What would the bedroom of a feminist teenage merkitten look like? Boom. Illustrator/designer Kristen Dullum had us covered.
I treasure the email thread that bore the fruitful list of groundbreaking feminist books, present-day pop/internet culture references, and throwback favorites coming together on this cover. "Should there be rollerskating otters? Unicorns reading Judith Butler? Selkies taking selfies? ANGELA DAVIS." Ultimately, we were both into the underwater theme. Kristen creates such swishy movement in her work, and ties in a ton of detail without allowing an illustration to get chaotic. It all feels organized, special, and so lively. While she's clearly influenced by the technicolor world of Lisa Frank (which is totally having a moment again, with our current 90's nostalgia), her sense of color, composition, and movement is all her own. And we are diving right in to the adult-coloring wave by including a color-your-own version of Kristen's line work, on page 51 of the issue.
I have been thinking a lot about how we talk about kids in our culture. Too often we trivialize the passions and interests of young people but so much of our culture depends on and is driven by them: street fashion, patterns of speech, geek culture, music. Where would the Beatles place in our western musical canon without teenage girls? I always come back to how there's no match for the way I loved things when I was 13...completely immersing myself in music, throwing myself into books and making my own when I didn't find what I wanted, trying to seek out information about how to live in the world on my own. One of my illustration students aptly described being a teenager as being a part of "a secret society passing down information, whether it's about how to dress, or how your body works, or how to assemble a shelf, or how to make sure that you're safe in a world that's sometimes out to get you." I could stand to have a little bit more secret wisdom sharing in my life. We each hold the power we get from our communities close, in our own ways.
Our merkitten haven is packed with little visual puns and personal moments, but I think the specificity of them only makes them more relatable. We chose to color the phrase "kids these days" as we see it: something worthy of close attention, celebration, and hope. This cover is a tribute to the kids we were and a celebration of the youth of today: suspended in an ambiguous time that could be this current moment, but with a bit of nostalgia for the times when we first began carving out space and identities for ourselves.
Color your own version of our cover, share it it on social media, and tag it #mykidsthesedayscover...we can't wait to check them out!
Kristen Dullum is an illustrator, hand-poke tattooer and craft alcohol packaging designer at Hired Guns Creative in Nanaimo, BC. A queer femme and Pacific Northwest College of Art grad, she loves burlesque, tiki bars, motorcycle rides and ocean fauna. See more of her work at seahorsecarousel.com.
Check out the issue for more great art on kids these days, including a back page comic on youth identity and digital culture by Shannon Wright, and a new independent art feature by comics artist Kelly K.