Kirk Sivertsen
Cartoonist Kirk Sivertsen shares an Old Towne park bench with a few of his friends, many of whom make frequent appearances in his comic strip, “Circle in the Square” featured in every issue of the Plaza Review. Portraying life in Old Towne Orange, each of the characters represents certain personality types, such as the cynical cat, the optimistic squirrel and the experienced gopher.

The artist behind the comic strip “Circle in the Square,” Kirk Sivertsen brainstorms with Plaza Review publisher Mike Escobedo to come up with the humorous and insightful cartoon series that pokes fun at life in Old Towne while presenting commentary about life in general.

No stranger to Old Towne, Kirk worked for many years in an office/studio that overlooked the Plaza, which inspires some of his themes for “Circle in the Square.” The strip has evolved over the years, Kirk says.

“The first episodes we did were about real estate,” recalls Kirk, who teaches cartooning at Fullerton, Cypress and Santa Ana colleges. “Now it’s more about universal themes that include inside jokes about the Plaza. It’s a fun project for me.”

Becoming a cartoonist wasn’t on Kirk’s radar when he first earned his fine arts degree at the University of California at Stanislaus. Soon after graduating, Kirk got into the commercial art field, drawing off-beat images like baby dinosaurs riding surfboards. His talent for conceptualizing wacky ideas translated into creating designs for promotional toys for clients like Carl’s Jr., Taco Bell, Burger King, and Denny’s, to name a few.

“I did Flintstone toys for Denny’s and quite a few giveaway items for Carl’s Jr.”;, said Kirk. “They were goofy things like wind-up toys and lizards on skateboards that harkened right back to my crazy childhood imagination.”

In the interim, Kirk also created a graphic novel on the side. After approaching college art teachers in an attempt to have them list his book at campus bookstores, Kirk was “discovered” by a cartooning instructor at Fullerton College, who was so impressed by Kirk’s talent, he asked him to take over his class.

“That’s what started my teaching career,” Kirk said. “It was pure serendipity.”

Teaching the fundamentals of cartooning, Kirk puts the focus on career building for the cartoonist. For example, storyboarding for commercials and movies can command a high salary, says Kirk, whose students have gone on to various careers in an array of fields from the video game industry to television.

“The storyboard artist will draw out the scenes for a video game or TV commercial before it is created. Some of my students are also getting professional careers in the comic book industry where they ink pages for production studios,” Kirk explained. “Another cartooning student was hired by Blizzard, a national video game company. Some people are publishing Web comics online.”

In his teaching profession, Kirk emphasizes the need for his students to be as well rounded as possible. He encourages his students to take life-drawing and design classes to expand their talents.

“As an artist, you find out what the need is and then fulfill it,” he said. “I encourage my students to become well rounded artists who can handle a variety of assignments.”

View more of Kirk's art at ComicBookStories.com

Published in the Nov/Dec 2009 edition of the Old Towne Orange Plaza Review

Written by Karen Anderson, Photograph by Mike Escobedo

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