Kozy and Dan, the husband and wife that together form Kozyndan, elaborate on their inspirations, their work and life together and their mutual love of nature and the ocean.
artrepublic: What or who are the main inspirations behind your work?
Dan: Our work is very personal in the sense that it’s specifically about the interests and values we share together as a couple. It’s inspired by our interactions with one another, our travels, our shared love of nature and the ocean, and of a shared unease with the unnatural human world in which we are cogs. We are either glorifying the intricate perfection of the natural world, or depicting an ongoing fantasy where nature rises up to exact an Old Testament, “eye-for-an-eye” style vengeance on mankind and specifically on the urban wasteland our inherent greed has produced.
artrepublic: How do you approach the actual making of a piece?
Kozy: Kind of a tough question! We work in so many mediums and in so many ways. We don’t limit ourselves to one process. Sometimes the works are spontaneously created by one or the other of us alone. Sometimes there is a bouncing of ideas back and forth, and one of us does a composition drawing, and the other paints it, or sometimes we both physically paint on the same work at the same time.
Dan: The only series that has a pretty set process is our Panoramic series, such as “Flooding of the Prinsengracht”. We take a series of photos onsite to capture as much detail of the intended location as possible. Then I will assemble and print photos for reference and Kozy will set out to drawing the entire environment in one (surprisingly small) drawing while I set to sketching out ideas for characters to put into the environment. Once she is done with the background she traces my characters into her style and adds more of her own, while I scan and clean her background and the composite drawing is then put onto both our computers and we start to paint in colour with the brush tool, each painting different parts of the image until everything is filled. Then the two files are put together and final tweaks to colour and shadows are made on the completed file by one of us. Then it’s sent off to the printers. The process usually takes about a month.
artrepublic: What’s your medium?
Kozy: We are all over the place. Pencil, gouache, acrylic, ink, Photoshop, silkscreen, resin, ceramic, water colour, photography – we have short attention spans, and lately we have enjoyed trying new things.
artrepublic: Describe your work in 5 words.
Dan: mushrooms are better than plastic.
artrepublic: Describe an average day for you.
Kozy: Wake up. Cuddle with cats. Yogurt, passion fruits, strawberries and tea. Walk into studio. Pick music. Paint. Eat. Paint. Yoga. Eat. Play games on iPhone in bed. Cuddle with cats. Read. Sleep.
artrepublic: Does the impact of the viewer influence your work and if so how?
Dan: I think we have a love/ hate relationship with the concept of “an audience”. This is because the work of ours that seems to resonate with our audience (at least the work the sells most broadly) is often work that we don’t particularly have much connection with. Our life together is in some respects buoyed by things we made offhand and are not particularly proud of. A lot of times we put something out that we are passionate about and we get zero reaction from our audience. I think this is an experience a lot of artists in all mediums (not just visual arts) experience. We have no right to harp on the public for liking what they like, but I feel like its only a very small part of the audience that actually perceives our work the way we, in fact, do.
Kozy: The other side of that though is that we have a very open relationship with our audience. We put lots of events in our life out there for the public. Our fans follow our travels and our interests, and some feel like they know us when we do not know them. There is a dialogue with them online that’s always been fun for us, if a little weird.
artrepublic: What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Dan: More than one fan has asked us to adopt them. Those always stick out in my mind since I have no intention of ever becoming a parent. There have been a lot of heartfelt responses to our works over the years though – couples who have told us they were brought together by a mutual love of our work, even a guy who reacted strongly to a little painting we did because it perfectly depicted how he felt about the circumstances of a recent break up with a girl. I think its always the people that find emotional ties to the work that are memorable to me, because for us, despite the subject matter being about nature and ecology, that process of its creation is entirely about the experience of going through life with Kozy, the journey we are travelling together.
artrepublic: What led you to become an artist?
Dan: It required a lot less math at University than becoming a marine biologist.
Kozy: It was always something I was good at. My parents are artistic. I took art classes from an early age. I was always drawn to imagery and moved to the US to study so that I could be involved in special effects or music video production, anything to do with image making. I think that we kind of just fell into making our own art because we got some attention for the work we made together for fun while still in school, and just kept doing it once we graduated.
Dan: It definitely wasn’t planned. We just saw that we could earn some money from our own work so we kept making it. It’s been over 10 years now…
artrepublic: What themes do you pursue?
Kozy: We invariably depict nature, particularly animals, particularly sea animals. There is also a focus on ecology and the destruction of natural spaces. I also really like trippy imagery.
Dan: We don’t even think that much about “themes” though do we? I think we our views on humanity and ecology come from an almost subconscious place. I never really think about the work being about any ecological issues, but when I look back on the breadth of work we have made – those are the themes that emerge. I am just usually looking for things that are exciting to draw and then add whatever pops into my head, and often we are just interested in making trippy visuals for fun. There is a definite theme that emerges but it rarely feels intentional.
artrepublic: What jobs have you done other than being an artist?
Kozy: None actually! I have never had a job outside being an artist. In University I work at the Student Graphic Services department for a time and did a design internship at a character-driven product company. Then we started Kozyndan.
Dan: She will never know firsthand how lucky she is! Haha. I worked a lot of jobs – everything from a loader at UPS (literally a back-breaking job, broke one of my vertebra doing it), to working in restaurants and catering, a bowling alley, as well as design and retouching jobs in Hollywood (I am quite good at reducing J.Lo’s thighs while maintaining her round ass).
artrepublic: What makes you angry?
Dan: THAT is a loaded question!! The world is ALL wrong. Our species centric view of the world is wrong. Our drive towards growth instead of sustainability is wrong. The utter greed that is destroying this world is wrong. It’s all wrong. I have almost given up on humanity. I just want to see what’s left of the natural world before you all destroy it! Haha.
artrepublic: When are you happiest?
Dan: Under the sea.
Kozy: Under the sea.
artrepublic: What’s your favourite or most inspirational place?
Dan: I guess I like the reefs of Indonesia...SO much crazy alien inspiration in those waters. I have rarely felt so exhilarated and scared and calm and happy and overloaded with visual stimulation at once, all while floating weightlessly.
artrepublic: What superpower would you have and why?
Dan: Breathe underwater. Or maybe having insane dance skills. I am a shy dancer and I wish I wasn’t.
artrepublic: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Dan: My step dad told me “Love shouldn’t be hard. It should mostly just work.” I have always taken that to heart. I got really lucky finding someone to share my life and work with, found a relationship that I rarely, even after 13 years, have to “work on”. It just works.
Kozy: My mom told me: “Don’t waste time with stupid people. Only spend your time with interesting people.” That has always worked for us and kept our life from ever being dull.
artrepublic: In another life (if you weren’t an artist) what would you be doing?
Dan: Studying sharks. Actually we will hopefully get the chance to go help out shark researchers in the coming year. We’ll see how the timing and our income goes (buy some prints, people, so Kozy and I can go tag sharks!).
Kozy: Oh so many things!! And I want to do them all together!! I want to be a stand-up comedian, yoga-instructing, masseuse that gives happy endings… I think I would be a great horse whisperer.
Dan: You have never ridden a horse! You are kind of afraid of them!
Kozy: They are big! But I think they will find me very commanding and calming though. I think horses will listen to me.
Dan: Kozy thinks she will be good at everything. The annoying thing is that usually when she does try to do something – she IS good at it. I hate that!