edited by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam
Allow us to introduce you to Marco! Marco Zavala is the gentle powerhouse behind much of the beautiful imagery accompanying our Features series, but he also contributes often to zines, workshops, and showcases as well. We don't know what we'd do without him! The first Spiderweb event Marco Zavala attended was Spiderwed Salon, a fully-produced performative wedding ceremony (minus a happy couple, but full of tears and thrown cake and popcorn and art about love of all stripes). From that moment, he was hooked. He contributed to the Spellbook zine and has since jumped in wherever he can, trying to go to as many shows as possible, contributing to many zines, and creating one-of-a-kind illustrations that speaks to the poetry and music we are creating and publishing here. We’re so happy to have him as an integral part of the Spiderweb crew, and can't wait to see what else we're capable of as a team!
Our art editor, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, conducted this exclusive interview with Marco about his artistic journey and future endeavors here:
You describe yourself as self-taught. What has the self-taught process looked like for you?
Slow-going, but I rationalize it as for the best. Without any academic structure, I've never said to myself, "Now I'll learn this from this day to that day, and something new after that." I know I would've learned more skills if I would've pursued it through a university, but I don't know if I would've survived the deadlines or maybe I would have burned up any joy that I had for art. I've heard some bad stories from people who did go about that way.
I imagine I started the way most people do, with a mix of boredom, experimentation, and ability. I grew up poor and with no gaming systems or a TV to control, so I had to find ways to entertain myself, and the imaginary worlds that came with books and science and art really filled my curiosity. Most of my interest with art started with cartoons, comic strips, tattoos, & graffiti, so my early years were filled mimicking that. I garnered some praise and would feel obliged to study the old masters and their techniques, but without any sense of historical relevance and being too young to see how subversive most of them were, I just held on to whatever techniques would help what I was already doing. I've basically continued with that method, for better or worse, trying different mediums and keeping what I enjoy. The challenges are also the same, in that I don't have any teachers and have to hack away at anything new by myself, and have to identify and overcome my fears and shortcomings on my own without outside affirmation or direction. That may sound benign or a given, whether you're self-taught or classically-trained, but it's still a hard choice to willingly pursue the unknown.
I see a lot of dancers on your Instagram. As someone who is fascinated by dance, I was drawn to these. What appeals to you about that mode of expression?
It feels like the visual equivalent of music, and the few times that I've gotten to dance, it reminds me of the same feeling as playing an instrument. It starts with an initial effort to keep time and then I just find myself breathing in rhythm and hitting a stride of sorts. Seeing professional and enthusiastic dancers invokes awe and a weird kind of hope, if that makes sense. This person had a myriad amount of choices available, and this is how they chose to spend their time. It seems more natural than someone sitting at a desk while also defiant of an evolutionary need to protect yourself and hunt and nest and use calories to benefit your survival. Because it's above any natural need, yet vital, so it seems divine.
What other subjects are you drawn to?
I had a fear of drawing faces for a long time, so I tend to find some way to manipulate those. I'd eventually like to draw surfers and skateboarders and more types of dancers. I keep little notebooks with different ideas, so I usually pull from those and pick something that'd be fun to make.
What have been some of the most rewarding experiences you've had as an artist?
I've done Inktober the past three years, and I started a tradition of giving [the finished pieces] away to whomever asked for one. For the longest time, I was precious about my work and kept everything in folders and sketchbooks because I was both proud of my work and ashamed of what I saw as mistakes in them. Letting other people have them, especially if they were people that I cared about, and seeing the joy that it brought them set me free from dwelling and analyzing what I had made.
Who are some of your influences?
It starts simply with Looney Tunes, Dr. Seuss books, and a fascination for tattoos. The next real phase change was probably Bill Watterson, MC Escher, Dali, typography, and my uncle, who had a lowrider art style. After that, I got into the Le Gun magazines and really into graffiti, which, looking back, kind of incorporates all those previous elements. I would say all these visual influences are met with authors, musicians, scientists, and comedians. I've even grown a fondness for crochet because of my grandmother and her different creations over the years.
Any upcoming shows or projects you'd like to share?
I've been dipping my toes into woodcut prints and hope to eventually set up a booth where I can. I work on a few different ideas at a time and fill the down time by drawing mazes, which I might make into a zine or small book one day. There are certain galleries I like around here and try to work on stuff for their yearly shows. The hardcore artist in me is always, "Just be borderline homeless and create it all right NOW! Don't eat, don't sleep, don't talk to anyone because I want to see it all made before we die!" But I have kids and have to be more methodical about it. Once they're grown though, who knows?
Marco Zavala is an artist by heart, which has been a difficult thing admit to himself. He doesn’t do well with authority which makes it hard to keep a day job but makes it liberating come time to create something because both things carry that same mentality of, "Who the hell is going to tell me what to do!?!" He’s been part of galleries at the Bath House Cultural Center in Dallas and the Arlington Museum of Art and has published anatomical illustrations for a stretching book. He’s done collaborative pieces for Spiderweb Salon in their zines and website for the past two years or so. He also makes funny faces at people while he drives past them at intersections, especially at night.