or offensively conservative. My personal work, my books, and my work that I choose to do with admirable people, shuts off a lot of shitty corporations offering me work; because they don’t agree with the ideas I stress.
LH: Do you think that moving from Florida to New York has changed how you create your artwork or zines? Is New York actually that much different to Florida? In the UK pretty much everywhere is much of a muchness thanks to chain stores, etc and I was wondering if that was the case in the States?
C: Suburbs are real similar here. A suburb of Miami looks the same as one in NYC, except for the geography and residential architecture. But cities can be way different. The south, the northeast, the Midwest and the west coast, I think, all look really geographically and architecturally different. They all can be incredibly touching in their own ways; when they’re weathered and untouched by development. I’m really observant and obsessed with the way cities look and how untouchable they are. I’m big on old architecture and history.
Miami, where I grew, up is very tropical and NYC is very industrial – the differences are astronomical. I’m pretty in love with old brick brown stones and all the little pockets of NYC that are in danger of so much developmental evolution, but look fucking gorgeous and intricate. For now, they are still standing and they are not in Florida, so I’d like to stick around for a while.
However, Miami’s untouched hoods like little Havana and parts of Miami beach are real beautiful and enchanting. I lived there for a long time and I really adore seasons. I lived in Philadelphia for a while too, which is just two hours south of NYC. My new home affects a lot of the moods and little accents of my work, my brain too; when it decides to shut off or flourish.