Kazimir Lee: Caricature Galore

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Images Kazimir Lee

Cubans are good looking, according to Kazimir Lee that is. JUICE speaks to the comic artist-cum-animator… Ooops, we mean animator-cum-comic artist (in that order), unscrambling his thoughts on not being a racist, the use of hallucinogenic and why he can’t call his boss at 4am…

For the blissfully ignorant among us, how would you depict in words what you do?
On the weekends, I use clues from my father’s diary to find his murderer. Otherwise, I just make cartoons. I’m trained as a 2D animator, but nowadays I do a lot of character and illustration work freelance. I use a Cintiq and a Wacom tablet, when I’m not sketching on old-fashioned paper. For that, I use pencils and ink with Faber-Castell India Ink Brush Pens. It really helps me get over my loss. Of my father. To murder…

Hold that thought, don’t want to have your Oedipal fantasy published in print now. Anyway, where else can we go to other than Portmanteau Island to stalk you and your work?
This is slightly embarrassing, but I do have a Deviantart page, which still contains a lot of my older work from when I was a teenager (kazzer-doom.deviantart.com). I always liked DA because of the community critiques. A lot of my sketches are also on my Facebook page, and I don’t think there are any privacy settings on the album, so just go on in. I don’t know how to turn on the privacy settings. My loss is your gain.

As a comic artist dabbling in animation, what else does your portfolio hold for us?
Actually, at the risk of sounding technical, I’m an animator dabbling in comics. My portfolio has a lot of my commercial animation work that my clients have let me post, as well as my senior thesis work, Artichoke Hearts. I’ve been trying to replicate the painterly-style compositions in my newer works, but I’d say most of it is sketches of people I’ve seen on the street.

Inspiration-wise, who do you dream about?
Young conceptual artists in the animation business really get my blood pumping! Rebecca Sugar is currently my artist crush, she recently graduated from The School of Visual Arts in NY, and works on the show Adventure Time (If you’re reading this Rebecca, PLEASE MARRY ME, I NEED YOU). Andrew Chesworth is a fellow animator and mentor who is now working with Disney, he’s taught me enormous amounts about staging and drawing volume, although I’ve never dreamt about him per se. Also, Shane Prigmore concept work, Daniel Clowes’s writing and staging, Tadahiro Uesugi’s colour schemes and Katie Rice and Tony Fucile’s amazing character stuff, they all really inspire me.

Your art style bears similarities to cartoons you would see on Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network, yet some of them have deliberately adult content. Why is there such a contrast in your works?
Good question! I suppose cartoons have always been a realm of the perverse and ridiculous to me, and it’s the job of the big studios to convert the raw work into something marketable and family-friendly, which I can’t hold against them. John Kricsfalusi, the creator of Ren and Stimpy, was removed for putting too much violence and sexual undertones into the show, and even most Pixar luminaries like Lou Romano have tons of stuff on their blogs that Disney would never allow within a hundred yards of their movies, so I guess I’ve always seen cartooning as a fairly smutty business, when done right. Chris Sawyer, the director of Lilo and Stitch and How to Train Your Dragon, has a lovely Deviantart page full of Robert Crumb-style girlie stuff, he really likes his tanned surfer chicks with big a$$es!

If your readers only had to go by one face, how would he/she look like?
I’m not sure how to answer this. Are you trying to ask me what my favourite race is? I’m not a racist. That being said, Cubans are really good-looking people. They’re a safe choice, because they’re exotic and have a Leftist government, I don’t sound like some colonial sympathiser if I choose Cubans.

Who do you listen to when you’re doodling?
I’m really into Joe Hill’s audiobooks. He’s Stephen King’s son. I listen to a lot of Magnetic Fields, Metric, Wui Chook, and shamefully, a lot of country music. Nothing beats Johnny Cash.

Are there plans coming up for your works to go on the printing press?
I’ve discussed doing a graphic novel based on food with an old boss of mine, but right now the plans for that are really insubstantial. My boss always seems really annoyed when I call her and try to discuss my plans with her, it’s always “go away, it’s four in the morning, I’ll call the police”. But once the date on the restraining order is up, we’ll see.

Are your works for sale? Where can we get them?
You can always commission a piece of work, but none of my works are for sale, no. My father had a lot of enemies.

You sure do fantasise about your dad a lot. Who would you give your left arm to collaborate with and why?
Rebecca Sugar. For reasons I have already stated. Also, the local painter and all-round bada$s, Shieko. The webcomic artist Kate Beaton (writer of Hark, a Vagrant). And although they’re not animators and illustrators, I’d love to do work with the local band Shh… Diam! Anyone with cool feminist undertones and lefty politics, basically!

In one of your blog posts, you said that two of your favourite things are jaws and lightning. We’re curious about that combination. What’s the fascination?
I don’t remember saying that, although it sounds like me. Did I mean the seminal silver screen masterpiece JAWS starring Roy Scheider, or the human skull component? Because both mean a lot to me. Actually I think I may have been taking hallucinogenic when I wrote that post, and I imagined my jaw was all tensed up because the neural lightning of anxiety was electrocuting my brain. I know it doesn’t make very much sense, but that’s as close to an honest answer I can give.

Acid tends to do that, Kaz.

Find Nickelodeon-esque cartoons completely uninhibited of restrictions at kazzer-doom.deviantart.com and kazrocks.blogspot.com. Find his animation here. 

Artichoke Hearts Completed from Kazimir Lee Iskander on Vimeo.