My Breakthrough Moment: Clay Hickson

The illustrator discusses the joys of “intentionally not online” projects and how starting a monthly newspaper scratched a very specific creative itch

The Smudge was a 12-page, monthly newsletter that my wife, Liana Jegers, and I put out together. We both love the underground presses of the 60s and 70s, so we’d been talking for a long time about doing some kind of monthly mailed-out paper. After the 2016 elections there was this feeling in the air; everyone was having all these emotions and opinions, and it just felt like we all needed an outlet for it.

We decided to start The Smudge as a paper based around the aesthetics of the 60s and underground presses. Things like that, and the Whole Earth Catalog, were aesthetically very inspiring. I grew up in a small hippie town in northern California, and that’s definitely in the same orbit as well. Those kinds of papers always feel alive, perhaps because they were made by people who were just using the limited resources that they had available.

You’d have a whole page printed in red, with text that’s barely legible, and you can imagine the printer happened to be printing in red that day so they slipped it in. It was that idea of working loosely within some strict limits or boundaries that was really appealing. We named it The Smudge because we liked the irreverent sound to it, but we were also riso printing it, and riso ink is notoriously smudgy.