Kim Casali (9 September 1941 – 15 June 1997)

The introduction and article below were featured in the Cartoonist Profiles magazine #51, published  September 1981. The introduction is uncredited although I assume is the work of Cartoonist Profile Editor Jud Hurd, The article is written by Kim Casali herself. KIm is one of the most successful cartoonists ( Or doodler as she refers to herself) to come out of New Zealand with her Love Is... cartoons still in syndication through Tribune Media Services. After her passing in 1997 the modern iteration of Love Is...' is drawn by Kim's longtime collaborator Bill Asprey with input from Kim's son Stephano.


During the past ten years the 'love is . . .' panel, by Kim Casali, has become one of syndication's biggest success stories. Many newspapers which carry the feature conduct annual contests which invite readers to submit their own `love is . . .' captions. The best ones are then sent to Kim Casali who uses them in her panel, giving credit to the contributors. As an example of the reader reaction, the Managing Editor of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reports that the most recent contest pulled 8,745 responses. To quote him: "Nothing we've ever done before to draw readers has resulted in this many letters."

As far as marketing goes, the 'love is . . .' messages are on watches and clocks, jewelry, T-shirts, ladies' under-wear and sleepwear, lamps, cards, note-paper, posters, party supplies and other notions these days. And seven book collections have been published.

First a few facts about Kim Casali, and then a number of her own reactions which she wrote CARTOONIST PROFILES after we contacted her at her home in London, England.

Back in 1967, New Zealander Kim Grove met Italian computer manufacturer Roberto Casali at a California ski club. She was a beginning skier and did a series of humorous drawings showing her progress on the slopes. She showed them to Casali who encouraged her to keep drawing, so she began sketching little incidents in their dating life, and adding her thoughts such as, "You're the handsomest Italian I've ever met." The cartoons and love notes helped fuel a romance that culminated in marriage in 1971 and a son was born the following year.

One day she discovered that her husband had been showing her 'love is . . .' cartoons to some of his friends. Shy by nature, she wasn't sure she wanted her private feelings made public, and she "didn't want to appear too mushy." However, friends were unanimous in their liking of her cartoons, and told Kim that her feelings were universal, and that she was saying things virtually everybody wanted to say. Syndication came next. The couple had another child and then tragedy struck. Roberto was stricken with an incurable cancer. He died, but not before the couple agreed to preserve some of his sperm cells in a sperm bank. So 17 months after his death, at 31, Kim gave birth to Roberto's child, conceived through artificial insemination. Today Kim lives in London with her three children.

The 'love is . . .' feature is distributed by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. And now some comments, in Kim Casali's own words, about herself and about her work.

Love Is... By Kim Casali

I'll have to tell you a bit about me to explain the way I work. I'm a romantic and a dreamer, live for my daydreams and then go about trying to achieve what I dream about. I'm a woman first, a mother second and a cartoonist (terribly amateurish one at that) third. When I was a child I asked of my mother "Why are all the songs about love?" "Because love makes the world go round," was the reply. That confused me a little because I thought Charles Atlas was keeping the globe spinning but whether it was because I was brainwashed by all the lovely music or because it was just my nature, I became very romantic. I was either in love with a boy (or man) or in love with the idea of being in love, but I found always it was necessary to be in love. If I'd had a choice I would have become a writer of romantic songs. Songs about love affected me deeply, I'd get a chill down my spine or feel ecstatic or cry (if it was a sad one) but I'd feel deeply. I didn't become a songwriter so I had to express myself in another way once the real thing happened to me. I drew, not very well, but I drew a round blob of a girl who was supposed to be me, the one who was feeling all these fantastic things. Then I added a blob of a boy who was the reason I was feeling these things.

At first many of my captions came direct from me or my boyfriend who became my husband. To expand I'd sit and daydream about how others might feel. When I really got started I would sit at the dining room table listening to romantic music. There are some beautiful all-time romantic songs which gave me food for thought but I'd get carried away listening to songs by Tom Jones or Shirley Bassey -- two people who sing from the soul. The music would put me in a romantic frame of mind and I'd jot down all the ideas which would pour on me. Of late I have been getting myself into a thoroughly romantic frame of mind by playing my Neil Diamond cassettes over and over. I've got nearly every song Neil recorded and I sit back and drift off into a lovely romantic dream. At this particular time the fact that I am in love (but I'm not telling any details!) is doing wonders for my feature. Since I am now a mature woman in love with life as well as love, the kind of captions I'm coming up with now are often different from the early ones. I have a keen sense of humour and since my ideas are not always angelic I have done some recent cartoons which are a little more sophisticated and have a double entendre. However, I mostly keep to the kind of captions which are enjoyed by the majority of readers and their contributions give me wider scope for material. That the captions must be concise is somewhat frustrating because there is a whole world of ideas I would love to use. As well as all this I keep my eyes and ears always open and a pen and notepad handy.

The thing that is unique about me is that I'm a fraud. I'm not a cartoonist —I'm a doodler! I'm no artist and have had no education in art but I am a person who feels very deeply, who is capable of great love and can express myself fairly well in writing. At the time I started my cartoons I had also just fallen in love and my emotions were very keen and I was totally carried away with my own exciting thoughts. Mix all those ingredients together and you get LOVE IS . . . and me — but a fraud as far as cartoonists go. I've received some fantastic letters. Some are so beautiful I am moved to tears. People write and tell me about the love they have for each other and I am so delighted to hear of such devotion. Then of course there are the amusing letters. One couple who were devoted and quite serious when they wrote in suggesting that LOVE IS . . . having matching tooth mugs. There are marriage counselors who use my cartoons in their work. I've had letters from one or two prison inmates and one of them was such an admirer he wanted me to be his pen-friend. There was one woman who wrote that her six year old niece stripped her clothes off when she saw my cartoon and so I wrote back suggesting she keep the news sections of the newspaper away from the girl in case she should pick up a gun and kill someone. I get many letters from lovers who want me to print things like LOVE IS . . JOHN and MARY which I have to refuse for obvious reasons. One amusing but sad letter from a woman told me LOVE IS . . . a lot of give and take — give a lot of love and take a lot of hell. Many people who have suffered a love disappointment want me to help them patch things up. My mail is always interesting and I love reading it.

As a fraud cartoonist I cannot offer any advice to budding artists but as a very determined person who had worked hard for everything I have I can only suggest that young people should find the work that makes them happy and pursue it wholeheartedly until they achieve satisfaction. The key in this business of course is to find something new and different. Look at me — it was so simple I'm amazed no one thought of it before me.

I sometimes slip in a cartoon that I feel is particularly profound and that makes a suggestion which would enhance any relationship were it followed. I also slip in the occasional cartoons that involve a donation to charity hoping it might make readers think and act.

Here are two of my favourite cartoons: LOVE IS . . . doing unto others as you would have them do unto you (whoops — I stole that), LOVE IS . . . never asking for more than you are prepared to give. And here is a quote by me that describes my philosophy: if you've got love you've got life, if you can love you can live. I'm in love, I'm alive and I'm happy.

Introduction © 2015 estate of Jud Hurd. Love Is... By Kim Casali © 2015 estate of Kim Casali.