Me: Hello, Kenny, welcome to the Phile. How are you?
Kenny: Exhausted but otherwise very happy. Taking care of my 3 week old baby, my teenage son, my daughter and drawing a lot. Life is good!
Me: I cannot believe we are practically neighbors. How long have you lived in the Clermont area?
Kenny: I've lived in Clermont for about 6 years, but been in Florida for ten. I moved down in spring of 2000 to draw caricatures for a living. I draw at several retail stands at Disney World, and at parties and events in the Central Florida area.
Me: It's nice out here, isn't it? Ever been up in the Citrus Tower?
Kenny: I love it here in Clermont, it's very "un-Florida". The trees, hills and lakes are more like Wisconsin, where I grew up. I've never been to the Citrus Tower, but I can see it from my house.
Me: Me, too. What about the coolest store in town, Heroes Landing, have you been there?Kenny: I've been to Heroes Landing many times. I enjoyed my first Slurm ever there, got some cool comics and stuff, and talked with the awesome staff. I'll be back!
Me: Where are you from originally, Kenny?
Kenny: Like I mentioned before, I'm originally from Wisconsin. I lived in a little town called Bristol which is in the southeast corner of the state on the Wisconsin/Illinois border. It was a great place to grow up because it's roughly halfway between Milwaukee and Chicago, so there's a lot of history and culture to experience. Although I live in Florida, I'm forever a cheesehead.
Me: We met briefly at MegaCon, Kenny. How was it for you? Was it fun? Your son had a great time, didn't he? He was dressed like a Jedi, right?
Kenny: I've attended many conventions as a guest artist and I think this is my third or fourth MegaCon. They've all been fun, but this year's MegaCon was definitely the most successful for me. My son Alex did attend with me sporting his Jedi robes. Powerful Jedi is he.
Me: I like your art work and style. There's a lot of circles in your drawings I noticed. Why is that?
Kenny: Circles? Wow, I never noticed that. I guess my artwork tends to be less angular and more rounded. I'm going to have to analyze that further. Great observation!
Me: You have a very distinct style. How long did it take to come up with your own thing?
Kenny: Thirty-eight years so far. I think developing a "style" is a lifelong process. You can't force it though, you have to let it develop on it's own. Just be true to yourself and it will happen.
Me: Who were your influences growing up?
Kenny: Ahhh...one of my most frequently asked questions, and most difficult for me to answer. I hope this doesn't sound like a cop-out, but my influences are pretty much everything. I find inspiration from television, books, movies, music, nature, my friends, family etc. I'm as inspired by a great artist like Michelangelo as I am by a guitar solo by Eddie Van Halen. They're both equally amazing to me. I guess if I had to, I could give you a VERY short example of who my influences are: Jim Henson, George Lucas, Stephen Spielberg, Tim Burton, Walt Disney, John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, Berke Breathed, Bill Watterson, Gary Larson, Leonardo Da Vinci, Norman Rockwell, Al Hirschfeld, Mort Drucker, Jack Davis,Sam Viviano, Sergio Aragones, Sebastian Kruger, Tom Richmond, Steve Silver, Jake and Elwood Blues, B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Eric Clapton, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, The Who, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Gorillaz, and anyone who was in Van Halen except Gary Cherone.
Me: Did you always draw? I doodle A LOT. I bet you always carry a Sharpie around, don't you?Kenny: I always draw. Always. Every day. No excuses. Drawing is like breathing, I have to do it to live. No blank paper is safe around me.
Me: I noticed you have your very own blogspot, Kenny. Mine is four years old, how long have you had yours? It's a great place to show off your artwork, right?
Kenny: I've had my blogspot since 2005. I think if you're going to be a visual artist these days, you have to have a strong presence on the web. A blog is a vital tool for the artist to showcase their work. I update my blog every single day, which constantly gives my viewers new content, informs them of what I'm up to, and encourages repeat visits.
Me: Don't you contribute to another blogspot?
Kenny: I have contributed to both Toon Weekly and The Toony Bin, both of which are now defunct. But I am on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and DeviantArt.
Me: You are part of the ISCA I think. The International Society of Caricature Artists. I am amazed there is such a thing. When did you become a member and was it hard to get into?Kenny: The ISCA was formerly the National Caricaturist Network (NCN). It was founded in 1989 and has since grown to almost 600 members worldwide. I've been a member for about 10 years. If you're even slightly interested in caricatures, or you're a visual artist, I highly recommend joining. There is a membership fee, but that's all you'll need to join.
Me: There's an ISCA convention coming up in Vegas this November. Are you going to it?
Kenny: I have every intention of attending the ISCA convention in November. I've been to 5 conventions before, and they're astounding.
Me: Who is the first caricature you have ever done and what is the hardest one you drew?
A: If you count Grover from Sesame Street, then that would be my first caricature that I can remember. There are two caricatures that come to mind as the hardest ones I've ever drawn. The first was at an event celebrating soldiers returning from overseas who had been injured in one way or another. I was drawing caricatures at that event for the soldiers and their families. One gentleman in particular was so severely burned that his features were virtually unrecognizable. I was so nervous because I didn't want my drawing to insult him. He had a remarkable attitude though, and told me to draw him as he appeared and not to hold back. I drew him as Superman and he and his family loved it, but I was shaking. The second most difficult caricature for me to draw is my wife. Gorgeous women are always the most difficult to caricature.
Me: How did you learn to do that? I tried a number of times, Kenny. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don't.
Kenny: You learn how to caricature just like you learn anything else. Practice. Keep hitting your head against the wall until you break through. Study the masters, look at all the different styles. Keep a sketchbook with you at all times and draw while you watch tv, or sit on your break at work, or go to dinner, or stand in line at the grocery store. Have fun, don't give up, and you'll figure it out.
Me: Each artist has their own style to do it, what is yours?
Kenny: It's always difficult for me to analyze my own work. I'd like to think of my style as cartoony, whimsical, animated and expressive. I tend to not draw realistic or very rendered.
Me: Man, I wish I would of had you draw a caricature of me at the 'Con. That would be cool.
Kenny: Anyone visiting me at a Con is more than welcome to get a drawing by me. Just ask!
Me: Okay, let's talk about Durkins Dragons. How did you come up with the dragon idea?
Kenny: I was just sitting around doodling one day and drew this dragon. Now, I had drawn countless dragons before, but I was having fun drawing this particular dragon and I liked the way he turned out. So I drew another one, and another one. 24 dragons later, and I had enough for my first book.
Me: You published a book called "Durkins Dragons", which I will make it part of the Peverett Phile Book Club as we speak. There it, official. It's called "Durkin's Dragons: Parodies and Tributes". How long did it take you to write and draw it?
Kenny: The Durkin's Dragons series started with the first book I just mentioned. I produced a calendar for 2010 with 12 all-new Durkin's Dragons. The third publication, "Durkin's Dragons: Parodies and Tributes" is a compilation of dragons based on notable characters from pop culture. There's no text or story. They are single panels of artwork, took a couple months to compile.
Me: It's not to be confused with the book "My Durkin is Dragging", which is a whole different book. Right? That's a joke, Kenny.
Kenny: My Durkin has been Dragging a lot lately...
Me: What kinda tributes and parodies are in it? Will you have a Volume 2?
Kenny: There's some from Star Wars and Disney, musicians, animation and other geeky, fun stuff. There will most definitely be a Volume 2.
Me: The dragons are in another book you published before. How is that book different?
Kenny: The dragons from the previous book are all exclusively my concepts, just a bunch of silly, goofy dragons. The dragons in the calendar are more themed around the specific month they each represent.
Me: What I really think is cool, and what made me want to interview you is your comic book series "Black Cat Bone". Have you heard of the blues band Black Cat Bones?
Kenny: I've heard of the band Black Cat Bones. The term "black cat bone" comes from hoodoo and is used frequently in blues music.
Me: Speaking of Blues, any comic that is based around the blues is cool with me. When did you come up with that idea?
Kenny: I've always been a fan of blues music. It influences much of the music we listen to today, from country, to rock, to rap. I wanted to tell the story of the blues, it has such a rich mythology. I had the idea to tell it through the life of a character who would personify the blues and the journey it took through history. I came up with Kit "Blue-Eye" Baxter, a little black cat who sings the blues.
Me: You must be into the blues, Kenny. Who is your favorite singer and blues band?
Kenny: I think B.B. King is at the top of my list of blues artists, though I have to give props to the Blues Brothers who were my "gateway" in to blues music.
Me: How many issues of the comic has there been already, and how many are you planning?Kenny: I've produced the first two chapters already. They are titled "Black Cat Bone: The Blues is Born" and "Black Cat Bone: Flood Waters Rising" The third book, "Black Cat Bone: The Devil's Music" has been written and I'm feverishly producing the artwork for it as we speak. The fourth book, "Black Cat Bone: Crossroads" is being written. I originally planned on nine chapters (like a cat's nine lives), but the story has expanded since then, so I'm not sure of the exact number of issues I'll need to complete the story.
Me: It would make such a cool cartoon. Have you thought about that at all?
Kenny: I want to animate every single thing I draw. Black Cat Bone is no exception. It really needs to be heard as well as seen. Are you listening, Pixar?
Me: You also drew for a book called "Norm PhartEphant". I like the play on the ph instead of f, like in the Phile. When did that book come out?
Kenny: "Norman Phartephant: Volume 1" came out in 2009. The second volume came out early 2010. I'm currently inking the third book, which will be released later this year.
Me: It's written by Angela Larson, Kenny. How did that gig come about, drawing for another writer? Mention to her I would love to have her on the Phile, and make the Norm book a part of my book club.
Kenny: Angela needed an artist and I needed to illustrate something. It was a win-win. Plus, I love toys and Norman's books are based on a plush elephant who pharts when you squeeze his tail. The toy was produced by Angela Larson's company, Fierce Fun Toys.
Me: Kenny, thanks for doing this interview. I am jealous of your talent, sir. Go ahead and plug your website and tell the readers where they can purchase the books, comics or your art. And is there anything else you want to say?
Kenny: My blog is www.durkinworks.blogspot.com. Be sure to visit it every day for new stuff! You can order all of my publications and other cool stuff from my blog as well. When you go there, just click the links to the right. I appreciate the opportunity to talk, and stay tuned, I've got a lot of new, fun stuff in the "Works"
Me: Thanks again, and I hope to see you around town. Let's meet at Friendly's some time.
A: Sounds great. Don't forget to bring your sketchbook!