By Sue Tiffin
Since 2010, Kim Wark has contributed a spot of colour, humour and clever fun on a weekly basis to the pages of the Minden Times, one comic panel at a time.
It’s her name you see signed to the bottom of Kwarky, the comic she designs for Page 6 each week. To date, she has created more than 500 cartoons for this paper.
Wark, now a teacher living in Oshawa, began cartooning in 1996. Like her hero, Gary Larson who creates the Far Side comic strip, she isn’t trained as an artist. Instead, she graduated university with a psychology degree, and then ventured out into the world.
“I headed out west for a chance to just see what I like doing,” she said.
While there, waitressing in Banff at the Keg restaurant, she befriended another girl in her mid-20s, who was an animator for Disney Studios in Toronto but also taking a year off.
“And so she was trying to make me laugh, and doodling on coasters,” said Wark. “I’ve been a writer since I was a kid. I love words, I love word play, I write stories. And I pitched the idea – do you want to start a cartoon up? I’ll write the tag lines, and you do the art.”
An editor at The Wild Life newspaper was interested in Wark’s pitch, and so began a few years of Wark contributing cartoons and humour articles.
“Then my friend went back to her real job in Toronto and got too busy to keep up,” laughed Wark.
Wark took a cartooning course in Calgary and decided to take on both the art and the writing.
“It was really good, I love taking continuing education courses,” she said. “This was an artist, doing a private course at an artists’ centre in Calgary. Just what tools to use, markers, paper, how to create bodies and angle. And yeah, it was fun. That was really early on, so it just gave me confidence to develop my own style. And I’ve kept it simple.”
When Wark moved back to Toronto, she stopped the comic in Banff, and cold called the Minden Times, knowing the area for a cottage she kept on Maple Lake at the time.
“I’m local in spirit,” she laughed.
Since then, Kwarky has been exclusively published in the Times each week, which Wark said helps her keep a schedule for creating.
“I draw it with pencil, and then I ink it with an ultra fine Sharpie, which you can get at just an arts and craft store, nothing fancy,” said Wark. “Then I erase the pencil, fix mistakes and then I scan it into the computer, and Adobe Illustrator will do some things that I need, like crisping up the lines. And being able to type the tagline. Adobe Photoshop helps me with colour and making it into a JPEG.”
“My motto is less is more,” she said of her creative style. “So I try to keep things relatively two-dimensional.”
Occasionally, she is stumped for ideas, especially with a full-time job set in routine.
“You have to get out of that and not think about your to-do list,” she said. “I am a creative person and I spend most of my time in my own head. My mind just wanders. As long as I’m not stressed, I can just let my mind react to things I hear, things I read. And then I also try and get out of my comfort zone, which is usually education and dogs. I try to think about, you know, careers that people don’t do cartoons about. So like, let’s do a funny cartoon about an architect, or a dentist. What’s funny about that? So sort of just challenging yourself to, ‘what if?’ situations.”
Besides the Times, her work has also been seen in Reader’s Digest, and through CartoonStock.com her art has been purchased for textbooks, newsletters, by professors and even by people who might want it on a mug. CartoonStock allows Wark to sell her work, rather than have it downloaded by those not respecting copyright laws.
But despite having a prolific portfolio, Wark said she doesn’t have one favourite piece.
“The ones that stand out to me are the ones that are really funny, because they’re not all really funny,” she laughed. “The ones that are beautiful to look at, with the colours, and the ones that have as few words as possible. That’s one of the hardest things about cartooning, to use as few words and let the art carry the cartoon.”
To see more of Wark’s work, visit https://www.cartoonstock.com/cartoonists/kimwark.