Artist Feature: Megan Kelchner (Cocokat)
Megan Kelchner, also known as Cocokat, is an art director in Manhattan, NY. She enjoys drawing Kamen Rider related art in her spare time. She has also made a contribution to Ex-Aid Zine last year illustrating the characters in Kamen Rider Ex-Aid.
Can you tell us about your personal background and what drove you to become an artist?
I’ve loved drawing as long as I can remember, so through school I was basically drawing all the time…to the point where I got in trouble for it quite a bit. Luckily I had parents that were very supportive of me and helped me take after-school classes and such and cheered me on when deciding to go to art school. I ended up going to Pratt in Brooklyn for college, where I majored in Communications Design with a focus in Illustration! Now I’m working as an art director in Manhattan.
Did you grow up watching any kind of kaiju / tokusatsu shows or movies? Do you have a favorite?
Honestly, aside from catching a few Power Rangers here and there, I didn’t. If I’d told my past self how much I like it now they’d be like “huh? What? But shows centered around fighting are so BORING!”. But since I have friends that make me watch stuff with them, I ended up falling in love with Kamen Rider kind of naturally.
What is it about the tokusatsu and anime that inspire your works?
Honestly, some of my biggest inspirations style-wise lie outside of anime or toku, but I love drawing fanart and honestly, it’s impossible to avoid being even a little inspired by anime nowadays it feels like. I definitely remember practicing drawing pokemon trainers as a little kid.
Also as far as inspiring content for my art…generally it’s the emotional aspect of the stories that gets to me? Like a lot of Kamen Rider and Sentai suits are pretty as hell but I’m mostly interested about the characters inside.
Do you have any formal training or schooling in the arts? If so, what was the most rewarding experience of going through a formal fine arts program? Would it be a path you’d recommend to aspiring artists?
As I said I went to Pratt Institute to study Communications Design with an Illustration focus (which means I dabbled in advertising, graphic design, typography, and art direction alongside illustration). I think for me it was really helpful to learn to take critique and learn the more practical side of illustration, i.e. taking proper figure drawing classes. It was also my first exposure to the business side of being an illustrator, which (they definitely don’t tell you this when you sign up!) involves a LOT of networking and just having a keen eye/good business practices. Pratt went a lot into the business side of being an illustrator so I know that school isn’t necessarily everyone’s path but that might be one of the most useful reasons to go. Other than that, you just…get out there? Get on social media, draw whenever you can, take figure drawing if at all possible…work hard and practice.
What special tools do you use for art / what is your favorite medium?
My favorite medium at this point is definitely digital, I’ve been working with it since 6th grade. I’m not a huge fan of messier mediums like oil paint, but I love watercolor and do half of my pieces in penciled linework instead of strictly digital since I like the texture of the paper and just in general how freeing it is compared to lining with ink or digitally.
How did you develop your particular art style and what influences it the most?
Oh boy. Honestly, my style has been through so much that it’s hard to say what exactly influences it the most. I can say that I was inspired by a lot of anime as a kid so my art reflects that even now since drawing that way was one of the ways I learned to draw characters at first (I started out HATING drawing people, just drawing animals and landscapes, etc.). Since school, I’ve been trying to find my own pace and honestly, I still am experimenting all the time. I can say that a huge inspiration for me is the golden age illustrators like Leyendecker, Rockwell, Mucha, Parrish, and Bilibin. I also took a bit more art history than I necessarily needed to in college and honestly I’ve found I got a lot of inspiration from Byzantine-era altarpiece art among other things.
Can you walk us through the process of creating a new piece of art?
I always start with a sketch, though where I do that sketch tends to depend on my inspiration at the time…sometimes I start with thumbnails to get what I want, sometimes I do a full-on sketch on paper, sometimes I just sketch directly on the computer. After that, I tend to go right to lineart. If I want to work entirely digitally I use one of my pencil brushes to do that on my tablet. When I work with pencil it sounds a bit more complicated, but basically, I print out the sketch to the scale I need, put another sheet over it and use a lightbox (one of those lightweight Huion things) to get the lines together. After that I separate the objects/layers in the scene once the lineart is ready on the computer, generally using bright, noticeable colors for clean lines (this is usually only for complicated pieces). After this step, I do the shading. I actually get my shading done in grayscale and add the color in later! I find it’s one of the easiest ways for me to get the lighting how I want it. Then…the coloring, and adding color for the lineart as a last step before the finishing touches. My approach does tend to be kind of fluid with me switching around steps depending on what I think works best, though!
Do you have any upcoming projects or fanart you would like to share?
It’s been very busy for me at work recently but I have been doing some personal stuff as gifts for some long-suffering friends of mine. I’m not quite done with those yet, but I do have two more recent Kamen Rider-related pieces that I’m pretty happy with! 🙂
You may find more of her works on her official site, Tumblr, and Twitter.