The Cinematic Storytelling of Kazu Kibuishi

by David Finley
Artwork © Kazu Kibuishi

© Kazu Kibuishi
 Kazu Kibuishi crafts beautiful and skillful drawings of charming and intimate beauty. There is a heart to it that has the ability to connect with his reader. He taps into our inner child, and our spirits of adventure. He breaks through our walls of disbelief, and allows us to once more explore the fantasy realms of our childhood. Personally, he inspires me to reach further with my own art.

 The first time I saw Kazu's work was on an old illustration forum that I used to frequent called, the Drawing Board. While it is not as populated or frequented today, eight or nine years ago it was a great forum, teaming with art and commentary from professional animators and illustrators. There were all kinds of incredible talents posting their work for comment. Because I was just starting out professionally then, it could be a bit intimidating at the time. But, through observation and a bit of participation I learned a lot.

 One artist, whose work I was immediately taken with, was Kazu Kibuishi. I don't remember if it was actually posted on the forum or if I found it through a link to his website, but the first work of his I can ever remember seeing was a series of sequential art pages from a story entitled, "Clive and Cabbage in Escape", which I've posted below.

© Kazu Kibuishi
 That first panel on the last page is everything. It just makes me happy. It's brilliant because Kibuishi methodically builds tension on the first three pages of the story with a combination of facial expression, body language, and genuine character interaction until it is released on that final page. Even more impressive is that it is all done without dialogue. I love the transition of Clive's expression on the third page. As his eyes pop open for the first time, there is a spike in anticipation for the release that arrives on page four.
 Best of all, the story is easy to identify with and relate to. It's more than a story about someone who hates his job. It's a story about a spirit that needs to escape his oppressive routine and participate in an event that inspires true, even if temporary, happiness. It's both funny and sad when you reflect on it, which lends it an incredible strength of realism, despite its otherworldly setting and characters.

Another thing I appreciate about Kibuishi is his willingness to experiment. He could have simply continued with the type of art he made in Clive and Cabbage for the rest of his career and he would have had an admirable body of work and stories. But, over the years, I've seen genuine exploration within his art. He helped organize the critically acclaimed Flight Anthology, has participated in gallery shows, and has published graphic novels like the steampunk western "Daisy Kutter", and the high fantasy series, "Amulet".

© Kazu Kibuishi
 When looking over Kibuishi's body of work, you can see a definite improvement to his already impressive drawing and storytelling abilities. He has become a stronger designer, for one, weaving elements of line and shape, color, and movement, in increasingly different ways. His writing has delved deeper, his characters more complex, and his stories more intricate. Perhaps most impressive, he builds entire cinematic worlds that we can become lost in. Pictures like the one below have such a majesty and movie-like quality to them.

© Kazu Kibuishi
Yet, for all of the impressiveness of Kibuishis's more recent efforts with the epic and captivating books of "Amulet", I have a soft spot in my heart for the simple, yet philosophical comic, "Copper".

 This one, below, is my favorite. As an artist and writer, the waterfall dividing the panels gets me every time. It anchors the piece, serves as a visual transition, and a story transition. To even place it on the page was a great risk, but one that pays off considerably. Whenever I look at it, I want to make my own visual experiments and explore my own artistic boundaries.

© Kazu Kibuishi
  Kazu Kibuishi has inspired me as an artist for almost a decade, and it is my hope that he will inspire you as well.

 You can see more of his work and purchase his books and prints at 

  Thanks for reading, scofflaws!


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