CURRENT Conversations

Professional Doodler & Local Crooked-Toed Celebrity
by Prashant Rajkhowa
rtist, actor, director, cartoonist, radio show host— there are very few things David Zinn hasn’t done. A graduate of U-M’s Residential College with a degree in English language & literature and creative writing, this well-spoken Ann Arbor resident represents the small group of U-M graduates who follow their hearts rather than greenbacks. A talented illustrator, Zinn works full-time designing posters and advertisements for local organizations, most notably the U-M Gilbert & Sullivan Society. Now, what exactly do you call yourself? Freelance illustrator and designer. I do a lot of the drawings, but also a lot of my clients need some text around the drawings, so I do that [too]. “Professional doodler” is the more casual term that is often used. How did you get into it? I should credit two things—my parents’ sly child control methods, which involved giving us pens and paper whenever they wanted us to be quiet. In fact, there was one particular restaurant we frequented where the waitress admitted later, many years later, that she thought we were abused children because every time we sat down to eat, we would sit like this [crouching over the placemat burying his head in his hands]. She thought we were terrified to look up, when actually we were just drawing on our placemats because [drawing] is what we did. Then, I have to give credit to The Gilbert & Sullivan Society. They were accepting poster designs from anyone in the group [and] convinced me that what I doodled on the front of my script while I was bored could be put on a poster. It wouldn’t have occurred to me otherwise to pursue that option. They let me try another [poster] and another one—it’s been a very good learning-on-thejob experience. So, outside of that, what else are you involved in? There’s the directing and performing, set painting and scenic painting. The children’s radio [for WCBN as The Rugrat Review and for Michigan Radio as The Mudpie Cafe], which, unfortunately, was yanked a few years ago—but I still have all the tapes. The children-ness in general was a very healthy thing to do. Got me up early on weekends, too! Are you involved with radio any more? Right now, no, other than that I have all the tapes and still listen to them. It’s part of who I’ve been in the community, and I want to try and remember that so maybe I can get into it again. I actually am doing a job for a client right now who, when he called me about it, said that he used to listen to the show. Now he is a professional clown, which makes me worry about what happens to [the] people who listened in!

David Zinn

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They start putting makeup on! Yeah … like, okay, so that’s what it does! I’m glad I’m such a good role model. So, let’s see, after radio, I did a lot of work for the city and the county, mostly in recycling type ventures. That’s been nice to have just ‘cause I like working for, what feels like, the good guys, as opposed to big corporate juggernauts throwing money around. [I] figure since I’m a local business, I should help other businesses, preferably at affordable rates—if possible [laughs]. What’s your shoe size? 10 and a half. What do you have to say about that? Well, I have three pairs of identical black shoes, Eccos, which is great ‘cause I have a crooked small toe and they allow for crooked toes, but I guess I just lack fashion sense. What were your personal favorite projects? WasteWatchers [the City of Ann Arbor’s solid waste educational material] goes top on the list, just because it’s such a nice synthesis of education and being silly. [I liked] half of [the theater] posters, the other half I wish I would never have to see again. There’s also the mural at the landfill that no one knows about. I was lucky because there was some grant money available to do some education about how methane is extracted from landfills and converted to energy, and I was hired to paint the stairwell. This was a very satisfying, very surreal six weeks of my life. It involved hanging from ladders and painting walls. No health insurance and working 18 hours a day … still fun to go see. It was nice to do something that actually stuck around for a while. The Art Oasis did a benefit for the Arboretum and they asked me to contribute because I did a poster for A Midsummer Night’s Dream—which I am particularly proud of—and I was tempted to point out to them that I had never done fine art ever in my life. It was such a wonderful opportunity. I tell people that the only reason I don’t do “art” art is because no one is drumming their fingers waiting for me to finish. So, giving me a deadline to create real art that existed for no reason other than to be art sounded just like yesss, and I agreed to it—then proceeded to dance around the room for a while. Then I was consumed with abject terror for three months because I realized I had to create something that had no
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CURRENT Conversations: David Zinn
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right to exist other than to be art. And it was unbelievably intimidating—oh my God—and that nearly killed me. I worried about it too much. In the end, I’m unbelievably proud that someone actually thought it was worth asking me to do real art. What would be one project you would really like to take on? A downtown mural would be very satisfying. Just to do something permanent; it’s every scenic artists hope to do something that won’t get thrown away or stored away. Do you have any advice for upcoming students? Doodle, as much as social convention will allow, and be willing to doodle stuff for people. Look for places where [doodling] is useful to somebody. Find reasons to draw, to design. What’s your favorite beer? Aaah, they say you can tell a lot about a person from his beer. I would have to say Guinness. Enjoy good head do you? [Laughs] It’s more because it satisfies a childhood craving ‘cause it looks like a chocolate soda when you first get it, and then turns out that it’s better than just a chocolate soda. How would you like to be remembered? As a fictional character. I want to get to a point where I remain only as pleasantly remembered stories. That’s the best that most of us can hope for. David Zinn is available to discuss art, Guinness and crooked-toe-friendly shoes at (734) 769-1890 or dszinn@ umich.edu. ■

One of Zinn’s favorites

index of advertisers
AATA – 23 Acme Mercantile – 38 Adrian’s T-Shirt Printing – 7 Ahmo’s – 80 Ann Arbor Professional Window Cleaning – 121 Ann Arbor YMCA – 26 Arbor Brewing Co. – 84 Arena, The – 36, 60 Argiero’s – 7 Ark, The – 20, 47 Arts in Motion – 110 Ashley’s – 60 Aubree’s/Sticks – 52 Backstage Theater – 114 Bella Ninna – 101 Bev’s Carribean Kitchen – 80 Big City Small World Bakery – 126 Bird of Paradise – 55 Blind Pig – 46 Blue Martini – 49 Blue Nile – 7 Bodies in Balance – 34 Body Mind Soul Massage – 92 Body Wisdom – 16 Borders Books & Music – 14 Canterbury House – 48 Carty’s Music – 30 Cavern Club – 49 Clear Channel – 59 Club Divine – 12 Club E – 24 Community Television Network – 99 Cottage Inn – back cover Croswell Opera House – 114 Cubs AC – 76 D’Amato’s / Good Night Gracie Jazz and Martini Bar – 53 Dance Gallery – 116, 124 DaVinci’s Pizza – 72 Deja Vu – 64 Detroit Opera House – 108 Dominick’s – 38 Don Carlos – 106 Doug’s Framing – 121 Dragon’s Lair Futon – 40 Dream On Futon – 76 Drowsy Parrot – 51 Earle, The – 61, 69, 88, 101, 124 Earthen Jar – 80 Eastern Michigan University Office of Campus Life – 76 Elbow Room – 47 Ema Stefanova – 121 Fair Housing Center – 32 Falling Water – 100 Firefly Club – 50 Green Wood Coffee House – 37 Good Time Charley’s – 105 Guy Hollerin – 38, 60 Habitat, The – 48 Happy Hours – 60 Heidelberg – 51 Henrietta Fahrenheit – 126 Honey Creek Co-Housing – 90 Hidden Valley Club – 6 Hwa Rang Do – 98 Immedia – 108 International Cuisine – 80 Janis Paul – 125 Jerusalem Garden – 80 Jewel Heart Buddhist Center – 96 Judson Center – 62 Kerrytown Bistro – 80 Kerrytown Concert House – 33 Kiwanis Club – 125 Launch Board Shop – 68 Leopold Brothers – 51 Lewis Jewelers – 89 Lucky Monkey Tattoo – 64 Magic Bag – 47 Martial Medicinal Way – 70 Metamorphosis – 97 Michigan Theater – 8 Middle Kingdom – 80 Mother Fletcher Too – 70 Movement Center – 37 Music Go Round – 71 Necto – 54 Northside Grill – 82 Novel Idea – 61 Oasis Hot Tubs – 86 Outback Steakhouse – 80 Ozone House – 32 Oz’s Music – 121 Peaceful Dragon – 97 Pellegrino Tile – 121 Performance Network – 116 PJ’s Records – 31 Planned Parenthood – 66 Pristine Piano – 121 Psychic Readings – 121 Pub 13 – 74 Purple Rose – 117 Quality 16 – 86 Relax Station – 34 RIT Music of Ann Arbor – 62, 66 Schoolkids in Exile – 20 Scorekeepers – 55, 60 Serendipity Salon – 18 Service Directory – 121 Shaman Drum – 92 Shelter Association – 62 SOS Crisis Center – 96 Sphinx Competition – 94 Studio 4 – 5, 45 Tanfastic – 18 Tap Room, The – 53 Tattoo Paradise – 127 TC’s Speakeasy – 50 Tios – 56 Traditional Thai Massage – 90 Tuptim – 63, 80 Twiggy – 90 U-M Credit Union – 69 U-M Gilbert and Sullian Society – 118 U-M Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives – 11 U-M Nicotine Research Lab – 31 U-M School of Art – 103 U-M Telefund – 122 University Musical Society – 28, 112 Vicki Honeyman – 88 WCBN – 64 WEMU – 34 Washington U – 42 West Side Books – 34 Wooden Nickel – 49 Yellow Cab – 63 Your Space or Ours – 121 Zydeco – 2

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