The Third Something

131 / The Permanence of Paper

Will my art outlive me?

A life drawing sketch by Adam Westbrook

Thank you to all of you who bought a copy of Biteguard Fever Dreams Issue #2 in the last couple of weeks. Dozens of copies are currently zipping their way around the world and I’m in that funny phase where I switch from artist to shipping clerk; from maker to dispatcher.

I’ve been reflecting on my stubborn choice to make the zine available only in print, in a form that is more expensive and so much slower to reach readers than a digital version.

I thought about making a PDF available this time, I really did, maybe following the generous Derek Sivers approach. The zine would probably be seen by hundreds more readers.

(There is a deeper root to my reluctance to share Biteguard more widely, but it’s something I’m still processing. I’ll write more on this once I’ve figured it out!)

Paper permanence

For its downsides, there are interesting positives to printing.

Many of you have told me you love the anticipation of receiving a physical item in the post, holding it in your hands. With only 100 copies printed, the zines are rare objects (if you have one, keep it safe, it might be worth something one day..!) And of course they can be sold in real brick and mortar bookstores and, for me, that’s a thrill.

Earlier this week, I posted copies of the zine to two special destinations.

Firstly, to the British Library archives. It’s a little-known legal requirement that a copy of every book, pamphlet, magazine or brochure published in the U.K. be sent to the British Library for permanent archiving.

And secondly to the Library of Congress, via the Small Press Expo, who run the Ignatz Comic competition. They ask every entrant to mail them a physical copy, so it, as they put it: “may be preserved until the sun goes supernova.”


Speaking of destruction, four years ago in #033 I shared my fears that my body of work — all digital at that point — could so easily be lost:

“We cannot escape the fact that we’ve built a civilisation that cannot function without the internet and electricity. We are all caught in an invisible technology trap…Who’s to say that my videos won’t end up trapped, like mosquitos in amber, on the 2030 equivalent of the MiniDisk?”

This has been on my mind again since I received emails from folks telling me that five videos I created in 2015 have been permanently deleted. It seems the Univision network Fusion who commissioned them, and its YouTube channel, have gone the way of the dodo.

That’s how easy it is for our creations to disappear!

Publishing in print and digital are not mutually exclusive of course; but now I know, whatever happens to my body of work, at the very least, Biteguard Fever Dreams will survive me — that is, until the sun goes supernova.

How’s that for the long game?


A life drawing sketch by Adam Westbrook

As I was wrapping up the zine, I felt in myself an urge to return to some grounding fundamentals. It’s been six months since I last went to a life-drawing class and well over a year since I last worked in a sketchbook.

So, as I transition to whatever is next — more on that soon — I’ve been spending my mornings drawing from reference, experimenting with different pencils and papers, remembering how to capture gesture and flow in the figure.

It feels good to go back to basics.

A life drawing sketch by Adam Westbrook

Until another Sunday soon,

Adam's signature