Born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil, Kako's illustrations have been commissioned by people from all over the world; as a result, his work has been recognized by Communication Arts, Society of Illustrators, Archive, SPD, Cannes Ad Festival, HQMix, El Ojo de IberoAmerica, D&DA. Sometimes he works on comic books doing covers and short stories; his most recent was part of a huge anthology that won both Eisner and Harvey Awards in 2009. His personal work has been exhibited in all four hemispheres despite the fact that he's only traveled to two. He still lives in Brazil, working in a room full of music, in an apartment full of windows, looking out on a city full of cars, full of people and full of stories. He’s represented by Sari Levy of Levy Creative Management.
Thinking About Other Things When Ideas Show Up
If you have a degree in what field is it? No degrees. After a couple of frustrated attempts to get into cinema school when I was young I got into the fine arts program at the University of São Paulo, but never finished. It wasn’t the right time nor the right place; I dropped out and opened my first graphic design studio with my brother and some friends. After that it was impossible to go back to school.
Have you always been able to draw or was it a skill you learned in college? Since always. I was very lucky to have parents that gave me all I needed to be creative right from the beginning. Not only pens, pencils and papers, but also books, movies, music—it was all available to us.
What was your first paid assignment? I was seventeen or eighteen I think; I can’t remember exactly. It was actually a huge commission for Folha de São Paulo, a major Brazilian newspaper, for six, full-page, illustrated spreads of a very complex fashion article that mixed pictures of models on the catwalk and elements and characters from comic books. At that time I wasn’t even thinking about being an illustrator, neither was my brother, but despite the fact that we were totally shaking in fear and hearts beating at max from all the anxiety, we got the job done. And to think that was before Photoshop... Crazy kids. We’re so spoiled nowadays.
Which illustrator (or fine artist) do you most admire? From the past, Hokusai; from the present, Sam Weber.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an illustrator? I wouldn’t be able to wear a tie, that’s for sure.
From where do your best ideas originate? I don’t exactly know... I’m always thinking about something else when they show up.
How do you overcome a creative block? Turn my computer off and turn my guitar and amp on.
In one word describe how you feel when beginning a new assignment? Planned.
Do you have a personal philosophy? Keep mind, eyes and hands busy.
Do you have creative pursuits other than illustration? I’m doing suminagashi in my free time now. Don’t know what I’ll do with it yet, but it’s good to try something different from time to time. Suminagashi is totally the opposite of how I work, it’s completely loose, abstract and you have to deal with the unexpected all the time.
What music are you listening to right now? I’m listening to John Patitucci’s Heart of the Bass while answering this questionnaire. But in a few minutes I’ll probably need some Team Sleep to get in the mood for work.
What's your favorite quote? It’s quite long, but I like a quote from Hokusai: “All I have produced before the age of seventy is not worth taking into account. At seventy-three I have learned a little about the real structure of nature, of animals, plants, trees, birds, fishes and insects. In consequence when I am eighty, I shall have made still more progress. At ninety I shall penetrate the mystery of things; at one hundred I shall certainly have reached a marvelous stage; and when I am a hundred and ten, everything I do, be it a dot or a line, will be alive. I beg those who live as long as I to see if I do not keep my word. Written at the age of seventy five by me, once Hokusai, today Gwakyo Rojin, the old man mad about drawing.”
Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Know your limits.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? That I could have declined some jobs. On the other hand, if I had, I wouldn’t know now how to avoid bad clients.