Erotic artist Michael Kirwan dies at 64

Michael Kirwan, know for his colorful and cartoonish male-erotic drawings, is photographed in April 2016 at one of his art exhibits. Kirwan died Saturday morning, according to a post on his Facebook page. He was 64 years old. Photo: Facebook.

ECHO PARK — Artist and illustrator Michael Kirwan, known for his colorful and cartoonish male-erotic drawings, died Saturday morning, according to a post on his Facebook page. He was 64 years old.

“With a sad heart, we are letting you know that artist Michael Kirwan passed away peacefully on the morning of Saturday, May 26, 2018, in Los Angeles, California,” the post said.

“Hoist a glass and make a toast in celebration of the life of a great and unique man as well as an amazing artist,” the post said.

The image “And Not Much Else” is featured in Michael Kirwan’s 2011 debut book, “And Not Much Else.” Photo: Courtesy of Michael Kirwan.

A celebration of the life is scheduled for June 30 at the Tom of Finland Foundation in Echo Park, according to the social media post. More details will be announced soon, it says.

The Tom of Finland Foundation said Kirwan died at an area hospital, and they are awaiting his cause of death.

MALE-EROTIC DRAWINGS

Kirwan, a Westlake resident who was inducted to the Tom of Finland Foundation’s Erotic Artist Hall of Fame in 2004, made drawings that were the opposite of the staple iconography of perfectly muscled bodies, leather, uniforms, costumes, and bondage, he said in a 2011 interview with Out in the 562.

“I try to depict the average Joe trying to get his rocks off in a reality-based context rather than offer some gay Utopia that ignores the real world conditions and consequences inherent in any sexual pairing,” Kirwan said.

‘JUST SO HORNY’

In 2011, Kirwan released his debut book, “Just So Horny.” The 128-page book is a collection of drawings Kirwan created and published over the years addressing male sexuality, he said in the interview.

“It’s about lust. It’s about male bonding, and it’s about the very nature of men responding to their own bodies,” Kirwan said. “The book is a compilation of images that depict how proximity, primal urges, psychological make-up and a modicum of privacy can result in actions sometimes terrifying as well as enjoyable.”

WORKING IN GAY BATH HOUSE

Kirwan, a New York City native, was born Dec. 27, 1953. Kirwan started drawing when he was a child, but his interest in male bodies wouldn’t appear for another three decades.

Kirwan was married and fathered a son, Larry, but when Kirwan was in his late 20s, his marriage ended. Kirwan began a queer life filled raucous stories that he shared for decades.

For example, in 1980, Kirwan started working at the St. Marks Baths, a gay sex club in New York City’s East Village, which – thanks to the endless parade of naked men – helped re-aroused his interest in drawing.

“I try to depict the average Joe trying to get his rocks off in a reality-based context rather than offer some gay Utopia that ignores the real world conditions and consequences inherent in any sexual pairing,” Kirwan said. Photo: ‘Just So Horny” courtesy of Michael Kirwan.

SEXY CARTOON CHARACTERS

His first published art work appeared in PlayGuy magazine in 1980. From the late 1980s to the mid 2000s, Kirwan’s provocative art was published in more than 600 magazines.

Michael always felt he was visually documenting every variety and scenario in gay and hetersexual sexual activities. His inspirations for drawing his characters came from the everyday, regular people he would encounter on the streets, on the bus, throughout parks and markets, in seedy bars, and in dark alleys.

Kirwan’s drawings resembled Saturday-morning cartoon characters, a conscious decision to better reach an audience, he said in the Out in the 562 interview.

“Cartoons are intrinsic to our early brain development and they provide a basic familiarity that frames the subject matter for easier access,” Kirwan said. “Cartoon characters are commonly used in advertising and products because it establishes an automatic connection with the viewer, it attracts the eye in a way that photographs, which are reproductions of reality, don’t.”

Kirwan is survived by his son, Larry; an aunt, Joan Morey and her children, Mark Morey and Christina Strain.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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