Will Kiley Santino is best known for his New Yorker cartoons, but has been drawing, writing, and making up new worlds and stories for his entire life. The cartoons emerged out of a particularly difficult time. In 2017, as a caregiver to a terminally ill older brother, the humorous sketches became a way to find light and levity in the darkness. They also honored the bond of silliness he shared with his brother.
Will sold his first cartoon to The New Yorker in 2020, after drawing and submitting over 400. He left his job as an animator at an art studio in 2021, supporting himself with freelance work, cartoon sales, and, most importantly, the amazing enthusiasm of his Patreon supporters.
Will’s creative practice is multifaceted. In addition to the cartoons, he also writes whimsical rhyming poetry under the nom de plume J. K. Ellomenope. His illustrations are magical and mythical. In various media, including acrylic paint, watercolor, collage, and digital, he depicts worlds of his own creation. These include metaphorical realms, such as Sunset City and the Outer Oops, and creatures like the Sobaloopsians. These characters and geographies are enriched with histories and backstories that recall the world-building of Tolkien. While the visuals are meant to delight, beguile, and inspire wonder, the themes tackle more adult topics, such as grief and love, shame and confusion, sexuality, self-acceptance, and self-discovery.
Will finds artist statements hard. Will’s not so huge a fan of writing about himself in the third person, you might say. Basically Will loves to draw; Will loves to create new funny cartoons every week; Will loves to read novels and write fiction too; Will doesn’t know how semicolons work; Will misses his brother in inexpressible ways; Will finds that transforming the pain and loneliness of human existence into art can help others feel less alone; Will thinks that’s neat; Will likes friendship and biking and soccer and cats; Will prefers summer; Will likes rhyming poetry; and Will submits, humbly, that life is one big beautiful run-on sentence that doesn’t quite make sense but feels freighted with meaning and magic and comes hurtling towards you like the last day of summer or the last word of a novel you don’t want to end.
2022 Great Madison LGBTQ+ Artist Survey
Michael Darling, Musician
Jaimie Sherling, Author/Designer
Will Kiley Santino, Visual Arts / Illustration