Introduction: His work is a true Beauty & the Beast story, a combination of the flawlessly fine and the terrifyingly ugly. He himself is a master of disguise.
J Anthony Kosar’s favorite holiday is Halloween. That’s no surprise. He’s a Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas type of guy. Scary masks and creatures keep him company at his studio while he feverishly assembles his next creepy creation. Among his favorite classic literary characters are the Phantom of the Opera, Dracula, and Frankenstein. “I love Frankenstein…what he represents…what the story is about,” Kosar says. “I like tragic characters, not just mean guys, I like tragic ones who have a reason to be mean.”
“I like tragic characters, not just mean guys, I like tragic ones who have a reason to be mean.”
And while most children dread the very idea of monsters, Kosar says he was always fond of them, incorporating creatures into prototypes for collectable toys, book illustrations, and Halloween masks.
Kosar took his talent to Hollywood interning in 2007 at the studio of legendary visual effects artist and film director Stan Winston. While there, Kosar spent time crafting crystal skulls, mummies, and giant snakes for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and robotic suits for James Cameron’s Avatar, while studying sculpture under world-renowned creature designer Jordu Schell. Winston, one of Kosar’s real-life heroes, sadly passed away eight months later. “That makes it even more special, that I was able to have the opportunity to work with him,” Kosar says. Continuing his special effects work, Kosar created a number of Halloween masks for Zagone Studios, including a mask of the controversial and imprisoned former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Kosar started Kosart Effects at age 16 when he created his first prosthetic, officially launching Kosart Effects LLC in 2008.Kosart Effects Studio was then established in 2011 in Westmont, Illinois where the artist hosts galleries, and teaches special effect and mask-making classes.
As he continues to explore art, Kosar says he looks back on the works of Renaissance painters, which highlight creatures, dragons, and demons … elements that enchant his imagination. “Most of those paintings are illustrations of mythology and theology…there’s a lot of really cool monsters and creatures in those two worlds,” he says. “All those paintings tell a story.”
Kosar, who is Greek from his mother’s side, says when he visits Greece, archaeological sites, ancient temples, and statues are what captivate him the most. “Greeks are the ones who pioneered art and brought it from something that was very stale to something that was very realistic, and that helped inspire the Renaissance movement, which was the greatest art movement in history,” he says. One of Kosar’s fondest memories of Greece is that of an Evzone protecting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Athens’ Syntagma Square, the inspiration behind his nationally and internationally awarded piece Never Known, Never Forgotten, (2006).
Besides creating the monsters that haunt the dreams of children everywhere, Kosar is internationally recognized for his more refined side. Having won numerous awards in illustration and fine art by the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles, American Watercolor Society, and Illinois Watercolor Society, among others, he was also named “One to Watch” by Watercolor Artist Magazine, in 2009. Top among his artistic peers, Kosar graduated from the American Academy of Art in Chicago in 2008 with Valedictorian status, earning his BFA in illustration.
Kosar grew up drawing and painting. “That’s really kind of my first love,” he says. Pictured are three of his works, and though very bright in color, they mask a dimmer message. “Even though most of my paintings are not dark in imagery, they are dark in nature,” Kosar says of his fine art.
“Even though most of my paintings are not dark in imagery, they are dark in nature.”
His favorite piece, Consequence of Creation, featuring the monster Frankenstein, was once his most hated. Kosar recalls getting sick the weekend before the painting, a class assignment, was due. “I couldn’t even stand up without feeling nauseous, and all my paints were at school,” he says. Feeling better a day before his deadline, Kosar hastily brought to life a monster with a mix of charcoal and ink he had laying around at home. “My teacher who knows my style said it was a very feverish attempt to finish it. I hated it,” he says, “But it became one of my favorite pieces because of the whole spontaneity that was there.” Kosar says he has attempted to recreate the essence of that piece in other paintings but has failed to do so … an artist’s lament. “It’s something that I feel can’t really be achieved again,” he says, “All I can say is that it just happened.”
View some of Kosar’s works here.
For more information on the artist and his work visit www.kosarteffects.com