Photo by Joshua Jin
Zombie Betsy Ross illustrated by Brian Britigan, winning 2nd place.

America's Founding Fathers are back, and undead

by Joshua Chin, UW News Lab Intern

Can you imagine what Thomas Jefferson would look like after a zombie apocalypse?

Dead End Press, a collaborative art studio located in Ballard, hosted the third Sketch Jam on Sunday, July 8, celebrating the spirits of the undead as well as our Founding Fathers. The theme was sparked by the Fourth of July holiday.

Thirteen artists drew from noon to 5 p.m., then helped set up for the big event. As the clock struck 6, guests entered the studio with tickets to vote for their favorite zombie figure.

“I gave the most points to Zombie Betsy,” said Dipa Reddy, a third-time attendee. “I really like how well the watercolor and paint blended together.”

In fact, artists were judged not only on drawing skill and creativity, but on a certain “it” factor that separates a winner from rest of the competitors, according to Jordan Giarratano, one of the co-founders.

At the end, it was Seth Goodkind who edged out the competition with his Zombie Crispus Attucks leading a mob of zombie minions.

This time around the event had the largest turnout ever, with more than 40 spectators, as well as more artists competing, said Giarratano.

He and business partner Nate Stottrup first created the workspace in 2011 to allow cartoonists, illustrators and tattoo artists to work in a tight-knit community of graphic designers. Impressed with the wide range of creativity they saw burst forth in their studio, they came up with the Sketch Jam idea. Having the public attend and vote on favorite artwork made it an interactive event.

“When someone comes to see the show, they will realize that if every artist could get beautiful works done in five hours, they can too,” Giarratano said. “This inspires people to get art made. Don’t talk about it, don’t dream about it, don’t put it on your to-do list — make it!”

The theme was “Zombie Founding Fathers.” Each artist chose one Founding Father who inspired him or her. The event was open to everyone, not just artists who use the studio regularly. Artists paid a fee of $15 to $25 to participate in the event. The amount covered the refreshment and promotional costs of the project. Admission was a suggested donation of $3.

Following the previous themes of Steampunk and Circus, the bar was raised even higher this time around, said Giarratano. He said Seattle has a vibrant circus subculture, a huge fan base of nerdy folks who love Steampunk and an undying love for zombies.

The theme was also tied in with the Red White & Dead Zombie Walk that happened Saturday, July 7, where large zombie flash mobs invaded the streets of Fremont.

“Art does not have to be stuffy or arrogant or boring,” Giarratano said. “There is no Seattle freeze at Dead End Press.”

Before the winners were announced, audience members gathered to speak with the artists, talking shop about color, composition and choice of character.

First place honors went to Zombie Crispus Attucks, painted by Seth Goodkind. Zombie Betsy Ross, by Brian Britigan, took second, and Zombie James Madison, by Jason Thompson, took third. Zombie Crispus features a group of revolutionary zombies charging toward a British soldier, while Zombie Betsy comes off in a grotesque yet feminine manner.

The Sketch Jams “keep getting better and better,” said Stottrup. “If you like to draw, then you understand the appeal of gathering in a group to create, not just for the company, but for the support, too.”

The public can still catch a glimpse of the zombie showcase until July 25. Dead End Press is located at 1518 NW 52nd St. and is open Wednesdays, 3 to 8 p.m., and Saturdays, noon to 4 p.m.

The next Sketch Jam will be held in August in honor of the 122nd anniversary of the birth of horror-story writer H.P. Lovecraft. The theme is Cthulhu, a fictional, cosmic entity created by Lovecraft in his work.

Businesses that helped support the Sketch Jam include Artful Dodger Tattoo, Ballard Chamber of Commerce, Utrecht Art Supplies and Benito’s Chicago Eatery.

For more information or ideas for future Sketch Jams, visit

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