Tony Wei Ling: Hello, D.R.Y, thanks for doing this! Would each of you start off by introducing yourselves and the kind of work you make?
Daniel: Hi there, so stoked that we’re featured in this! My name is Daniel Zhou, and I’m a Chinese American artist from the Bay Area. I was an individualized major at the California College of the Arts in Oakland with focuses on Illustration, Printmaking, and Animation. That being said, multidisciplinarity is a big part of how I make art, and I have trouble confining my interests into one practice, which can be a lot of fun but also a curse. Lately, for the most part, my work consists of homage that I pay to things that I love and have nostalgia for, with the vessels ranging from screen-printed apparel, one-off illustrations, DIY-bedroom tunes, and occasionally comics (I’m trying to do more of those haha).
Raúl: Yello! Very flattered to be answering some of these questions with these two boneheads. My names Raúl, I’m a Chicano illustrator and cartoonist based in Oakland, though I was raised on the border between San Ysidro and Tijuana. My experiences living on both sides of the border have frequently influenced my work as well as the last tenor so years living in the bay. Similarly to Daniel, I also went to CCA! Graduated with a focus on illustration, and though I still love doing editorial work, I’ve slowly pivoted more so towards comics!
Yasmeen: Hi thanks so much for having us! My name is Yasmeen Abedifard, and I’m an Iranian Bay Area born-and-raised artist based in Oakland who makes comics, illustrations, and animations. I received my MFA in Visual Arts from Cornell University, which made me explore the fine art world a bit; however, experiencing discomfort in that discipline cemented my desire to make little odd cartoons. I primarily work in making comics—I’ll be actually teaching a college course in comics at CCA, so I guess we can call me a comics artist. I make short stories primarily focusing on emotions and nature.
"tender thorns" poster (left) and page from "GL, HF" (right).
Images courtesy of Daniel Zhou.
TWL: How did the collective come about? What has it looked like so far, and how has tabling together been this year?
Daniel: Despite the fact that my response is at the top because the “D” comes first, I’m the second one to respond to this question, and I think Yasmeen (truly goated type A of our trio) does a great job of talking about our conception and how we all met! The three of us are just so naturally full of swag. I think that’s the main thing that made it so easy for us to connect with each other. Compared to Raúl and Yasmeen, I’m definitely a lot newer to tapping into our local comics/arts community and actually tabling at events, but tabling with the two of them has been a lot of fun, and they’ve definitely helped me feel more comfortable in some pretty epic spaces. LA Zine fest this past year in Long Beach was the best time I’ve ever had at a tabling event—super looking forward to going back to that and also Short Run in Seattle.
Raúl: They took me hostage, I stuck around, and at this point it’s too awkward for me to ask for where the exit is.
Yasmeen: It was SF Zine Fest 2022, and I didn’t want to do it alone, so I asked Raul and Daniel to do it with me, and we thought well, what will we call ourselves? So we just put the first letters of our names together like an 8 year old would do in a school group project, and thus DRY was born. However, the reason I met Raúl and Daniel is that we all started a job at Silver Sprocket all at the same time, and we instantly hit it off. Shifts with those guys were fun for us, not too fun for Avi, but don’t worry, your mail-order still got sent on time.
From thenceforth, I’ve just applied with Daniel & Raúl for any tabling event. I’m the type-A person who makes sure things are done and submitted, and these guys show up and we all have a fun time. Three people is a funny number for zine and comic fests; generally two people is the more feasible amount of people to have behind a 6-foot table; we make it work somehow. There will always be handpicked flowers from me at the table! We’ve done SF Zine Fest, East Bay Zine Fest, LA Zine Fest, SF Art Book Fair, Short Run, and RAZ Fest.
Images courtesy of Raúl Higuera.
TWL: What influences or shifts has the past year (and the D.R.Y collective) brought to your art-making?
Daniel: Since graduating from art school last year in May, I’d been struggling from some form of burnout for a really long time, but one of the few shining lights that have helped pull me out of it has been the community that I’ve found in DRY. Yasmeen and Raúl are both super talented artists and friends that I look up to immensely and love very much. Seeing them make so much amazing work all the time always reminds me why I wanted to make art in the first place. Being able to be part of DRY and a community of so many more great people around us is a real honor and privilege that I’m thankful for. I’m just happy to be here!
Raúl: Oof! I think it’s fair to say that the last few years in general have been very influential in all of our work. The collective grief, transitional periods, and new reality we all inhabit have altered the way we see everything (including ourselves). A lot of art is just processing feelings and distilling them into something new. So all these new feelings, both positive or negative, are followed by new ways of expressing and communicating.
Over the last couple years, I’ve been introduced to all sorts of new friends and artists who influenced my work and how I channeled some of those feelings. The most influential of those friends and artists are Yasmeen and Daniel. They’ve helped me channel so many feelings and see things in all sorts of different ways. We’re all very different in how we perceive the world, but it all feels complementary, and I’m so glad I met these two.
Yasmeen: This past year has been pretty insane, with lots of moving parts and lots happening; I’d describe it as a year with a lot of energy and life. I think having the ability to make work, share it, and meet people through it is an abundant blessing. I’ll always be grateful to these two for being my pillars in comic-making in the Bay. We’re a small community of people in the Bay Area, but we have a lot of love and community here. I think being in an active community and engaging with tabling events (which is all very new to me) has made me more aware of how your work can live out of your own world. I’m excited and eager to keep making, and ultimately, I just want to have fun with it all. I’m endlessly inspired by Daniel and Raúl; they’re both major influences to me, and having the ability to table and be good friends with artists you love is the best part.
page from "Ablaze" (left) and "Weeds" (right)
Image courtesy of Yasmeen Abedifard.
TWL: How does your comic work relate to the rest of your life, if you’d like to speak to that?
Daniel: When I first started making comics, I was a socially isolated teenager making art in an effort to connect with others and communicate things in a way that I couldn't to people in real life. I feel like I’ve grown a lot since then, and along with that personal growth, I’ve also developed some disdain for some of that work I used to make. But I think that desire for connection is very much still alive in what I make today. It’s just that that desire has just taken a different form.
I don’t make as many comics as I’d like to nowadays, but when I have been making comics and other work, they’ve been great mediums to celebrate things that I love, find comfort in, and have nostalgia for. It’s a great feeling when other people can connect to that work and relate to it, and it’s cool to know that we can all share the love.
Aside from that sort of work, I have some new projects I’d like to start fleshing out soon that deal with more serious things and emotional stakes as well. In the past I’ve been told that my work is cute, simply put, and although there is a lot to be valued and respected in cuteness, comfort, and nostalgia in art, I do think I have more to share, and I’m excited to explore that!
"blue & red horses" fanzine spread. Image courtesy of Daniel Zhou.
Raúl: Yeah so building more on what I said prior, my work is very closely tied to my world and my feelings. My current comic was born out of the loss of loved ones and the need to get out of the claustrophobic reality we all shared during the beginning of the pandemic. Over time it took on a life of its own. I think I can say that for a lot of my work. It’s rooted in an experience, a relationship, a love, a loss, etc. The more we really understand our experiences, the easier it is to put things into words or into drawings or whatever you do. There’s always this conversation revolving around “style” how to find one’s style, how to explain one’s style, and so on. Style is just your tastes and your life experience translated through your execution. I watch Teen Titans and I go, “OH! That’s where that came from,” or have conversations with my family and realize that my obsession with a subject has always been there. I just found a way to express it my way.
Comics pages. Images courtesy of Raúl Higuera.
Yasmeen: I think by the nature of what I make, it’s very personal, and I am always uncomfortable with that, but also very sure in it, since I somehow keep making personal emotional work even if it makes me cringe at myself. I tend to think of my emotions and scenarios in visual ways, and to explain those emotions I think comics are my vessel to understand what I’m thinking and feeling. It’s a very surreal experience to have people engage with it and relate to what I'm jotting down. It often feels like I’m feeling something unexplainable and crazy, and when someone else engages with my work and comes to the same conclusions as me, they’re telling me, “you're not crazy, I feel it too!” So I push past the obnoxious self-awareness and try to jot down my little crazy thoughts.
Comics have always been the medium of art that was a constant in my life. I grew up reading manga in the Sunnyvale Public Library, reading webcomics, logging on to the family computer to go on DeviantArt, and religiously watching cartoons. It was always something that felt familiar and easy to go towards, it’s a visual language with a lot of rules that we already subconsciously understand and don’t question really. The enigma here is that my comics are somber and emotional, but I’m a very silly person, I often think of my life in very comical ways. Maybe the next step for me is to be a funny comics person so that comics envelop my whole life.
Excerpts from Death Bloom. Images courtesy of Yasmeen Abedifard.
TWL: Anything else you’d like to mention?
Daniel: TYSM Tony!!! dry 4ever baby
Raúl: Thanks so much for taking the time to hear (or read) us out and for being interested in our perspective! I hope it’s helpful to someone! may your imagination never run DRY💫….I’m so sorry. Oh god.
Yasmeen: Thank you so much for this opportunity; I think anyone can make comics, create and foster community, cherish the people around you, and have fun. Love is the answer to everything!
D.R.Y. Image courtesy of Daniel Zhou.
Daniel Zhou (b. 2000) is a Chinese-American artist based in San Francisco whose work explores nostalgia and love for the mundane through still and moving images as well as printed objects. Stylistically, his work borrows from from personal ephemera, icons of consumerism, music, and cartoons.
Raúl Higuera is an artist based in Oakland CA, though raised on the Ysidro-Tijuana border. Graduated from CCA in 2018, he currently works for an indie punk comics publisher and store named Silver Sprocket based in San Francisco. When he’s not at Silver Sprocket he’s working on his own title named San Expedito, a murder mystery road trip story that’s deeply rooted in what he cherishes most: his community and love for his culture as a Chicano. Aside from comics, he’s worked in several forms of media ranging from editorial illustration to animation. Most importantly he loves his dog Maggie, a pit-bull beagle with eyes the size of a baby world.
Yasmeen Abedifard (b. 1996) is an Iranian-American artist based in Oakland. She is currently teaching Comics at California College of the Arts. She holds her MFA from Cornell University. Her work is centered around storytelling mediums, including comics, illustrations, and animation. Her work has been featured in various spaces, such as the SF Art Book Fair, 2727 California, Rubenstein Arts Center, Jack Hanley Gallery, and Soft Screen, and has received various accolades, including the Ignatz Award for Outstanding Minicomic in 2023. She has taught comic workshops at Kala Art Institute, Sequential Artists Workshop, and Black Mountain Institute and has created published comics, such as "Anar" (upcoming), "Death Bloom," and "Burnt."
Tony Wei Ling is a comics researcher at UCLA and an editor at Nat.Brut.