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Remembering Louisville 'Illest-Strator' Kevlen Goodner

Kevlen Goodner
Courtesy of the artist

Kevlen Goodner, an influential Louisville cartoonist and illustrator, died on Wednesday. Goodner suffered a severe stroke in December; he is survived by his three children.

In a January 2017 interview with WFPL’s Tara Anderson for the podcast “Five Things,” Goodner said he was also referred to as the “Illest-Strator.”

“I’m primarily a graphic design and illustration — like what you what you would see in a graphic novel or comics or even comic strips,” he said.

Goodner’s work was bold and, he said, much of it was inspired by hip-hop.

“And within that, obviously, there’s all kinds of cool stuff that I get to do — everything from fashion design to interior design and I cover a lot of bases,” Goodner said.

Jecorey Arthur is 90.5 WUOL’s Music Education Manager, but he was also one of Goodner's creative collaborators. Most recently, they worked on a December event called “Hip-Hopera,” which showcased music, art, poetry and dance.

“He came through, and he illustrated it, and he served as kind of the all-seeing eye and the ‘OG’ on the block of our set design,” Arthur said. “In that short time that we worked together on that one project, he shined so much light into my life.”

Arthur continued: “We sat in my car in late November after going to WAVE3 to do a little press run for the show. And he said to me how no one is going to realize or appreciate my personal work until I’m gone, and to know that he is gone — I feel the same way about him. And it hurts.”

Goodner also illustrated for a number of publications throughout the city, including Louisville Magazine and LEO Weekly. Keith Stone is the managing editor at LEO.

“Kevlen had done a cover for us on ‘March Madness’ a year ago, and he was very happy to do it — it was a goal of his to get on the cover of LEO,” Stone said. “And he produced this wonderful illustration of the women’s basketball team as superheros; it was a memorable cover.”

Goodner had an enduring love of superheros and “nerd culture.” He was an active member of the Louisville Cartoonist Society and an avid Star Wars fan.

In addition to his work as an illustrator, Goodner spent a short amount of time in the music business, then he spent time working various jobs — including private security, owning a clothing store, and as a Nation of Islam prison chaplain.

Goodner was 48.