Tulsa book illustrator, Kim Doner, energizes the audience with cartooning

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By Tatyana Nyborg
Metro Campus Associate Editor

A small Native American girl prepares to participate in the tribe’s ancient ceremony of kissing a snake… How would someone illustrate a children’s book like that?

The cartoonist Kim Doner looked at the story from the snake’s point of view, “We think the girl was afraid. How about the snake? It was scared too!”

Then, a friendly image of a snake was born and the “Green Snake Ceremony” book, illustrated by Doner, won the “Best Illustrated Book” award from the Oklahoma Book Awards in 1996.

Doner wrote in her “Not Very Official Biography” published by the Texas State Library, “Since her first book, Kim discovered she is no longer aging. She is younging.”

That was a turning point for Doner. She is an artist with a bachelor of science in medical illustration from the University of Tulsa, but cartooning has become her passion for the last 40 years.

Doner conducted “I Can’t Draw Cartoons” workshop at Tulsa Community College (TCC) Center for Creativity on Sept. 26. She filled the serene atmosphere of the classroom with humor and energy.

At the class, Doner “uncovered the secret” that cartooning was not a new method of drawing. Paleolithic era (40,000 – 8,000 B.C.) hunters and plant gathers left their cartoonish drawings in Altamira, Spain, and Lascaux, France caves. They scratched images of bisons, bulls and horses on the stone walls and ceilings with coals.

Cartoon-like paintings with curved lines existed in Ancient Greece and Rome. Doner also presented grotesques by Leonardo da Vinci in the power point, to the audience.

“Cartoons were original first sketches,” she said.

The artist mentioned Felix the Cat as the first TV cartoon character. Also, the class participants did not need help to recognize Micky Mouse, Winnie the Pooh and Betty Boop images, when she projected them on the screen.

“You can cartoon, animate anything,” Doner added. “Ask yourself a question: what is the context, what message do I want to send? Is it a humorous, mean or grotesque message?”

The illustrator admitted that reality gives her a lot of inspiration. She invited the audience to look at an ordinary crow, cup and cat and find familiar shapes, such as a pear, trapezoids, circles, and a “fourth of pizza” in the objects. According to Doner, cartooning starts with creating the shapes.

The participants of the workshop learned how to draw cartoons of a green snake; a gently elongated, elegant kitty with a bow on the head and a bold beaded necklace on the neck; and a mischievous teenage boy throwing a pie.

“I draw something 10-15 times before it is considered a character,” Doner revealed.

The artist is not just an illustrator, but a book writer, too.

“I have written two of my children’s books: “Buffalo Dreams” and “On a Road to Africa.” I also co-wrote “The Fledgling Handbook with PC Cast,” she said.

Also, Doner has illustrated for books, such as “The Buffalo in the Mall” by Molly Griffis, “The Philosopher’s Club” by Christopher Phillips, “Q is for Quark” by David Schwartz, and others.

The books are available at local libraries or on Amazon.com.

For more information about “I Can’t” workshops at the TCC Center for Creativity, contact Aninna Collier, dean and George Kaiser Family Foundation Endowed Chair, at (918)595-7050 or aninna.collier@tulsacc.edu.

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