An Interview with Anthony “Cozcon” Conover
Anthony “Cozcon” Conover’s social-commentary-focused fashion illustrations are taking over the illustration world by storm. We recently had a conversation with Cozcon to know more about his work and inspiration.
Danielle Duemesi: A lot of fashion illustration I’ve been exposed to are more matter-of-fact than they are expressive of the spirit of each piece. Your work shows fashion in motion, on bodies with a passion designed specifically for the clothes they’re wearing. How did you come to this point in challenging the fashion illustration medium?
Cozcon: In terms of the illustrative form, it’s never really felt like concretely challenging anything within the medium. To me, it’s just drawing the only way I know how to, thinking about whatever things excite and inspire me. It’s hard for me to step back and observe all the strands that make up my work but it’s wild to have someone frame it the way you are.
Danielle Duemesi: What do you feel had the biggest imprint on your work while developing your style? Are there any other examples of artists challenging the medium they excel in that inspired you?
Cozcon: Anime & comic books 100%. All the stylistic elements of Sailor Moon, Cowboy Bebop, X-Men, FLCL, etc. wove their way into the aesthetic I have today. It's my aesthetic potpourri. I’m really inspired by creative directors like Jonathan Anderson (CD of JW Anderson & Loewe) that are able to materialize and curate entire microcultures around their visions. Helming a creative space in that capacity is definitely something I want for the future.
Danielle Duemesi: Your style has a lot of manic behavior, in that lines aren’t always straight or one weight, and coloring doesn’t need to be within bounds. What appealed to you most about utilizing this technique?
Cozcon: I don’t know when this transition happened but at some point I just gave up on trying to master all the unwritten rules of illustration. Sometimes it feels like chasing the lines more than consciously laying out a certain style or gesture.
Danielle Duemesi: In a recent interview, you mentioned the appropriation of blackness that exists within the fashion world, and wondered if a new structure should be created or if black creatives should infiltrate and demolish. What does either option entail for you? What do you feel needs to be done to make either or both successful?
Cozcon: Ultimately it’s about cultivating an even richer & diverse visual culture for people of color. My aim is to Robin Hood all the beautiful and inventive things locked inside the exclusionary spaces of contemporary fashion and art— digest and re-appropriate the best parts of those spaces to make them accessible to everyone standing on the outside. Once those seeds are planted, grander and even more vivid dreams can come into being without a need for these destructive, leeching industries to provide the framework. We have to cut the rotting flesh of industry off the bones of our cultures and spark a genesis for new growth, clean and in our image. It’s the only way.
Danielle Duemesi: The fashion world also has this problem of making popular styles extremely pricey and near unattainable to a good mass of people looking to get into the fashion industry or express a love for style. What can fashion do to become more accessible to others? Is there anything the fashion world is doing now that should continue?
Cozcon: This question is so hard to answer. Whenever we’re tasked with coming up with ways to reform broken systems a moment tends to come where we wonder why we’re even trying to salvage the system with our resources in the first place. I can talk about sustainability and a need for ethical practices (all of which are desperately needed right now on a worldwide scale with everything) but the true answer is that the fashion industry, as it is, simply shouldn’t exist. If you’re reading this and you love fashion and want to get into the industry, there is a 99.9% chance that all the things you want to engage with can happen outside of this structure (may or may not be speaking to myself here). I make a distinction between the industry and the artistry of fashion because they’re different entities entirely. There’s a way to relish in one while tearing down the other--- the vibrant culture of fashion can exist without the toxicity it's boxed in.
Danielle Duemesi: Do you ever look back on previous work you’ve made for any inspiration, or revisit any creative processes you used to have?
Cozcon: Constantly! To me, it’s an important practice for artist because there isn’t really a line dividing the past from the present. It’s a fluid spectrum like any other thing that’s subject to evolution.
Danielle Duemesi: A lot of people say that illustration is a great medium to make a social comment–– while you can dismiss an essay, an image is more powerful and more immediately in someone’s face. What is your creative process in making imagery that is both striking visually and exhibiting urgency in its message?
Cozcon: This is oversimplifying it but it’s really about whether or not I’m exciting myself with the way I’m saying the things that I think deserve to be heard or repeated. When I create these images, I’m focused on distilling the essence of what stimulates me about the cultures & ideas I interact with everyday. The heart of my creative process is acting out of love, fascination and obsession.
Danielle Duemesi: Your work is really great in that it involves fashion illustration, character design, social commentary, and parody/mock designs. Is there a particular subject or theme you’d like to feature in your work soon?
Cozcon: I think those subjects and themes still offer infinite realms of exploration for me. I’ve always found excitement in challenging myself to catch up with the things that inspire me to create in the first place--- understanding where fashion design is headed, revising my politics with each new perspective I encounter, integrating stylistic approaches that suddenly feel ripe for exploration...
Danielle Duemesi: Is there any advice you’d give to a younger Cozcon? Any words of inspiration for other young, emerging artists?
Cozcon: Engage with whatever it is you do EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Don’t let one day go by that you’re not thinking about, learning about or doing the thing that moves you. I’ve learned that it is a gift to be passionate about something. It’s a gift to feel connected to anything beyond companionship & survival. If you have that gift inside of you then you must foster it and never let that flame dwindle. It’s resting in you for a reason. Be good to it.
Danielle Duemesi: You’ve got a variety of different styles and ways to approach illustration. Will you be changing anything about the way you work or add another style to the roster?
Cozcon: A division grew between the work I did that pushed me forward as an artist and the work I did that spoke to a bigger audience. I’ve been afraid of losing people in translation but as I get more attention for the work I do, I realize that if I don’t find a way to weave the two back together again then I risk being shackled to making corny, mediocre things that mean absolutely nothing to me. So, to answer the question- better work is on the roster indefinitely.
Danielle Duemesi: What are you currently working on? What can people expect to see from you in the future?
Cozcon: In terms of bigger projects, I’m working on getting a book published comprised of sketchbook entries and a pinch of the other mediums I work in. Of all the work I create, my sketchbooks are my pride and joy. At this point I’ve filled about 83 bound books, 100 pages each, cover to cover. It’s quite possibly the most important thing I’ll ever produce so if you’re reading this and want to help get that off the ground, I entreat you to slide into my DM’s. Let’s talk business.
Aside from that, expect to see more of me putting work out into the ether in every way I can. It took me a long time to see value in the world I pieced together in my mind. But I stand here today, 30 as of January, awake to how vivid and potent that world is and how there is a massive space in the global conscious for voices like mine dedicated to illumination. I can finally say that I was born with a revolution stirring in me. I’m ready to unleash it.
For more work from Anthony “Cozcon” Conover, or to show support for the work they do, you can find them at the following sites below: