with Blair Kitchen creator of The Possum
Name: Blair Kitchen
Comics: The Possum
QRD – How old were you when you first realized you wanted to be a cartoonist?
Blair – I was in high school when I realized that you COULD be a cartoonist. I always loved to draw, but I thought you had to be an architect or something like that... it didn’t even occur to me that I could choose to draw cartoons for a living. My brother Mike is two years older than me, so when he decided to study animation in college, I let him do all of the hard work to convince my parents to let him & then I just slid in behind him without a peep. I’m glad it worked out the way it did.
QRD – What are a few highlights of your cartooning career?
Blair – Most of my actual cartooning career has been in animation, where I have been lucky enough to work on some fun movies, commercials, & TV shows. My first feature I worked on was Fox’s Titan A.E., where I was an inbetweener. That was fun, but it never really felt like it was my work. My first feature as an animator was on the Curious George movie for Universal pictures, which was still some of the most fun I’ve had working on a project. Lately I’ve been storyboarding & my first feature for boarding was on the recently released Book of Life movie. Animation is fun & I’ve gotten to contribute to some really fun shows; but as a highlight, there was nothing better than putting out my first Possum comic book. What I enjoy most is creating my own stories... something that I get to have full ownership of. Up until Possum #1, I had never felt that.
QRD – At what age did you decide you wanted to become a father?
Blair – I don’t think there was ever a time that I didn’t want to be a father. I was lucky to grow up with good parents & 5 other siblings & I have always appreciated the family structure. It’s a beautiful thing if God is at the head of it.
QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your family has had on your career?
Blair – On the positive side, being responsible for feeding, clothing, & providing for a wife & children is a good motivator & makes you take what you do seriously. I wasn’t nearly as productive as I am now, before I had kids. On the flip side, it was never as hard to find time to work, as it is now that I have kids. My time isn’t my own any more, but I have learned to make every hour of the day productive. Sometimes being productive means resting (which I don’t do enough of), but being “bored” is a foreign concept to me now.
QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your career has had on your family?
Blair – Being an artist, I was blessed to work from home for much of the time my kids were young, which was awesome. It meant lots of late nights working, but meant that I could see them off to school, & be there when they came home. I am also blessed to be able to be the sole provider for my family, allowing my wife to stay home & be there 24/7 for my kids, which I think is very important. It allows me to work with a clean conscience, knowing that my kids are being taken care of by their mother. It’s amazing when I think that animating cartoons has paid for everything that I have & has kept my family going for as long as we’ve been a family. On the negative side, I DON’T work fixed hours all of the time, so there are many evenings that my wife would rather watch TV with me or hang out, but I need to make a deadline. I enjoy working, but in order to make a living doing art, you have to work hard & that sometimes affects the whole family. My wife is an artist too (although she stopped working when we had children), so she understands.
QRD – Have your children effected the comics you make &/or read?
Blair – For sure! I make comics that I want my kids to read. When I’m not sure if a joke is too risky to put in, I think, “Would I let my kid read this?” & if the answer is yes, then I put it in & live by it. I also get a lot of ideas from them... not directly, because most of their suggestions are bad, but usually from conversations or watching them from a distance. (Although my son is still wanting royalties for a children’s book I’m working on, that I totally stole the name for from him. He said he wanted to make a book called Copy Cat & immediately I had an idea for a children’s book. My book is nothing like his, but he is still expecting money from me.) I’m actually in the process of doing a jam comic with Dave Sim, my daughter (12), my wife, & myself & another jam comic with my two sons (7 & 10) & my daughter. It’s great fun to draw with them.
QRD – Have you had problems with the lack of steady money from an artistic career providing the security you feel necessary in your household?
Blair – I have been lucky to have a steady income through animation. Any comics that I’ve done have not made me money yet, so I’m still a part time comic artist. One day, I’d love to make a go at making my own books full time, but I have a 10 year plan that includes getting my kids through college & married first. Sometimes I’m jealous of the single guys who can quit work for a few months to work on their own stuff, but I wouldn’t dream of trading what I have for that opportunity.
QRD – Given the limitations having a family has on going on the convention circuit, would you have showed more earlier in life if you’d known?
Blair – I’m not sure what I think of the convention circuit. I don’t think it’s a good way to get a following compared to the online world; but once you get a following, then it makes a lot more sense. I don’t think if I did conventions earlier on in life it would have gotten me any further along. My early years, I focused on working at studios where I could learn from experience, top animators, & cartoonists; which I still feel is invaluable. So many people working from home miss out on the apprentice & mentoring systems studios can provide. I’m glad I went that route.
QRD – Do you think being a father or a cartoonist has a greater impact on your community?
Blair – A father, hands down.
QRD – Would you rather see your children eventually become cartoonists or parents?
Blair – Why not both? When all is said & done, you are a father, brother, husband, son, cousin, more than a cartoonist. On my deathbed, the cartoons that I’ve drawn will not even be a part of my thoughts... (& I’ve been very close to being on a deathbed, so I’m speaking from experience). It will be the same for my children.
QRD – Both family & comics seem like things that will take up as much of your time as you’re willing to put in. How do you end up dividing your time?
Blair – My family comes first. I draw cartoons because I love it, but also because it provides for my family. Thankfully I don’t have to choose one or the other, but if I did family would come first. I put in an honest day’s work, but after that I’m there for my kids. When they are in bed, I will work again. The part where I’m torn is finding quality time for my wife, as we are in a stage of our lives where our kids keep us very busy. I try really hard to make her come first before work, but sometimes there are deadlines & I have to work. She knows this & is encouraging, but it’s one of those things where you could unknowingly drift apart. She reminds me, & I’m thankful she does, because by my nature I’m a hard worker & don’t like to slow down. I have to listen to her.
QRD – What do your kids think of your comics?
Blair – My kids really like my comics & that is what gives me the most satisfaction of anything. I love making books that my kids want to show their friends.
QRD – Do you think you could ever do a comic project with your children?
Blair – Actually, I have done a project with my children. I met Ethan Nicolle (creator of Axe Cop) in San Diego a few years ago & he asked me to do a pin up for his comic Axe Cop. Ethan’s 9 year old brother writes Axe Cop & Ethan puts it into a workable story & draws it, which makes for a very very funny comic. Instead of a pin up, I ended up doing a Possum/Axe Cop team up, written by my two children (then 7 & 9 I think). It was only 4 pages, but I really liked how it came out. They both created their own characters & wrote the story & I drew it. I’m also doing some jam comics with them, which I mentioned previously. I’d love to do more with them as they get older too.
QRD – Any words of advice to young people?
Blair – It’s only comics? Don’t take yourself too seriously, but do the best you can do & be honest when critiquing your own work. Also, don’t wait for everything to be perfect financially & career wise before you have kids. Kids don’t care if you have a nice house or nice carpets or a nice car. Kids just want their parents to be there for them & you can do that no matter what stage you are in your life. & always put your family before your career.