Meet the Artist: 10 Questions for Popular Artist Rob Kaz
Storytelling is an essential skill for any artist. They need to be able to convey mood, tone, and sometimes even whole narratives in just one lone image on a canvas.
Fortunately for Rob Kaz, he’s spent his whole career learning how to tell a story with his art.
A self-taught artist, Kaz honed his craft working at several animation studios in his home state of Florida. Through his time in animated film production, he gained a wealth of knowledge about lighting, character creation, and composition.
He eventually left animation to pursue a career in fine art. Art collectors flocked to his works, and his paintings now hang in galleries and private collections all over the globe. His talent was further validated when he was named as a Disney Fine Artist—he’s one of a handful of artists who have been officially licensed to paint scenes from iconic Disney movies.
Recently, Kaz talked to Park West Gallery about the origins of his career, his animated art style, and the inspirations behind his story-packed artwork. Enjoy!
1). When did you first realize you wanted to become an artist?
There was never really an “ah-ha” moment for me. Art had always been a part of my life, but I never planned to make a career as an oil painter. I went to school for criminal justice and, after graduating, I sort of fell into art. After completing an internship with the United States Postal Inspection Office, I thought I had a job lined up to work there full-time.
Unfortunately, I learned there was a hiring freeze that affected my potential role, but, that same day, a person came to see my parents’ home that they were selling. That person saw my art hanging on the walls and immediately offered me a job in his small animation studio. That studio led to another studio, which eventually led to me working as a character artist at the video game studio Electronic Arts Tiburon, making likenesses for the games Madden, NCAA Football, and Tiger Woods PGA Tour. While working with EA, I rediscovered my love for oil painting during my time-off between game seasons.
I started showing my oil paintings at local outdoor art festivals. Despite less-than-favorable showings at those art festivals—it always seemed like my art didn’t quite fit the bill while more traditional subjects soared—I knew I’d found my place. Studio art was definitely worth every second of my time, but I wanted to paint for me. In my own style. Subjects of my choosing. I wanted to tell stories on canvas.
After a few seasons with EA, I decided to take a leap of faith and pursue a full-time career in oil painting. Shortly after leaving EA, I secured representation, stopped showing at art festivals, and my art started hanging in galleries. It felt like, after all those years working in different areas of art, I’d finally found my place in the world with fine art.
2). What inspires your art?
Everything around me inspires my art. I’m fortunate to live in Central Florida where I’m surrounded by wildlife. Small moments of exchange between a frog and a dragonfly become stories in my mind and eventually become paintings on canvas. When I watch dogs, manatees, the gators that swim in the pond near my house… all of these become ideas for paintings.
I’m inspired by nature, but I’m also inspired by the idea of childlike wonder that comes from seeing bugs and ducks and imagining that they might be friends in their world. I like to tell my stories on canvas by stepping into their world. So my paintings are from their point-of-view, down at their level of the grass or pond and not from above. Riding my bike through my neighborhood might result in a dozen new painting ideas simply by letting my imagination run wild with what my eyes see.
3). Have any particular artists influenced your style?
My current style is really my own. But, as I was learning and developing, I was influenced by some of my favorites, including Norman Rockwell, James Coleman, and Hubert Robert. I know they’re vastly different from one another and from my own style, but I was drawn to their work (still am) and so I wanted to learn to be as good as them one day. I studied their techniques and their bodies of work to figure out why I was drawn to them. Obviously, today, my work looks nothing like them, but I still admire their work every chance I get.
4). You started your art career working in the animation industry and your artwork is often described as having an “animated” style. What did animation teach you about fine art?
That’s a long answer, but I can distill it down to two things. Animation taught me the beauty of imperfection—that straight lines are not always desirable and playing with reality in a whimsical way is more fun than being rigid. And animation also taught me the power of romanticizing the world—that being true to life isn’t always as powerful as just having fun with it.
5). You’re well known for your amazing paintings of scenes from Disney and Star Wars films. What are some of your favorite Star Wars or Disney movie moments?
From Star Wars, my favorite scene would be the moment when the Rebels are led by the Millennium Falcon into the Death Star in Return of the Jedi—that whole scene, actually, the fight both on the ground and in the air. There’s a lot of adrenaline from a story standpoint. From an art standpoint, those ships were handmade models, not digital. It’s just so visually impressive and that helped it to feel so real for me the first few hundred times I watched it.
In Disney, my favorite moment would be from Bambi, when the seasons are changing and Bambi goes out into the forest and meets new friends. The background art is beautiful and stunning. Perhaps that’s why I chose a moment from that scene to paint as my very first Disney piece.
6). You have a series of fantastic landscape paintings that you call “Places I’d Rather Be.” Is there a particular landscape or location that you’ve always wanted to paint?
To be honest, no. I already paint whatever I want. If I am inspired, I paint it. That’s not to say there won’t be other landscapes or locations that wind up in that “Places” collection. In fact, as I visit new places and later find myself wanting to mentally return, that’s when a “Places” painting is often born.
7). In your studio, do you have a favorite art supply? A paint or a tool that you find yourself returning to again and again?
There are two things that you will ALWAYS find in my studio. One is my paint from Williamsburg Oil Colors. I’ve tried lots of different brands throughout the years—some cheaper, some more expensive. Williamsburg is 100% my brand of choice. I like the pigmentation and the flow and basically everything about it.
The second thing you’ll always find in my studio is my homemade maulstick. I have a retractable one I travel with for practical purposes, but my homemade one that hangs on my easel at home is the absolute best.
I get asked a lot about the “stick” from people when they see me painting at home in live videos on social media. People are intrigued and curious, but it’s just a personal choice and, for me, it works better than anything I could buy. It has a wide wooden handle and an attached wooden u-shaped hook on top. I hang it on another wooden bar attached to the top of my easel so that it always sits above the paintings on my easel.
8). What do you want collectors to take away from your art?
Joy. Smiles. Happiness. I paint scenes that personally make me happy and I can only hope that collectors feel the same. My paintings aren’t about deep thoughts or the meaning of life. My paintings are simply about bringing happiness to homes. At the same time, I want people to understand the amount of time and technique that goes into each work.
I give a lot of thought to lighting. I incorporate tiny details for the viewer to find. I plan stories in my mind, but they’re loose enough for the collector to decide on their own story and build upon the scene I’ve given them. But, always, with each painting, I want to see people smile. I love it when I see a child (grown or at heart) point to my work and make their way to it from across the room. I love it when I hear them say, “Look!” in such a way that their joy is evident.
9). What do you enjoy doing when you’re not painting?
I love bike-riding with my wife. We recently purchased a pull-behind wagon so we can take our dogs with us—they’re seniors and get a bit tired from walking long distances, but they like riding. We don’t ride professionally or competitively, just for recreation. Sometimes, we will bike five to six miles, just taking trails through our neighborhood.
We also love to spend time with our pups vegging on the sofa and binging our favorite shows—Brooklyn 99, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Goldbergs, The Big Bang Theory, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Alone, and Project Blue Book are some of our favorites right now. Oh, and of course, we love walking around Disney World. We live just a stone’s throw away and we’re annual passholders, so we frequent the Disney parks and Disney Springs. Epcot is probably our favorite park—it’s great exercise to take a few laps around their World Showcase.
10). Do you have a favorite color?
My two favorite colors right now are Coral and Robin’s Egg Blue. But my favorite paint color is Montserrat Orange from Williamsburg Oil Colors.
On a side note about colors, I am often asked what green I use in my paintings. One time, James Coleman called because he had been trying to help me out by touching up a spot that had been damaged by shipping on one of my original paintings. He had spent a long time trying to figure out what green I used and none of his colors were matching. Finally, he gave up and called me.
The funny thing was—I don’t actually paint with green most of the time. I usually create my own shades by blending colors, including my green. In a way, I suppose my green is somewhat custom and perhaps even proprietary.
To collect the artwork of Rob Kaz, contact our gallery consultants at (800) 521-9654 ext. 4 or firstname.lastname@example.org.