The first thing I saw when I walked into Sean Tejaratchi’s Portland studio in the spring of 1998 was the wall: an insane, sprawling and totally mammoth collection of xeroxed clipart. Imagine a twelve foot long, eight foot high wall completely wallpapered with thousands and thousands of miniscule bits of clipart. His zine Crap Hound, is an insane (no, sorry, pathologically obsessed) collection of unique clipart culled from innumerable sources through the DIY grapevine.
Written by Ian Lynam
Cover of Crap Hound #3.
Cover of Crap Hound #4.
The cover of Crap Hound #5.
Crap Hound #6 cover.
Crap Hound has always been a pointedly political publication. Copyrighted images have repeatedly been reproduced for DIY repurposing by users and politically flammable imagery is always included. Unlike most graphic design in the United States, Crap Hound has an overt agenda and flagrantly flaunts it on every page. For example, the upcoming issue on Church and State is an unrelenting regurgitation of the stars, stripes and liturgical imagery so omnipresent in the American graphic vernacular.
A sample page from the upcoming Crap Hound #7.
A sample page from the upcoming Crap Hound #7.
Crap Hound is the first of many titles that are in the works from her newly founded Show & Tell Press, which is dedicated to publishing printed matter with a strong graphic component. So far, Show & Tell has rolled out two revised and expanded reprints of the monster: Crap Hound #5 and Crap Hound#6, currently printed in an edition of 5 000 copies per issue. Show & Tell is striking in that they do the bulk of their own distribution and only sell to other independent shops and distributors (hint, hint Japanese distributors – this is your chance to get in before the blow up).
Where can I get it, may I ask?
Crap Hound is currently available throughout the US and UK.
Any notable fans of Crap Hound out there that you know of?
But before we drag on about this precious collection of finely chopped and arranged clipart, we should let Sean Tejaratchi speak for himself. Here is a little Q&A about Crap Hound’s resurrection and the state of copyrighted art.
Sean, how many issues did the zine initially run for and what visual themes were covered?
No.1 (1994)– Death, Phones & Scissors
No.2 (1995)– Sex & Kitchen Gadgets Part I
No.3 (1995)– Sex & Kitchen Gadgets Part II
No.4 (1996)– Clowns, Devils & Bait
No.5 (1998)–Hands, Hearts & Eyes
No.6 Death, Phones & Scissors (incorporating No.1 and greatly expanding upon it)
No.5 Reprint, expanded
No.6 Reprint, expanded
No. 7 (currently in process)– Church & State Part I
No. 8 (currently in process)– Church & State Part II
After No.8 I will be putting together a Crap Hound book for L.A. publisher Feral House. The working title is The Crap Hound Book of Unhappy People. It’s a powerfully imaginative title, I know. It will have no alphabets or random bits at the end. Just page after page of misery in line art form.
4th of July-o-rama sample page from Crap Hound #6.
Wormy sample page from Crap Hound #4.
What was your initial inspiration to create Crap Hound?
For a few years in Portland, I made posters for the low-budget world of rock and roll based on the concept of this band, appearing with that band on this day at that club. One day I was putting a poster together and I wanted some clipart of a devil. Just a certain devil face, something I’d seen before. I could see it in my head, but I couldn’t find the damned thing when I really needed it. It got me thinking that I could organize the various clippings I’d saved over the years, so they would be easily accessible when I needed them.
Then I thought that such a collection could be shared with my immediate circle of friends, high-contrast art arranged one topic at a time. Then, a minute later, I thought I could just as well make a zine that could be used by people I don’t know. I figured only graphic designers would want it.
What is your process for putting Crap Hound together? Do you assemble the collections on paper first and then scan/do the paste-up?
I’m always going through old magazines and books, clipping and categorizing anything that might be useful in the future. I also save contributions from Crap Hound readers, found material, and sometimes note cards reminding me of resource books and catalogs in my home library. When I decide on a topic, these file cabinets full of clippings are the first place I go.
Next, I make sure everything is high-res black and white. If a picture is crisp and clear on a book page, that’s easy enough, but if something has color or grey tones, or needs to be cleaned up, I’ll scan it and turn it to line art. I then use a waxer on the back of these black and white photocopies and laser-prints, cut the pictures out of the waxed pages, then press them into a holding scrapbook. With the scrapbooks I can group similar images together and get a rough idea of what I have altogether.
From there, I begin to lay pages out on white cardstock. The wax lets me press them in place on a layout but still shift and remove them as I go. Once I’ve got all my layouts done, I use a fine ink pen to sharpen any faded blacks, and white-out to eliminate cut lines.
Finally, the pages are scanned and arranged in InDesign, along with an intro and credits.
What made you decide to expand and re-compile Crap Hound?
A couple of reasons. One: My stock of back issues have long been sold out. There were relatively few copies originally printed, so for years I’ve had to tell people “Sorry, but there’s nothing available.” If Chloe at Reading Frenzy hadn’t suggested that she could handle reprints, it wouldn’t have happened. I wouldn’t have been able to pay printing costs on my own.
These new editions are expanded because regardless of when I publish an issue, found and contributed images keep coming in. That means I regularly see images I wish I could have included. I have had hundreds of new images waiting for Clowns, Devils, and Bait, for example. On the older Crap Hounds, like the Sex and Kitchen Gadgets issues, some of the layouts are really lackluster. I wasn’t really taking advantage of what I could do.
Naughtiness from Crap Hound #3.
Hands and eyes from Crap Hound #5.
What are your feelings about the copyright of corporate images? Where do you draw the line with “fair use”?
I approach Crap Hound as sort of a scholarly art project. I try to be as complete as possible in each issue, so that I can give some sense of our cultural ideal. It’s a lot of fun and it’s very interesting. But when it comes to Fair Use, I feel I’m covered by either the scholarly approach, or the artistic approach. I look at it like this: When a corporation goes out of its way to inject its image and advertising into the public realm, I can reproduce what they’ve put out. If you want to touch the world, the world gets to touch you. That seems very fair.
Where do you find your imagery?
Personally, I haunt thrift stores, garage sales and eBay. Contributors have been invaluable. I still get clippings and photocopies from people I’ve never met, in the U.S. and England in particular. Total strangers and correspondents have pushed Crap Hound’s scope much further than I could ever manage on my own.
It seemed like for a bit there in the 90s there was an old clipart convergence with your work, Art Chantry’s, and Charles Spencer Anderson’s leading the pack. Do you think that there was a reason that you three were mining similar visual territory at the same time?
That’s a great question, but I don’t have a good answer. I think Art Chantry was largely responsible for my love and use of clipart. I saw Charles Spencer Anderson’s stuff after I began Crap Hound. Overall, maybe it was a matter of increasing self-awareness of Post-Modernism. There was a definite sense of irony in reusing the cheesy black and white clippings. I hate that kind of talk, but it’s the best guess I have.
Do you have an all-time favorite image that you’ve reproduced in Crap Hound?
Oh boy… that’s a good question. The one that comes to mind is the angry woman sending eye daggers into a tiny gentleman. It appeared in Issue 5, Hands, Hearts and Eyes.
Is it strange to see the aesthetic Art Chantry, Charles Spencer Anderson and you cultivated in the U.S. years ago replicated again and again – a signature style aped by the folks who didn’t develop it?
Not exactly strange. I could see it coming if only by the process of elimination that works in pop culture. The grunge thing came around, too. Seattle rock and roll, the low budget, DIY thing… all these aspects were coalescing.
I don’t feel like the style is mine, as if it’s something that can be ripped off. In a very real way I saw it and loved it and did it myself. It could easily be argued that I ripped it off Art Chantry, and CRASH Design… and with Crap Hound, especially, I make sure to suppress any thoughts of ownership – I’m reproducing what’s out there. It’s not what I’d call creative.
… and Kitchen gadgetry.
Are you sure about that?
The layouts are creative – it’s the delivery. Crap Hound is sort of an overview or catalog of what’s out there – that’s how I see it. What’s interesting is that even when someone “steals” what I would see as my creative work, the layout of a page, for example, I’m still in no position to feel angry. I’ve reproduced all these images from others. I feel I’ve given up my right to get upset.
Swiping, borrowing, appropriating, whatever you want to call it – I think that’s fine, but passing it off as your own is a problem.
What other projects are you working on now?
At the moment I’m working for Feral House a publisher here in LA. I’m also doing postcards for Stella Marrs, a friend from Olympia. Last summer I completed a nice CD/book package for the band Negativland. I’m still doing freelance projects when they come up. Right now I’m trying to take it easy and focus on Crap Hound in my spare time.
A big fat “THANK YOU!” to Sean Tejaratchi for taking the time out to talk about the history of Crap Hound. As an added bonus, Sean has provided PingMag readers with three high-resolution scans of images from long out-of-print issues of Crap Hound for immediate use. Happy trails!