He grew up in Portugal where he had his first successful exhibit at age 16. In the late 1950s, he realized his dream to move to Canada. He found work in northwestern British Columbia and gradually migrated further north. He spent five years walking, paddling and sledding across the Canadian Arctic with various groups of Inuit.
Walking alone one day on the tundra, Kirkby came across a huge stone cairn, built in the likeness of the human form. It was an Inukshuk. Kirkby had encountered the primary symbol of the Far North that he had been looking for. Some Inukshuit stand as high as twenty five feet, while others are quite small. They remain unmoved by high winds and blowing snow because they are positioned to remain snow-free and visible to hunters, wildlife and travelers. They are the sign posts of the North.
Kirkby’s Canadian success as an artist came in the 1960s and 70s, with western Canadian landscapes.
Kirkby became the President of the Nile Creek Enhancement Society in 2006. Today, he leads the Society in fundraising, often using his own art and that of concerned fellow-artists, in order to solicit donations from corporations and the public. The Society is actively engaged in projects that are bringing creeks back to life and reviving the kelp and eelgrass beds that are fundamentally important to the salmon’s ocean habitat.
In 1993, Ken Kirkby was awarded the Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of Canadian Confederation. His work is in many important public and private collections, including several members of the British Royal Family, The Hon. Jean Chretien, Pierre Elliot Trudeau and The National Gallery of Canada.
An inuksuk is a human-made stone landmark used by the peoples of the Arctic region of North America. These structures are found from Alaska, United States to Greenland. This region, above the Arctic Circle, is dominated by the tundra biome and has areas with few natural landmarks.
Inuksuk's have been used for navigation, as a point of reference, a marker for travel routes, fishing places, camps, hunting grounds or to mark a food cache.