I was a student for a long time. Between a couple of stints at Community College, a year at a University, and finally a full run at Art School, I took a ton of courses and had many teachers along the way. With all of those experiences, sadly I can only remember more than an impression of a handful of them, and of that handful maybe 4 or 5 that I regarded as a genuinely fantastic teacher or inspirational type figure.
Kazuhiko Sano was one of those teachers.
I went to AAU in San Francisco between 2001-2005 or so. One thing I learned quickly is that there were a ton of talented artists teaching there and some pretty amazing teachers, but to find both in one package was a rare commodity. I met Kazu later in my academic career but he made a big impact on me. Not only was the guy an amazing artist but he was an extremely personable, giving teacher. I remember coming home and proudly telling my dad how I had a teacher who'd drawn a poster for Return on the Jedi :) I had the pleasure of taking a couple of his courses and learned a ton in the process. I also had the chance to catch up with him outside of school once when he needed reference for an illustration. We spent most of a day shooting ref and talking about art and life. I was struggling with some pretty big issues with regard to direction and growing up and I remember how important that conversation was to me. It would still be a couple years before I resolved to tackle comics and make it a career, and I was at a crossroads for what I wanted to pursue.
I hadn't know Kazu was sick, and I was taken aback when I received an email recently that he'd passed away after a battle with cancer. I wish I'd reached out to him and told him how much of an influence he had been, not so much stylistically but in spirit. He was a bold artist, full of life and courage and his art reflected the eye and hand of a draftsman but with so much spirit and guts.
I remember sitting down with him in a review, looking at rough work and observational sketches. Kazu remarked that the human memory is one of our biggest downfalls. Imagine, he said smiling, if we could retain everything we'd seen and every memory we'd had, how much more enriched our lives would be. I'm fairly certain I will not remember even a fraction of what I've seen or experienced in life, but I'm know for sure I will not forget you, Kazu. Thank you for sharing your guidance and love of art with everyone.
Check out a bunch of Kazu's work here. I'll put some of my favorites below...