Small-format street art, design and graphic culture mag Very Nearly Almost, or VNA for short, has been rocking our socks off for quite some time now. Created by editor George Macdonald and art director Greg Beer “all for the love” as an after-hours side project, the mag presents a quarterly serving of eyeball gratifying visuals from both sides of the law.
Issue 23 has just dropped, spotlighting prolific NYC duo Faile’s retro-pop compositions and a collection of other US based design and graffiti art from the likes of Michael Sieben and Morning Breath as well as coverage of the scene surrounding VNA’s British base including interviews with visual artist Tom French and paste-up duo Prefab77. Issue 23 of VNA also casts its international focus on our neck of the woods with an interview with Aussie aerosol-wizard Aeon.
We recently caught up with George and Greg for a quick chat about the origins of VNA, the publication process and what they envision for the mag’s future, see what they had to say below.
1. What is your magazine called and why?
George (GM): The magazine is called Very Nearly Almost or VNA for short. Back in 2006 when I started the magazine, I was often starting new creative ventures but never taking them very far. Very Nearly Almost is a nod to the fact that I could never see things through, plus it was apt that all the artists featured in the magazine where very nearly almost successful artists… Well it made sense at the time.
2. What is it about?
Greg (GB): We cover everything from street art and graffiti through to illustration, low brow and fine art. We are in the process of broadening our content at the moment, while always staying true to where we have come from and our core subject matter.
GM: Yeah its always been a about creativity based around the core subject of street art. Luckily street art has no rules so it can incorporate fine art, illustration, graphic design, photography, even sculpture. So the magazine is about creative people doing something special in the world.
3. How often is it published?
GB: Quarterly and even at that its a challenge sometimes. Distribution and stockist deadlines help to keep us on our toes and on time
4. What inspired VNA?
GB: Originally VNA was a zine created out of boredom in my everyday life. It was an avenue to showcase the thousands of photographs I was taking of graffiti and street art in London at the time. Now we produce a quarterly magazine with our favourite artists and we do this because both Greg and myself are very passionate about art, printed material and taking an idea and seeing how far we can take it.
5. Can you tell us about your production values?
GM: VNA started life as a B&W photocopied photo zine back in 2006 and after six issues of development which saw partial colour and full colour printing, gloss stock and even the introduction of text/interviews, I came on board and switched everything over to uncoated stock and made it perfect bound! Its been that way ever since, but we have changed the page size and the number of pages a few times since, but eventually settled on the current the 164 pages and size spec. It seems to be big enough to open up and read, yet small enough to be different and most importantly, cost effective (we get amazing yield from our paper stock). We use an uncoated stock, which I think suits the subject matter. I think it just feels right for art to be on a textured paper… Well, at least the art we are talking about.
6. Why have you chosen to have your publication printed in England, rather than following the trend of having your magazine printed offshore?
GB: There are a few reasons really. It all started here for VNA and for me personally, I think its important to support the local business and economy wherever you are. Plus, we are in the same time zone and physically in the grand scheme of things, close to our printer, so our communication is fast and effective (useful when running over the delivery deadline and there are issues) and the delivery of magazines to our distributors and agents is only a few days from artwork approval! Advent have a really amazing pre press team as well and they have be really helpful in progressing that side of the magazines production.
7. What can someone opening a copy of VNA expect?
GB: Hopefully an introduction to at least one artist you have never heard of before! But other than that, an insight into artists that a lot of magazines don’t really manage to achieve. We have a solid group of writers who strive to get the most out of an interview with whoever they are talking to. Its really exciting to discover new things about your favourite artists with each issue.
GM: VNA is supposed to inspire and also educate people to what artists and designers are doing all around the world. Its a snapshot of what is happening right now in street art and in contemporary “urban art”
8. Which other magazines/publications have influenced you the most?
GB: Do you remember RUGGED by Carhartt? That was what really got me excited about publishing. I loved the breadth of content they managed to cover with each issue. I think I managed to pick up almost all the issues. Wooden Toy Magazine by Timba Smits was pretty rad back in the day. Its a shame thats no longer kickin’ about. Kingbrown constantly kills it on the artist front at the moment and the crew that produce it are super rad.
I love a good art zine as well. Something that is self published and that you can feel the time and effort that was put into it – thats what really wins me over everytime! I also have a massive soft spot for Frankie and now Smith Journal - they are just really well produced and always entertaining. Juxtapoz is great as well, and sometimes I really wonder how little old VNA can compete when Juxtapoz is monthly and so well known… but we do what we do and hopefully they like it as much as we do!?
GM: I have always loved the German magazine Lodown, every page is inspiring and different. Successfully mixing graffiti, music, skateboarding, fashion and design all in one is very impressive and the layout work by Marok is still taking it to new levels. Juxtapoz is hard to ignore… Its such a massively successful title and another huge inspiration to me personally, without Juxtapoz there would be no VNA.
9. Are there any challenges associated with monetising a publication whose subject matter, for the most part, resides on the wrong side of the law?
GM: Not really, so far so good. We do not condone any illegal activity and we are acting purely as form of documentation. With regards to the money, its all about money these days, even the hardest of the hardcore graffiti writers is cashing in on the buzz surrounding graffiti and street art. Who wouldn’t want to make money from something they love? As a publication, we are just selling a glimpse into a lifestyle and a look into what people get up to late at night.
10. What does the future hold for VNA?
GB: Make issue 24, then 25. We have some little side projects with artists on the go and we are looking to do a little event, organised by our junior designer, for actually making it to issue 25! Other than that, its about survival and enjoying the art.
GM: who knows… VNA will continue to grow and we will push to make it a creative and inspiring read every frickin’ time.