Barrie illustrator and creator of 'Chirp' character sharing his expertise


Every kid has a love for cartoons.

It's a part of childhood.

Every Saturday morning running down to the television so they don't miss the early morning cartoons or peering over a parent's shoulders when they are reading the newspaper, trying to get a glimpse of the funny pages.

For Bob Kain, a freelance cartoonist and illustrator, his love of cartoons did not stop at childhood. He has spent his life pursuing his love of cartooning.

Kain is a local artist known for creating the Chirp character featured in the kids magazine of the same name, who also has a wide range of cartooning styles, including European, American, Manga and many more.

"One of the things I can turn numbers, lower and capital letters, and shapes into faces. Its really quite neat," Kain said.

He has illustrated the many comics for the Toronto Star, including the money pages and the Starship page for kids. His work has also been featured in include the Montreal Gazette and the Toronto Sun.

"Cartooning is very relaxing for me. I'm more relaxed cartooning than I am doing anything else. I love it"

Kain started at drawing at five years old and when he was 14 took his first cartoon to a local newspaper. He sold his first cartoon at the age of 18.

"I was extremely nervous, but the editor was fantastic at encouraging me. We spent an hour just talking about my cartoon," said a smiling Kain. "He really encouraged me and I like to do the same thing with kids today."

From 1960 until 1996, he owned and operated his own animation studio called Videoart Productions, which produced hundreds of animated commercials, TV spots, presentations and productions. He eventually retired from his studio and started looking for other cartooning opportunities.

Being a cartoonist has held endless possibilities for Kain. He had the joyous experience of teaching at every school in Prince Edward Island and even got to teach dentists how to cartoon at the Canadian Dental Association Conference.

In 1996, he created the lovable children's character Chirp, a small yellow bird, for Owl magazine. Every month for 14 years, Kain sharpened his pencils and drew the double-page spread comic and cover art. About two years ago, he retired from illustrating the Chirp magazine and passed the torch on. In addition to the magazine, Kain also illustrated a number of Chirp books, the most recent of which came out last year.

"I really enjoyed illustrating Chirp, but I wanted to do other things as well, teaching in schools, art galleries, libraries, that kind of thing," said Kain.

Kain started teaching art classes in the 1997 and hasn't stopped since.

"I had so much stuff to do and I was teaching so many classes, but I loved it" said Kain.

He is currently preparing to teach two classes at the MacLaren Art Centre in the upcoming months. His Cartoon Technique Class starts on Jan. 20 and runs until March 24 from 4-6 p.m. Students around the ages of eight to 12 years old can learn how to draw faces, upside-down drawings, static figures, action figures, facial expressions, hands, wrinkles, sketching, foreshortening, drawing babies and kids, and plenty more. The course is still accepting applicants.

His other class, Manga Mania, will be running on the March break from March 11-13 from 9 a.m. until noon. Registration is still being accepted for this camp also.

In addition to these classes, he will be helping kids with their art at the library on Feb. 1 and 2 as part of Barrie's annual WinterFest.

Despite Kain's long life of cartooning he says he doesn't want to stop.

"I don't want to stop. There's no reason to stop. If you have the ability, why quit?" he said. "You do as much as you can do and you keep going, especially if you love it."

Cartooning is a creative outlet for Kain.

"To be able to take a piece of paper and a pencil and to be able to use spaces and lines to come up with funny pictures is just wonderful."

To register for one of Bob Kain's classes at the MacLaren, call 705-721-9696.

Anna Klaassen is a co-op student at the Examiner from Barrie North Collegiate.

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