Artist / Designer Interview 3 – Kim White
How long have you been an illustrator?
I grew up in the mid-fifties the son of an illustrator. In my early teens, I followed my father and his promise of a career in commercial art that will be ‘fun’ and ‘glamorous’ and ‘rewarding’. This was about the same time that I learned one of the Great Truths of Advertising: Don’t believe anyone, not even your father.
What inspires your work?
Later, in art school, while pretending to listen to lectures, I would surreptitiously doodle unflattering cartoons of my lecturer. All the while asking myself the age-old student question, What the hell good will knowing any of this ever do me?
Now, 35 years later, as a Creative Director at an advertising agency, I spend most days in fancy conference rooms surreptitiously doodling unflattering cartoons of Account Executives.
I no longer bother to pretend to listen, however. Account Executives don’t respect creative types unless we appear abstract and non-plussed.
And while knowing any of the stuff they blather on about still hasn’t done me a hell of a lot of good, I am at least getting better at doodling.
What media do you work in and why?
My method consists of flipping through a book of hundreds of stamps, with an idea in mind. When I find the stamp, I rough in the cartoon in broad strokes with a soft #2 pencil.
I ink the final and add all the detail on the fly with a Sakura Pigma Micron 02 pen.
I lick the stamps with my tongue.
How would you describe your style of artwork?
About the time I started working for my father, I started cartooning on envelopes. This always seemed to be very popular with friends and family because, (a) who doesn’t like to get mail that’s not from the power company, and (b) who wouldn’t like to see beautiful portraits of politicians, statesmen and even saints made fun of by a guy with a pen?
Do you do any initial sketching or planning before starting a new piece?
And that’s really the fun part of what I do. For instance, for the game warden of my county, I once rendered Smokey the Bear (spokesbear for ecology and fire safety) cooking an endangered species over an unsafe fire pit.
Sometimes I like to compromise the mission of a commemorative stamp. Like a cavalier John Audobon blasting birds out of the sky with a shotgun. Or take a stamp memorializing the-father-of-my-country George Washington (of I cannot tell a lie, I cut down the cherry tree fame) and put him in a crowd of George Washington’s laying blame on each other. This is, after all, how politics works in America now.
Which artist most inspires you?
As far as illustrators go, I have always admired R. Crumb for his wit and line quality and R. O. Blechman for his economy and emotion. I admire both of them for getting by with the first name of. And of course I have always been inspired by my father, The Liar.
Politics has been described to me by Kinky Friedman as Poli meaning many, and tics meaning blood-sucking parasites.
What words of advice would you give to any aspiring artists out there?
Which leads me to my inspirations and advice. Kinky Friedman is a pretty funny writer, and who, like Dave Barry or Roy Blount Jr., remind me when I read him that great writers are the best inspiration for visual artists. Face it, if you can put a picture into someone’s head without actually using a picture, then you’re pretty damn good in the Picture Department.
After thirty years of inking envelopes, as far as I know, they have all been delivered. At least the ones I’ve dropped into mailboxes have. I’ve done a lot of commissions however, which get framed rather than mailed, I think because of the price. This leads to another Great Truth of Advertising: whether your product is any good or not, if you charge too much for it people will love it.
Kim White www.kimwhite.com
Jim White (Kim’s Dad) www.kimwhite.com/jimwhite.html
“If you can’t fix it with a hammer, you’ve got an electrical problem.” -Dad