Register

Latin American Ilustracion: Kako

By David Schonauer   Monday February 9, 2015


As a guitar player and music lover, Brazilian freelance illustrator Kako was delighted when he was approached to create a series of three posters as part of an ad campaign for Guitar Player magazine. The assignment, which came from Creative Director Guilherme Jahara and Art Director Mauricio Mori of Brazil’s Leo Burnett ad agency, was to depict the lives of three guitar gods—Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page. “This was a dream job,” says Kako.

The life of a freelancer, however, often swings between two poles—having too little work and being overwhelmed by too much. And at the time, in the summer of 2013, Kako’s schedule was fully booked. “I spent the following months fearing that I was not going to have time for it in the near future, I was desperately trying to get rid of all the other stuff in order to make time for the job,” he says. “Luckily, my schedule finally managed to clear up and we started talking.” Thus began an epic project that would push Kako to his creative limits. The end result, however, would be named as a selection in the Latin AmericanIlustración 3 competition.

Mori, who had already sketched ideas for the posters, told Kako he wanted something as visually complex as Kris Kuksi’s sculptures. “I realized that to work on these it would require total immersion and complete dedication,” Kako says. “It was not only a question of being graphically complex; the narrative needed to work, too, and that was my main concern. The story would dictate what I was supposed to illustrate and not the other way around.”

Work on the posters began in October 2013. Kako started his planning by focusing on the campaign’s tag line: “A guitar plays more than just music; it plays history.” That led him into some in-depth research on the three musicians. “I knew all stories, but I had to go deeper to tell them, to find the connections and the right elements to illustrate,” he says. “Everything needed to make sense together.”

When it came time to create the art, he started on the poster for Hendrix, using his initial work more or less as a test dummy. “We still had to decide what style we should use, and in the beginning we thought about using shades of gray to resemble Kuksi's sculptures and mood,” Kako says. “We tried a couple of things in very early stages of the process, including hiring a colorist to simulate a 3D-like finish. But whatever we tried wasn't working. So I proposed a style that I commonly use for publishing clients.”

Complications came, however, when Kako began working on the poster about Clapton. The illustrator explains:

“I started researching Clapton's story and noticed that there was a crucial difference between him and Hendrix. Hendrix's career was very short compared to Clapton’s, whose story had so much to tell. So many bands, so many ups and downs. The original sketch ended Clapton's story in early 1990s, with his song "Tears in Heaven" and his son's death. But there was something else to tell, something more beautiful and positive. Clapton's life was marked by drug and alcohol problems, and I thought his story should be about saving oneself from all that. At the bottom of the illustration we start with his roots. Then, moving up, we have his ascension, his descent, and his recovery, and we end with the foundation of his Crossroads Center, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Antigua. It was a beautiful and rich story to tell, but also very difficult to translate graphically. We were talking about death, addiction, marriage and friendship. We were really getting into the campaign's core, taking it to its limits.”

It was the depth of the research that gave real meaning to the illustration. Kako went as far as reading an autobiography by Patty Boyd, the first wife of Clapton (and George Harrison), to find out what his favorite drink was. “I was crazy for information, and it took me a lot of time to feel that I had enough to start working on the art. Because of that, I had many meltdowns during the production of the Clapton piece,” Kako says. “Call me crazy, but I wanted to use each and every guitar Clapton auctioned to raise money for the Crossroads Center to form the guitar's neck. Of course it was an impossible task, but I tried to make as many guitars I could fit into the schedule. I was mad to create the best illustrated story ever.”

After two months of work on the piece, Kako says he was simply “crushed and exhausted.” But there was one more guitar to do.

“For the Jimmy Page poster, we decided to focus on his Led Zeppelin years,” says Kako. “I also didn't want to go thru what happened with the Clapton poster—it was too much. For Page, I wanted something graphically fantastic and epic, like the Zeppelin songs. I didn't want only real-life stories; I wanted dragons and the misty mountains, I wanted a stairway to heaven and all the legends we heard about Zeppelin. And lastly, I wanted to enjoy my time doing it. Page's guitar reflects this experience—it is simpler and naive in its composition and concept, yet still deep and meaningful if you know Page's story."

As it turned out, the Page image was the favorite of everyone involved in the project. “The posters were published and it was a huge success among the magazine’s readers,” says Kako. “We had plans to make more—I had a whole list of artists I wanted to do. But unfortunately there was no budget. Perhaps in the future I’ll make another set.”

0 Comments

No comments yet.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now


Dispatches from Latin America