You’ve likely seen the work of Kevin Cannon, a local illustrator and cartoonist, in the form of maps, comics, and illustrations in publications like City Pages and the Star Tribune. But his most popular piece of art thus far is a newly released poster of his Minnesotan bookstore drawings.
The project was part of InkTober, an annual tradition created by Jake Parker in 2009. Every October, artists are challenged to create new ink drawings daily and to post them on social media.
At the beginning of October this year, a woman Cannon was seeing happened to go to Wild Rumpus for the first time. “She called me and raved about it, so as a gift to her, I drew a little drawing of the bookstore,” he says. Satisfied with how it turned out, Cannon decided to make bookstores the focus on his own Inktober challenge.
There was just one problem: He didn’t know if there were enough bookstores to fill 31 days. He took to social media and asked for recommendations. “People just flooded me with all these great ideas for Twin Cities bookstores and stores in Duluth and Stillwater, places I hadn’t been to. It was an eye-opening experience.”
Cannon, who grew up in St. Louis Park, began drawing with markers on foam board at three years of age. “In high school, I was called on by teachers to do program covers and sports T-shirt illustrations,” he says. “I did those for free, obviously, but that was the start of my career as a freelance cartoonist. Those teachers were my first clients, and taught me about the business of cartooning at a young age.”
He attended Grinnell College in Iowa, and declared a major in painting. It wasn’t until he started doing the comic strip for the Grinnell newspaper that he realized he’d found his calling. After a brief post-grad stint in Manhattan (“I was broke instantly,” he says), he returned permanently to Minnesota. He juggled day jobs and did his art on the side until demand grew; he’s been drawing full-time for the past 10 years now.
While Cannon has visited some of the bookstores featured on the poster, others he rendered from images on Google Street View or photographs found on Flickr. The bookstore poster, which went on sale earlier this month, sold out its first run of 100 prints and a second run is on order at the printer. It is the most popular item ever on his website.
The cartoonist continues to receive emails from bookstore owners who want their businesses depicted in his drawings, too. If he can get 30 more bookstore suggestions, he will likely do a second poster.
Cannon says one of the best parts of this project has been reading people’s comments on Facebook and Twitter; many stating that the drawings have motivated them to visit the bookstores in person. “Hopefully it gets more traffic in the bookstores,” he says. “They’re such a great asset to the community.”