When I first started kaijumaddy.com, my intent was to create a blog full of my varied tastes and hobbies and habits. I didn’t want to pigeonhole my blog into one hyper-specific topic. Instead, I just wanted to use my blog as a public guide to teaching people about the things I like, journaling about my current interests and hobbies, and showing off what I think is cool or interesting at the time.
As I mention in my about page, kaiju is Japanese for “strange creature” — I’ve definitely felt like a strange creature throughout my life, which is not a bad thing by any means. No one fits into a single niche or type; we all have different traits and interests and life experiences that build us into a single strange creature, unlike anyone else.
One thing that I always have planned on doing on this blog was to spotlight some of my favorite weirdos — people who have taken control of what makes them them and harnessed that into creating something, changing something, doing something.
I thought no better person to be the subject of my first Strange Creature Spotlight than my very dear friend, graphic designer and creative genius, Jacob Kuddes.
I first met Jacob in 2014 when we both worked at the same company! A few months after he started, we both realized that we were equal weirdos, and became friends, bonding over Pokemon, Steve Brule, funny pronunciations of names, Mad Men, and eventually Freddy Krueger. It only took a few minutes for me to realize that Jacob was an incredibly talented artist and an extremely creative person. I loved collaborating with him on projects at work — I was in marketing and he was in design, and more often than not, I was having him draw things just so I could see them.
Jacob’s design subjects range from wildlife to logos (!!!) to pop culture and more. Something VERY exciting in his list of artistic accomplishments was that he was chosen by Fox and Ridley Scott personally to be the winner of an Alien design contest. His design was featured on a t-shirt that was included in special Alien: Covenant Blu-Ray sets.
Jacob’s most recent project on Instagram is Kaijune / Kaijuly — 31 illustrations of kaiju. PERFECT, RIGHT? While 30 of the 31 were based on the Godzilla-lead Toho kaiju, the last installment in his series was a Daiei boy, my favorite — GAMERA.
Jacob currently has a Big Cartel shop with patches and enamel pins for sale. He has an amazing wife and a perfect dog named Jupiter. I sent Jacob a few questions about illustrating, design work, and his artistic process. Let’s goooo!
Interview with Jacob Kuddes: Strange Creature #1
KM: What does being a strange creature mean to you?
JK: It’s being a weirdo and kind of a dope, and a crabby-pants, and being passionate about whatever dumb stuff you’re passionate about, and oftentimes failing at things you try, and yet people still love you anyway.
KM: What are your earliest memories of being creative?
JK: When I was in Kindergarten, I painted the Green Power Ranger and I vaguely remember being told that it was a kind of good likeness. So I’ve been chasing the high of that faint praise ever since.
KM: When did you start drawing? What did you draw?
JK: I think I started drawing in the 3-5 range, but it wasn’t until I was five that I decided that this was what I wanted to do forever. My brother and I were really into animals, prehistoric and otherwise, and history. So I drew a lot of dinosaurs, a lot of sharks, and things like the Titanic sinking, or the Lusitania being blown up. There was some Star Wars stuff in there too. My subject matter has not really evolved since then.
KM: What draws you to kaiju?
JK: When I was nine, the not-very-good Roland Emmerich Godzilla was on the horizon, and that’s where my obsession with the big lummox began. I did a series of brutal, gory comics in which Godzilla is ripping spines out, King Ghidorah is exploding heads, Jet Jaguar is putting his thumbs in Anguirus’s eyes, etc. I was obsessed (my teacher even said so! She didn’t really mean it in a positive way).
Kaiju are great because they combine two things I both loved and was terrified of as a kid (and heck, even now): natural disasters and animals. They occupy the same territory of terror that say, a tornado operates in, where if you’re confronted with one, you’re kind of powerless. It’s a special big kind of fear, not of something malicious, but something so beyond you that you can really only be a spectator to it, and hope for it to leave you unscathed. But then they’re like animals too in that for all the fear that comes with being confronted by certain kinds of them, you can end up having a lot of affection for them too. They’re endearing, and you kind of root for them. Frightening and charming in equal measure.
KM: What artists inspire you? What in GENERAL inspires you?
JK: The list is long, so I’ll stick to who is doing it for me lately. Kim Hu is doing an Ultraman-centric series of Kaiju illustrations that are so rad. Sachin Teng is always and forever the best. My old friend Katie Sanvick is doing really beautiful watercolors. And Robert Jack has been making some killer dinosaurs.
I think my biggest general inspirations are movies, Christian art from the Middle Ages, and books that chronicle different species of animals. I like the idea of my drawings being something to be collected; I try to incorporate icons and symbols in my work to catalog whatever the subject is, so if something is a set, there is a kind of key uniting whatever the subject matter is. There is a lot of consideration of the space the subject is in, but the space itself is not fleshed out really (but I’d like to get better at doing landscapes).
KM: What is your favorite thing to eat?
JK: Breakfast food! Everything under that eggy, syrupy umbrella.
KM: What are you most afraid of?
JK: Wasps. I can appreciate them from afar and it’s nice that they kill bugs that are a nuisance in agriculture, but I just can’t handle them.
KM: Tell me about Jupiter.
JK: She’s a sweet little monster! She’s my first pet that isn’t a fish, and I love her to pieces. She has so much energy, and she loves every person she meets, although her way of showing it is a little aggressive. We’re working on it though. My favorite thing she does is when she decides to just run around the couch as fast as she can for five minutes straight. There’s not enough room here to describe everything I love about little Jup.
KM: What are your goals as an artist? Realistic/Ultimate Dream
JK: I would love to be able to be at home and draw. Whether that’s doing comics, or prints, or making apparel or pins or patches, whatever–I would really like to do the things I do on the side, but be able to support my wife and my dog doing it.
KM: If you could live in any video game, which would it be?
JK: I like bumming around in Skyrim, not really getting any more powerful or anything like that. A dog bites me and I’m dead. It’s pretty peaceful in the wilderness when I’m not getting punched to death by a bandit or whatever.
KM: Any advice to people starting out? What was the hardest lesson to learn?
JK: 1) Keep drawing, even if you hate what you make. You have to draw through those times, and those times are frequent. Don’t stop drawing. Constant practice will make you better, it really will!
2) Draw things you like to draw! Sometimes you’ll have to draw something you aren’t familiar with, or comfortable drawing (this is a good thing…usually). However that turns out, chances are you’ll emerge on the other side exhausted. So have a few things in your back pocket you can draw easily, maybe even from memory, that you enjoy drawing, and you might remember why you put yourself through this!
3) Try drawing in other people’s styles. If you see something you like, try and recreate it. You’ll find out a lot about how you approach your work, and hopefully take something from the work you’re trying to recreate that will expand your skill.
4) This is advice and a hard lesson I had to learn (and am still learning), and that is not to sell your work short. If you’re good at what you’re doing, be confident that it is worth something! If a patron doesn’t respect the time and labor that goes into what you do, then you don’t work for them. But also, don’t be a jerk about it. It’s a fine line. I’m probably not the best person to be giving this advice. Forget it!
I hope that you liked the first installment of this series! Let me know in the comments if you have anyone in mind you’d like me to feature. Please visit Jacob’s Instagram, as well as his Big Cartel shop. I’ll leave you with a few more of my favs! Be prepared to see something very special created by Jacob for kaijumaddy.com!
Jacob & I loving jean vests/jackets over hoodies and boots.
An AMAZING birthday gift — a trading card of my son, Jaunty.
And another AMAZING birthday gift — handdrawn portraits of Max & Furiosa.