Toronto-based illustrator Chris Kuzma combines traditional craft with highly peculiar stuff we can’t even begin to explain. Where does it all come from? The man himself lets us know.
Your work is a bit weird (in a good way). In one painting, pink chimney smoke reveals Marge Simpson’s head. In another, a cat (in old women’s clothes) is knitting a multi-coloured stag. How do you come up with this stuff?
Weirdness is something I usually try to convey in my work. It should look nice, but slightly put you off a bit. When I’m painting, I’m mostly working within a particular context or theme. That generally informs the work. But I always need an element of humour in there, otherwise I don’t think I would enjoy it.
The two pieces you mention were for a Wowee Zonk show called ‘Suicide Pact’ and for a series I did called ‘Motel Olympus’, respectively. Each series started with the title and grew from there. I usually do need a jumping-off point for my paintings, a general idea I can extrapolate upon, but I try (TRY…) not to over-think the work. I get very bogged down when I do this. Spontaneity is very important for me.
You live and work in Toronto, a city in which there seems to be (thanks to yourself, Ginette Lapalme, Patrick Kyle, etc.) a blossoming illustrative scene dominated by bright colours and weirdness. Why do you work in Toronto, and what’s the scene really like?
Toronto just kind of happened. I moved from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan because my then-girlfriend-now-wife was accepted to Law school here. One thing led to another, I decided to attend the Ontario College of Art and Design, I met Patrick and Ginette, graduated, and I’m still here. Still working.
But you like it, right?
Toronto is a great city. Obviously, the illustrative faction is a small off-shoot of a thriving art scene, but it is a lively one. There are so many great illustrators working today who started in Toronto or still live here. There are a lot of great venues and outlets for illustration here, too: Magic Pony, Narwhal gallery, OCAD, The Beguiling, etc. The scene is great, albeit a little incestuous, but artists need to rely on one another to make it happen, right? I love it here.
You mentioned a Wowee Zonk show you put on. What is Wowee Zonk?
Wowee Zonk is Ginette Lapalme, Patrick Kyle and myself. The name really came out of nowhere. I maintain that I saw it in one of Patrick’s sketchbooks, but he and Ginette seem to think otherwise. It’s just a ridiculous moniker that we think sounds funny. It’s fitting for our work, actually. Anyways, we have had a few shows and created some installations together but we are mainly focused on making comics.
We have made tons of zines and self-published comics over the years, but we have recently hooked up with the amazing Koyama Press out of Toronto. Our first Koyama book was Pobody’s Nurfect, which collected some of our paintings and gallery work. Our most recent book, Wowee Zonk 3, comes out today. It is the third book in what we hope will be an ongoing series of anthologized comic art. It’s an insanely great collection of new comics from the Wowee Zonk crew and a bunch of other excellent Toronto artists. Check it out at www.woweezonk.com or www.koyamapress.com. Buy one…
What’s next for you?
Keep on drawing. It’s the life I chose.