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Meet the Artist: Kim Warp

December 15, 2009
Warp, July 20, 2009

"I'd better get a hit country song out of growing up this way."

(A reprint from the September issue of the Cartoon Bank licensing newsletter.)

Cartoonist Kim Warp first fell in love with cartooning when perusing her parents’ copy of Collier’s Collects Its Wits, where she encountered cartoons on “everything from dysfunctional families to drinking.” Now, she’s living the dream, contributing her comic stylings regularly to The New Yorker, as well as to Barron’s, the Harvard Business Review, Reader’s Digest, Cosmopolitan, and many more. The Cartoon Bank caught up with the Seattle native via e-mail at her present home in Virginia Beach, to discuss what a difference a studio makes, among other topics. 

TCB: Describe a little of your background as a cartoonist. How long have you been drawing? What kinds of things did you draw as a kid? What kind of formal artistic training did you have in high school or college, if any?

KW: I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember. My mom used to tape big sheets of butcher paper on the kitchen table for my sisters and me to draw on every morning. Drawing was a form of play and trying to make each other laugh; we would draw pictures of each other, people we knew, or anything, really, that might make milk come out of someone’s nose. I think this was probably the first shove towards cartooning in my life. As far as formal training, I majored in art in college with a concentration in graphic design (thinking that I might be able to make a living out of art that way). Hey, what do you mean, “if any”?

TCB: Was The New Yorker read in your household growing up?

KW: No, we had Popular Mechanics and National Geographic lying around the house. I didn’t see The New Yorker until college. Now, of course, my parents get The New Yorker. I know this because they call me up and say, “We got our New Yorker, you’re not in it.”

TCB: What was your first published cartoon? When were you first published in The New Yorker, and what was the cartoon?

KW: My first published cartoon was in Playgirl, not long after I graduated from college. It’s of an old woman talking to an old man in bed: “I said I wished you were peppier in bed, not preppier.” Thank you for reminding me of that. My first cartoon was published in The New Yorker in 1999.

Warp, August 23, 1999

"Very good, Larry! Just one more step and you'll have the entire aisle blocked!"

TCB: Family life and kids are obviously big sources of inspiration for you. Where else do you get ideas for cartoons? Do your husband and kids ever offer you suggestions, and do you ever take them up on those suggestions?

KW: I get my ideas everywhere, and anyone around me starts seeing them too. It’s like those 3-D optical-illusion posters; once you learn to see them, they just jump out at you all the time. Both of my daughters have had ideas I’ve drawn and sold, but not to The New Yorker. My husband has been in quite a few cartoons verbatim.

TCB: Do you have a studio or a certain space at home devoted to your work? What is it like?

KW: Yes, I have a studio. I call it a studio because Sam Gross told me if you call it a studio, you can charge more than if you call it an office. Is that true? Anyway, there is a drawing desk with a light table, leather reclining club chair that the cats have destroyed, a TV for background noise, a computer desk with a Wacom tablet, scanner, a basket for the cats, lots of pens and paper. On the wall I have family photos, drawings from cartoonist friends, big maps of the world and U.S. and cartoon awards and memorabilia. For drawing inspiration, I have books, figurines of movie monsters, little car models, and vintage toys, including a stuffed Bugs Bunny I’ve had since I was two (I’m a huge Chuck Jones fan).

Warp, August 7, 2006

"And this song goes out there to any girl who might consider sleeping with me."

TCB: New Yorker cartoonists tend to live around big metro areas, like LA, D.C., and New York (obviously). What is cartooning like in southeastern Virginia? What kind of reaction do you get when you tell people there what you do for a living? What’s their reaction to the idea of The New Yorker?

KW: I live in Virginia Beach, which is a pretty big city, or maybe a really big suburb, it’s hard to say. One of the great things about being a cartoonist is that you can call anything research.  Lately I’ve been trying to use the suburban and rural scenes around me and talk about that life. As far as how people react to me, usually I’m the first cartoonist people have met and I think I’m considered a bit of an oddity. People are very aware of The New Yorker and always have a favorite cartoon, or want a cartoon explained or an idea that I should draw.

Warp, October 3, 2005

"Want to bitch for one more lap?"

TCB: What are some of your favorite things to draw?

KW: I like to draw from real life, but I also love zany genre cartoons, like shark or alien cartoons. I can never get the New Yorker editors to buy one of my alien cartoons. Maybe someday. Apparently, looking at my “first cartoons published question,” I also like to draw old people.

Warp, March 27, 2006

The New Yorker, March 27, 2006, by Kim Warp

TCB: Who are some of your cartoonist inspirations – artists that you look up to and made you want to be a cartoonist? What are some of your favorite New Yorker cartoons (either works of your own, or by others)?

KW: Early on, I loved Charles Addams, Richard Taylor, and James Thurber. Later on I discovered Sam Gross, George Booth, and Mick Stevens. Now, of course, I enjoy many cartoonists’ work, but those were the ones that I remember making me want to be a cartoonist. My favorite cartoon of my own is always the one I’m currently working on. By others, Mick Stevens did an “Office of Big Brother” cartoon: “Gee! 1983 already!” I had it hanging up for years. George Booth’s elephant trainer: “It seems some days like I make a little progress, then other days it seems like I’m not getting anywhere at all.”  Richard Taylor’s park ranger talking to the group of women: “Now if we can all be silent for a few moments, we will hear the thunder of the waters.” I could go on and on.

Stevens, May 9, 1983

The New Yorker, May 9, 1983, by Mick Stevens

Booth, February 25, 1974

"It seems some days like I make a little progress, then other days it seems like I'm not getting anywhere at all."

Taylor, July 27, 1946

"Now if we can all be silent for a few moments, we will hear the thunder of the waters."

TCB: What would you say has been your proudest moment as a cartoonist?

KW: Is there any way to answer this question without sounding like a jerk? I don’t really have one moment, but it’s always nice when someone I know tells me that someone told them about a cartoon they really loved, and it turned out to be one of mine. It’s kind of like a comedian not counting laughs from drunks. A laugh from someone I don’t know counts. My proudest moment would be if I could get milk to come out of Bob Mankoff’s nose, but I think that’s probably unattainable.


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