Cartoonist Kevin Frank sketches a creative life

By William McGinn

Kevin Frank at work in his studio.

I met Kevin Frank when I was a little kid at a talk he hosted at the Lindsay library. Good times. I’d been writing a silly story I never actually finished and he was nice enough to read it before the event started.

Among others, he is the creator of a warm and whimsical comic strip called True North, a “nearly” true story of an American in Canada, indeed in Kawartha Lakes itself. The protagonist, Foster, was, just like Kevin, from Chicago, and had to learn to drink milk from a bag, lose sleep over gas prices and spend way too much time shovelling snow. An upside to moving was Tim Hortons and its Roll-Up contests.

Similarly, while working at a small Chicago magazine, Kevin himself was persuaded by his wife Kathryn to move with their two sons Warren and Graham to Uxbridge in 1998. They had their daughter Renée, and then moved to Omemee in 2003. They moved to Lindsay in 2010 because that was where all the youth groups and sports groups were, plus Warren and Graham had part-time jobs and were going to I.E. Weldon for high school.

True North ran from 2002-16 in multiple newspapers. He is also behind several other works, including the comic strip Thrift Shop, syndicated by King Features for 10 years in papers across North America.

Growing up reading the Sunday newspaper comics—he especially loved Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes — “it was always my boyhood dream to be syndicated.” He often sent fan letters to Peanuts cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, who sent him a signed strip he now has framed. His first official attempt at his own cartoon was back in high school; the publisher’s words to him were “Look — keep practising. Don’t send originals.“ he said. “They were nice to me,  and just the idea that somebody does read these and they do respond gave me the encouragement to keep doing it.”

Frank creates by making a pencil sketch, and with a lighting table that allows him to see his work from underneath another sheet, he then draws over it in black ink. (These sketches are always bigger than are printed.) He also uses Photoshop for grey tones and shades, or whenever he has a project in full colour. In the pre-computer days he used Zipatone, see-through plastic sheets with dotted patterns that could be cut with a razor blade and pasted on a cartoon for visual effect. Schulz used it for Kevin’s signed strip.

Kevin is a huge garage sale nerd and loves to skim thrift stores like the Salvation Army in Fenelon Falls. He and his family have loved visiting the Lindsay Mustang drive-in theatre. On weekends, he also works part-time at Colborne Street Art Gallery in Fenelon.

Kevin likes going to different coffee shops, sitting with his laptop while planning a book. That includes Mickaël’s bakery in Omemee. On his contact page at is a Paypal button in case anyone wants to buy him a coffee.

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