Kevin Cannon is an artist of all trades.
While he’s probably best known as a cartoonist and illustrator, he’s also written kids’ books, graphic novels and textbooks (on topics from rhetoric to the U.S./Soviet space race), plus made his share of maps. The St. Louis Park native even helped design an indoor amusement park at Eau Claire, Wis., complete with 3-D castles and volcanoes.
He’s not just versatile and talented, he’s a nice guy. All of which made him the perfect candidate to draw the “Oh, You Turkey” illustration for the Star Tribune’s 40th coloring contest.
Cannon, 39, agreed to take on the turkey and to talk to us about creativity, coloring and how Prince helped his career.
Q: You mentioned that you’ve had a “whirlwind year.” What’s going on?
A: I got married last November, we got a house and now my wife, Maggie, and I are expecting a baby — in the next week or so.
Q: You forgot to mention that you were asked to do the “Oh, You Turkey.”
A: Right. It’s a huge honor to be asked.
Q: Thanks, but are you just being nice?
A: No, I’m serious. It’s iconic. The turkey coloring contest is one of my earliest memories. Me and my cousins used to color it every year at my grandparents’.
Q: When did you stop?
A: When I was around 10 or 11, I gave up coloring in earnest. Once I turned into a terrible teen, I was too cool.
Q: But you didn’t give up drawing.
A: No. I’ve been drawing since I was in preschool. But I never thought about becoming an artist. I didn’t have a ton of artists in my close circle.
Q: That changed when you were at Grinnell College?
A: One day, I walked into the newspaper and asked if I could be their illustrator. They already had one, but they had an opening for a cartoonist. My second year at it, I decided I’d like to make it a career.
Q: I’m guessing that’s harder than it sounds.
A: Well, the money doesn’t come in right away …
Q: But you made it after all.
A: Living in this state helped. There’s so much inspiration to draw from. We have Prince, and Dylan and Mary Tyler Moore. And we have this kind of cool brand, of being the North, of being cabin country. As a cartoonist and illustrator, Minnesota has made my job pretty easy.
Q: Are you excited about Thanksgiving?
A: I’m not a big holiday guy, but I love the tradition of Thanksgiving, everyone getting together, the food. Fortunately, my wife is a wonderful cook, so I lucked out there.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m splitting my time between work work and finishing off the nursery with a Harry Potter-themed mural. I’m not really a muralist, but I’m learning as I go along.
Q: The Star Tribune designer who drew the turkey for 38 years before retiring used to hide initials in the drawing. Did you?
A: No, no. I do a lot of “Where’s Waldo?” in my maps. But this isn’t a treasure hunt. It’s a turkey.
Q: A turkey eating pie with whipped cream, no less. How did you settle on this bird?
A: I worked on several drafts. One was a Mary Tyler Moore-style turkey, but that didn’t work at all. I wanted the turkey to be fun, to be in my own style, to give it my own flair. But at the end of the day, it had to be something the kids will enjoy drawing.
Q: So, are you going to color the “Oh, You Turkey” this year?
A: I’ve vowed to put a crayon in my newborn’s hand.