Arts Desk

Meet a Local Cartoonist: A Chat With Kevin Ward

Kevin Ward has a good description of his weekly Web comic strip on his website, so I'm going to lift parts of it to introduce him. "Retail Gods is the story of the Book Pit, a bookstore infested by penguins that only the workers can see. It may be a slightly atypical experience for retail workers, but only slightly… I fell in love with comics in high school and it has been a longtime dream of mine to create a comic. Thus, Retail Gods. I’m just having fun with it and channeling old retail rage into its creation (Two different Books-A-Millions and a Kroger Starbucks, as well as several years of volunteering/ working at libraries). I am currently working for a non-profit called Kid Pan Alley."  And off we go...

Washington City Paper: What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

Kevin Ward: I write and draw a webcomic called Retail Gods.  In the past, I have also experimented with creating hypercomics (interactive webcomics).

WCP: When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

KW: I was born in 1986 in Limestone, Maine.

WCP: Why are you in Washington now?  What neighborhood or area do you live in?

KW: I currently live in Woodbridge, Va.  I am here looking for a better job market than the one I found in Charlottesville.

WCP: What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

KW: I have taken drawing courses throughout my life and went to college at Stetson University for Digital Arts and Creative Writing.  The courses at Stetson, while not focusing on cartooning, allowed me to explore my love of comics through the creation of three hypercomics.

WCP: Who are your influences?

KW: My influences within the realms sequential art are Brian Lee O'Malley, Tsutomu Nihei, Brian K. Vaughn, Paul Pope, J.H. Williams III, and Brian Wood. I also take inspiration from my fine arts background through several Northern Renaissance altarpieces, Helio Oiticica, Lygia Clark, Felix-Gonzales Torres, and Nam Jun Paik.  I look to all of these people for how they develop and design their ideas.

WCP: If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

KW: At this early point in my career, the only thing I would change is when I started.  I had ideas for comics projects from high school all the way until I finally started creating my hypercomics half way through college.  I wish that I would have started up a webcomic back then, if only to practice ideas of design and storytelling.

WCP: What work are you best-known for?

KW: I guess I am best known for Retail Gods as it is my first highly visible work.

WCP: What work are you most proud of?

KW: I am most proud of a video installation I did for my senior project called 'My Amnesia Gun.'  It was an interactive piece exploring the relationship of media and poetic language.  The viewer would pick up a book and, as they moved it, little poetic clips would fade in and out of a live stream of CNN.  The accidental narratives created by the interactions ended up being absolutely beautiful.

WCP: What would you like to do  or work on in the future?

KW: I am currently working on getting a print project off the ground.  I also have a collaboration system that I am working through early setup on that would use location as a key inspiration for people to create their stories around.  I hope to get those off the ground while continuing to develop Retail Gods.

WCP: What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

KW: I shift to a new project for a day or so.  This allows me to come back to the work that I am blocked up on with a fresh head.  My other projects are anything from work around the house to work on another creative project.

WCP: What do you think will be the future of your field?

KW: I honestly have no idea where the future of comics is.  I think that web and print will both continue to grow.  I also think that interactivity in both media will start to push the boundaries of what we think of as comics.

WCP: What's your favorite thing about D.C.?

KW: I love being this close to art museums.  I went to college in the middle of Florida where the closest museum with exhibitions that interested me was a four hour drive away.  Now I have museums nearby with permanent collections that I still need to comb through as well as new exhibitions popping up constantly.

WCP: Least favorite?

KW: I really hate the traffic.  But then, I think that everyone around here does.

WCP: What monument or museum do you take most out-of-town guests to?

KW: I mostly take them to the National Portrait Gallery.  It has a beautiful selection of contemporary art as well as the presidential portraits.  To top it off, it has some of the most interesting temporary exhibitions in the area.

WCP: Do you have a website or blog?

KW: My website for Retail Gods is www.retailgods.net.  I also have a fine art site at visual.oneemptyspace.net, though it is woefully out of date right now, I will be updating it soonish.

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