Kozyndan are a couple (literally a married couple) of art graduates who formed their union while both attending college in California during the 1990’s. However, Dan and Kozue Kitchens are not just a cute pair who revel in their professional/personal relationship, and consider their “sex breaks” to be the biggest perk of their dynamic alliance (even though they can’t help but think of this as an added bonus). These two artists are very much respected and have been gaining popularity within recent times. Kozyndan’s eye catching illustrations certainly do not lack vivacity and each have a quirky, yet relatable personality to them.
Their ability to create familiar pieces, that at times seem to have a pulse of their own, lay in the fact that natural elements are what fuel a great deal of their artistic visions. “Nature in general and the relationship we have with it in the modern world is an idea that is central in our work” says Dan. What they also consider to be crucial to their work is, music.
The self-proclaimed “music nuts” reveal how they always listen to music, especially while making art. Music is somewhat of an inspiration to the duo. What is interesting, is that both are clear fans of the music scene, and from looking at a sample of their client list, many musicians are enjoying their artistic flavors as well. The Postal Service, John Mayer, and Weezer, are just a few of the artist who have subscribed to Kozyndan for unique CD covers. “In our experience we find working for musicians the easiest,” explains Kozue. She adds that, “they are usually a lot more open to anything
we want to make, and have always been happy with what we come up with.”
“I think a lot of artists, ourselves included, admire what musicians are able to do, and we wish we could be moving people in that way. Musicians seem to be the same, they really tend to admire what artists are able to do, and value what our artwork adds to their music in terms of how it is able to communicate to their audience.“
Format: Kozyndan have been praised for having artwork that is accessible to the masses, because Kozyndan consciously price their prints at affordable prices. As Kozyndan becomes increasingly popular, is it hard to maintain the balance of selling pieces at prices that reflect your growth while not emptying the pockets of Kozyndan fans?
Dan: Not particularly. Our posters have always been modestly priced, and always will be. However, our archival prints have always been rather expensive and will continue to be. We have just always released different product for different price ranges, to provide something for all different types of art fans.
Format: The relationship of husband and wife has several facets. What are the challenges with working with your spouse and do you ever find it hard to draw the line between your professional partnership and your marital partnership?
Kozy: We never really knew that there was supposed to be any kind of line between the partnerships, so we never had one. We have been doing this since we got out of university, so it’s really the only way of working we know, the only way of running a business, the only way of living.
D: I don’t know what we would do if stopped making a living from this! But yeah, we have our squabbles just like any couple, and have our squabbles just like any creative team might, but we are both pretty easy going and I think that being married actually makes the creative partnership easier. When we disagree I think we are more likely, out of love for one another, to back down and let the other person have their way. At least I do a lot of backing down anyway.
K: Yeah, I am always right, so I don’t back down much!
Format: What artists have inspired Kozyndan?
D: I don’t know think we are inspired by art much. While there are artists out there I like, I don’t personally follow art too much. Kozy and I are much more interested in the world the world around us – our friends, our travels, music, current events and a lot of inspiration from just interacting with one another.
Format: Kozyndayn has created album artwork for The Postal Service. When creating artwork for musicians, what are the challenges of pleasing the musicians, record label and Kozyndan’s creative drive?
K: In our experience we find working for musicians the easiest. They are usually a lot more open to anything we want to make. They usually don’t give us very specific ideas and have always been happy with what we come up with. They are a lot easier to deal with than editorial or advertising clients, and music is something that is really important in my life, so it is usually a great experience.
D: I think a lot of artists, ourselves included, admire what musicians are able to do, and we wish we could be moving people in that way. Musicians seem to be the same, they really tend to admire what artists are able to do, and value what our artwork adds to their music in terms of how it is able to communicate to their audience.
Format: Kozyndan’s pieces use a lot of bunnies. Sure, the pieces are not exclusive to bunny imagery, but there are several bunnies. What is the Kozyndan affection towards bunnies and do or have either of you owned one?
D: We don’t have a particular affection to bunnies really. We had some bunnies around the time we started making art together. They were just always around us, around our house and were therefore our most convenient life models. That’s what got us started doodling a lot of bunnies and what caused them to pop up in our artwork.
K: I think they are good as characters just because they look really sweet and cute, but they are really evil little creatures – they would chew up everything. Eat our drawings, cords to our computers, eat the carpet. They destroyed anything.
D: Yeah, I think that kind of dichotomy appeals to us, but really we like all animals. Nature in general and the relationship we have with it in the modern world is an idea that is central in our work. We have used bunnies to depict that relationship simply because I can draw them quickly.
Format: The advertisement that Kozyndan illustrated for Converse is really interesting, mostly, due to the fact the Chuck Taylors are wearing Chuck Taylors! How did the Converse project materialize?
D: The ad agency for Converse called us up and asked us to do a piece for the artist series of ads they were working on and we agreed. I think we mostly agreed to it because we had had that idea of a shoe wearing shoes wearing more shoes.
K: Yeah, I came up with it from a previous TV commercial project we worked on, but they we featured in the commercial for just a fraction of a second.
D: So we really wanted a chance to get that image out there in a more concrete way.
Format: Does music play a large role in the Kozyndan creative process?
K: Yes. I always listen to music, especially while making art. I am a music nut, I guess. It is a real inspiration to me.
Format: The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare reports that, in 2006, 147 people died from overworking and 819 people claimed mental illness due to overworking. Kozyndan’s illustration, Kin-san’s Business Trip, visually brings these statistics to life. In your opinions, what are the catalysts for overworking salarymen and what can be done to prevent this cycle?
D: I think that is what I love about making the work we do – it’s open to interpretation! That piece was really a lot more absurd and while in part it was about salarymen wanting to escape the pressures of the business world, it was also about the way youth and purity are sexually idolized in today’s Japanese culture, and also about the differing notions of masculinity between American culture and Japanese.
Format: A large portion of Kozyndan’s art reflects city life and social tendencies. When Kozyndan travel to different cities, how do the cities’ structural environments, cultures and arts communities affect Kozyndan’s artistic vision?
K: I don’t think that we are very affected by cities in anything more that a very surface, visual level. We don’t spend enough time in most cities to get under the touristy surface of them before starting our works. I am usually just wandering through cities because of how interesting they look, but I don’t notice too much what people are actually doing.
D: I think we are just excited by the visual complexity of cities. Actually picking a place to draw and paint that has a lot of variety is more interesting to us than what people are actually doing in cities. We mostly prefer to be out in nature, and thus a lot of our urban work is about animals and creatures and nature infiltrating cities. It is all happy and silly and cute but it is really about nature fighting back against humanity and everything we have done to mess with the planet coming back to bite us in the ass.
Format: What are the best and worst parts about working alongside your spouse?
D: Sex Breaks. That is my requisite answer. I have to mention that at least once in every interview, so I am glad you asked that question. I think the worst part about working together is just that we don’t get to miss each other. We see each other almost all day, every day, so it is really hard to get that feeling of pain in your chest from not having been in the arms of the one you love for too long.
K: Aw, that is so sweet – both of those things!
Format: Some of Kozyndan’s pieces are risqué, because they oppose powerful figures or thought processes, like Bushism. Has Kozyndan art found itself in a censorship situation due to its controversial content?
K: Very rarely. I mean, I don’t know how risqué an anti-Bush art piece can be when nearly everyone feels the same way. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who is looking at art like ours that is a Bush supporter.
D: Yeah, we don’t have many horror stories about censorship. Usually when we do have controversial content it is told in such a humorous or veiled way that people who are dumb enough to want to censor those kind of things wouldn’t get that we were saying something controversial anyway.
Format: Some of Kozyndan designs have been printed on T-shirts. Are there new T-shirt releases coming up for Kozyndan?
D: I could tell you ‘Yes there are,’ because we always say we are releasing new shirts, but we rarely get around to it actually. We have lots of ideas for shirts, but we are usually too busy working on other things to get around to them.
K: Right now, we are wrapped up in getting our bunnyfish crochet toys produced. We have been carrying these bunnyfish around with us whenever we travel and have been making some art about them and fans have been waiting patiently, hoping we would sell the bunnyfish as a toy. It has been a long process, and not an easy one, so that is the next major product release that we are working towards right now.
D: Yeah, the bunnyfish project is what is taking up most of our time for this year. We will have a lot of art about the character in our upcoming shows in Australia in New Zealand, in October and November, respectively, and will release the toy, and hopefully a book, and maybe even T-shirts!
More Info: http://www.kozyndan.com