Fellow artists and friends,
It is with heavy heart that I write to you. Tuesday, May 31, 2011,
Kazu Sano slipped away in his sleep after a long struggle with cancer. Kazu leaves behind Chisako, his wife, and his children, Utaro and Yukio. In the broader context, Kazu leaves a brilliant career as an award winning illustrator and teacher. He was an alum of the Academy of Art University graduating in 1978 with the very first group of MFAs the school gave.His broad career included, but was not limited to, over 450 book covers, over 80 paintings and drawings for gallery shows in Japan, a body of extraordinary work illuminating the pages of 'National Geographic', and a large number of stamp commissions for the US Postal Service, including portraits of Frank Sinatra and other entertainment luminaries, his work has enlivened the visual culture of our time. As teacher at the Academy of Art University, since 1986, he has sought to instill his passion and dedication for illustration as high art to generations of younger artists.
Kazu’s dedication to his craft as artist, and instructor, were second to none. He always insisted on immersing himself in the story more deeply than his client, and that the easy answer, the obvious, was merely a portal to the right answer, the one that caught the humanity of the characters and gave the viewer a sense of story and context far broader than the requirements of the assignment. He believed in Howard Pyle's dictum "Live the story!” He said, "Do not just look at trees, go and touch them, sit under them, smell them, and know them." Kazu believed in stealing their essence, and in fact the essence of everything he drew, before putting it in paintings, yet, he believed that it was essential to sublimate that knowledge, that accuracy of detail, to the core artistic truth of making a painting that tells a great story.
As a painter, starting from his beautiful drawings, he wrestled with the surface and quality of each mark to make it say the most about being the illusion of reality, yet still be a beautiful mark on canvas. Even on his deathbed he came alive talking about breakthroughs in painting technique and his ongoing exploration of making brushstrokes and lines count. All this he invested in each assignment, all this and more, he invested in each student.
He will be much missed by his family friends, students and clients. In his memory, the Sano family has asked that no flowers be sent, rather, send donations to the Kazu Sano Memorial Scholarship Fund c/o Chuck Pyle Studio, 469 Amber Way, petaluma, ca. 94952
Images courtesy of Jim Yang
Labels: Kazu Sano's passing