The artist, Kevin Pope. Photo by Martin Boling


Before graduating with a B.F.A. from Indiana University in 1981, Kevin Pope, a native of Carmel, Indiana, took a practical approach to getting his start as an illustrator and cartoonist, mailing his portfolio hither and yon. It paid off when the Ottawa Business Magazine in Canada’s capital hired him to illustrate a cover.

After graduation, he and his wife, Kim, headed to Chicago, where she had a job opportunity. Again, he took a practical approach, shopping his portfolio all around the Windy City. And again, it paid off.

Playboy magazine hired Pope to illustrate subject headings. The Chicago Tribune hired him to start a daily comic. The Playboy work lasted 17 years, and the Tribune comic, Inside Out, a single-panel cartoon series, was syndicated to 30 other newspapers for four years as competition to Gary Larson’s The Far Side.

Pope says his cartooning often combines “word play and twists on images. The twists make your mark. My mark and name were out there, and one thing led to another.”

Inside Out led to two other jobs—one, as head character designer for six Pepsi TV commercials featuring animated animal characters; another, directing the art for 13 episodes of the NBC animated show Sammy. He also contributed for many years to Mad magazine.

These days, Pope, 59, is creating finer art. “I’ve enjoyed the commercial work I’ve done; now I’m doing things for myself,” he says. Applying acrylic paints and found objects on birch planks or vintage stationary, Pope creates vignettes (he calls them “snapshots”) of imagined 1930’s scenes—a railroad station, a jazz group, a farmer and his wife.

“I’m fascinated by that period,” he says. “People were coming out of the Depression, life was hard, and everything was slower.”

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CHECK OUT THIS GALLERY OF OUR KEVIN POPE’S ART: (Click on the image below to start the slideshow. Use the on-screen arrows or the arrows on your keyboard to navigate forward and backward.)