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Obituary: Kim Casali

Kim Casali was, as "Kim", the creator of the long-running Love is . . . series of single- panel romantic cartoons featuring a naked boy and girl.

The cartoons first appeared in the UK in the Daily Sketch in April 1970 and continued in the Daily Mail when it took over the paper. More than 25 collections of Love is . . . have been published since 1972. As well as in books, newspapers and magazines the drawings have been reproduced on T-shirts, watches, clocks, jewellery, underwear, pyjamas, lamps, notepaper, posters and greetings cards all over the world.

The cartoons began as illustrations to messages which the shy Kim left for her future husband Roberto during their courtship in Los Angeles. "I began making little drawings for myself to express how I felt . . . It was a little bit like keeping a diary that described how my feelings had grown."

The very first drawing, which served as a thumbnail signature to a domestic note, featured Kim herself with freckles, large eyes and long fair hair (a male figure with equally large eyes but with shorter dark hair, representing Roberto, followed). When the two began to spend weekends together she would leave little sketches under his pillow and in the drawers and later Roberto, to her delight, revealed that he had kept all her cartoons and encouraged her to draw more.

Kim had at the time been working at Max Factor sticking labels on packaging. When she left to become a receptionist in a design company, she started producing small booklets containing her Love is . . . drawings which she sold to visitors for $1 each. One day a friend suggested that she show them to a contact on the Los Angeles Times. The paper published the first of the series on 9 January 1970 and from then on they were syndicated in the United States and overseas; they have since been reproduced in 50 countries world-wide.

Such was the success of the feature in the US that when in the late 1970s the Honolulu Star-Bulletin ran a competition for readers to submit their own Love is . . . captions they received nearly 9,000 letters, the biggest response from readers on any topic that the newspaper had ever had.

Like many self-taught artists, for many years Kim Casali felt that she was not really a professional cartoonist but rather, in her own words, "a doodler". She was born Marilyn Judith Grove in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1941 and at the age of 19 travelled to Europe and the US. She worked in various jobs, including being a waitress in a London teashop, before moving in 1967 to Los Angeles, where she met Roberto Casali, an Italian computer engineer, at a party at a ski-club.

When Roberto's company folded they both found themselves living in the US illegally, "trying to find jobs that would keep us one step ahead of the Immigration Department". They were married in 1971, moved to Britain in 1972 and had two sons, Stefano, now 24, and Dario, now 21. In 1975 Roberto was diagnosed as having cancer and he died a year later. However, a third son, Milo, was born through artificial insemination in 1977, nearly a year and a half after his father's death. When the British courts denied Diana Blood access to similar treatment in 1996, Kim Casali was outspoken in her defence of the principle of posthumous conception.

Casali, a self-confessed romantic, once admitted that, given the choice, she might well have become a writer of love-songs. However, she also stated that her ideas were not always "angelic" and over the years the cartoons became more sophisticated, sometimes even employing double entendre. One of her early works which was a particular favourite was "Love is . . . never asking for more than you are prepared to give" and she once quoted her philosophy as being "If you've got love you've got life, if you can love you can live".

The Love is . . . cartoons will be continued by her son Stefano.

Mark Bryant

Marilyn Judith ("Kim") Grove, cartoonist: born Auckland, New Zealand 9 September 1941; married 1971 Roberto Casali (died 1976; three sons); died Weybridge, Surrey 15 June 1997.