Tak Bui was born in 1950 in a small hamlet in North Vietnam near the end of the French colonial occupation in South East Asia. His father, a school teacher uprooted the family from the rural war zone to escape to Hanoi when Tak was an infant. It took his mother a week to reach the capital carrying him in a basket balanced over her shoulder. Four years later, as Ho-Chi-Minh took over the north, his family once again abandoned everything and resettled in the southern capital of Saigon.
By 1960 the “American” war expanded under John Kennedy’s presidency. After the President’s assassination, the war escalated rapidly everywhere in the tiny country. This turbulent period produced numerous coups-d’état along with many infamous protests in self-immolation by Buddhist monks. He found escape in drawing and translating comics from Japan and France for friends.
In 1967, he won an American Field Service scholarship to spend his high school senior year with an American family in Texas. That period was marked by political chaos in the US that included the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King along with the continuing Vietnam war unrest.
The following year, to escape the draft, he hitchhiked to Quebec City, then Montreal and eventually to Toronto where he attended the University of Toronto School for his grade 13 with the help of a professor and his wife. He left for Montreal in 1970 only to run right into the War Measures Act / October Crisis.
He returned to Toronto to attend The New School of Art where he studied under renowned contemporary Canadian artists such as Michael Snow, G. Coughtry, Robert Markle, Gordon Rayner and Joyce Weiland.
After the end of the Vietnam war, his parents escaped penniless from Saigon as “Boat people” to join him in Canada. Tak assisted his father, a former teacher, in self-publishing over 50 books in Vietnamese, French and English for the displaced Vietnamese communities across America and Europe.
In 1974, he began his illustrator/cartoonist career. His pen & ink drawings appeared weekly for couple of years in Maclean’s magazine and then with other major periodicals like the Canadian Business, The Financial Post and other dailies like the Toronto Star, The National Post, The Sun and the Globe and Mail.
His illustrations have also been published in well-known Canadian children magazines such as Owl and Chickadee and numerous children’s books. Along the way, he also drew story boards for animation house Nirvana.
Tak has also taught art for The Inner City Angels, a non profit art education organization in Toronto. In the 90’s, along with other Canadian cartoonists, he also founded “Partisan Gallery”, a political art gallery in Toronto, that staged exhibitions for progressive artists from around the world. He also contributed and helped launch two political satire magazines “Guerrilla” and “Pirhana” with a fellow cartoonist.
Since 1980, Tak has been syndicated by the Washington Post with the weekly strip “Cheap Thrills Cuisine.” He followed up with “PC & Pixel,” a daily comic strip which is still running in many newspapers worldwide.
He was a member of the Canadian Cartoonists Association and of the National Cartoonist Society. Tak has won awards for illustrations from the Canadian Association of Photographers and Illustrators. Currently he serves on the Advisory Board for the Fundamental Arts program at Seneca College.
Tundra Books/Random House published Tak’s latest children’s book “Spot the Difference” in 2012.
Tak lives in Toronto, Canada.