On The Path:

Born in Tokyo, Japan in 1960, Kaz grew up in a Japan that was still at the beginning of the anime and manga-driven pop culture. At the age of eight, his family moved to San Francisco: “In 1968 San Francisco was a haven for the hippie movement, but I was still too young to go marching with the flower power people.” Later his family moved to Portland, Oregon, where he spent his teenage years. After high school, he attended the University of Oregon where he became an art major.


Wood block print. 2nd grade
Kaz's Tokyo neighborhood

In his junior year at Oregon, Kaz studied abroad for a semester in Avignon, France, and proceeded to travel through Europe on his own. In Europe, he was exposed to some of the greatest masterpieces in the world: “I was awakened to the level of what art can be. It’s one thing to study a reproduced image of any artwork in a book, and another to see the original artwork with your own eyes. There is no comparison. At that time I didn’t quite understand the methodology in creating such artwork, but now I knew just how high the bar was… it was quite humbling.”

University of Oregon
Avignon France: Pope's Palace
Louvre: Paris, France

After his experience in Europe, Kaz started to look into attending a professional art school to further his training. He looked into several different institutions and chose the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California: “Just looking at the student gallery was all I needed to do. I was very impressed, and intimidated at the same time. I chose Art Center because I believe the truth about any art school is evident in the work being created by the current students.” Kaz was soon accepted and started attending Art Center in the fall semester of 1983: “For the next three years I worked like I’ve never worked before. Doing two all-nighters a week was common occurrence.”

3rd term work: Art Center
4th term work: Art Center

In The Profession:

After graduating from Art Center, Kaz dove right into the freelancing arena. Unlike many of the illustrators at the time who headed straight for New York during the mid ‘80’s, he decided to stay in Los Angeles: “I liked L.A. The diversity, the sunshine, the ocean…and with the advent of faxes and the ease of overnight shipping, you could work anywhere in the country. You really didn’t need to live in New York to get jobs from New York anymore.”

My first fax machine. It was a bargain at $900.00 back in 1986.
Stay in Los Angeles...........................or move to New York?

Like most recent graduates, when he entered the field of freelance illustration, he had a portfolio, but no established style to his work. Kaz took on whatever he could to get working experience. Slowly but surely, his client base expanded, and his abilities improved along with it. Kaz even art-directed and created cover art for some jazz albums for Nova Records:


He recalls that one of the more fun clients he landed was an account with Nintendo game manufacturer Hal Laboratories. Kaz produced many Nintendo game package illustrations: “Working with these guys was great. They were a creative and fun-loving bunch.” Kaz also produced some of Nintendo Power magazine’s first pullout posters:“For a while in the 80’s, I was doing nothing but Nintendo-related work.”


With several years of experience under his belt, Kaz acquired representation from the Repertory Group in L.A., then Irmeli Holmberg in New York and Joni Tuke in Chicago: “I learned a great deal from all my reps. I can’t thank them enough. They took me on when I was still very new, so I give them a lot of credit for having the guts to do that. Currently, I don’t have any reps and I’m promoting my work on my own.”

From the late 80’s to mid-90’s, Kaz worked on a myriad of different projects from advertising to editorial and from animation backgrounds to creating logos for several companies.

Imada Design Group
The Learning Company
Warner Bros.
B.D. Fox
Grey Entertainment & Media

Medium of Choice:

As far as the type of medium he used, Kaz worked with acrylic paint using an airbrush. Then, just as he felt very comfortable with this method, almost overnight, the computer revolution caught up with him: “I hated the thought of doing illustration on the computer and vowed to fight it as long as I could, but then I started to use it and realized it was really no different than using an airbrush. In fact, the transition to using Photoshop and a Wacom tablet was so smooth, I really don’t miss my airbrush at all. I can still create my drawings the traditional way, using a pencil and paper, so I’m pretty satisfied with this whole process”. Now, Kaz creates all his finished illustrations using Adobe Photoshop.

Kaz’s very last airbrush illustration he created was the poster for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 2000
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 2001

Images below are created digitally.

McClanahan Book Company, Inc.
McClanahan Book Company, Inc.
Self - promotion

In 2005, Kaz joined the team of animation artist working on "Danny Phantom," at the Nickelodeon Animation Studio in Burbank California where he painted background paintings for the show. Now Kaz is working on the program Maya, a 3D animation and modeling program, to create texture mapping for the animation industry.

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