Today we’d like to introduce you to Megan Hutchison-Cates.
Hi Megan, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I’m originally from Southern California — but before you get mad at me for living in Austin, I fell in love and married a Texan who refused to live in LA [and rightfully so] and here I am. My family is from South Africa and I spent a lot of time there as a child [I go back when I can] and I think a lot of my creativity and storytelling comes from that magical place. I’ve been drawing my whole life, ever since I can remember, but I never knew it could be a career. I guess let’s start from the beginning. Hopefully this isn’t too boring. If it is, skip it, I’ll never know [just don’t tell me]
Picking what you’re going to do for the rest of your life when you’re 18 and graduating high school is ridiculous — can we all agree on that? Originally I wanted to go into physics, my dad and my brother are both engineers so I have science blood in my veins, but I found out I was dyslexic my junior year of high school and knew that doing long equations would be very difficult. My mom suggested I go into her field, graphic design [she was the first female art director at McCann in South Africa, very impressive]. It seemed to be creative and practical — plus you could get a job when you graduated, right? I attended UCLA and had a great time, learned a lot, explored my creative side [that’s not a euphemism for anything, cheaky]
I’m one of those nerds who likes school, so I decided to prolong the experience by going to grad school for production design for film and TV. I’d always loved building sets and costumes for the theater [I’ve been involved in the theater since I was 9, both on and behind the stage] and it seemed like it would scratch that creative itch. I went to AFI [American Film Institute, not the band] and embarked on the next 13 years of my life designing and art directing movies, TV, commercials and music videos. It had its ups and downs, long hours, egos, amazing experiences, meeting some of my favorite people in the world, creating some pretty impressive stuff, not sleeping, drinking too much wine, etc. But though all this, I was always drawing.
I was art directing a movie that was written by Ed Brubaker [if you don’t read comics, you should, and you should read any of his, and mine, and my husband’s, but we’ll get to that later]. One of my best friends, Tom Hammock, was production designing the movie and he and I decided to pitch Ed our graphic novel, with Tom penning it and me doing the illustrations. He loved the idea and introduced us to a bunch of people in the comic industry, one of which was Shelly Bond, who was at the time Editor-in-Chief at the now defunct [but never forgotten], Vertigo. She helped me put together our pitch pages and gave us advice on how to shop our book around. Eventually it found a home at Archaia and was published as, Will O’ the Wisp. This was a dream come true for me. I always wanted to make comics — I had been reading them since I was 10 [I’m still friends with my home-town comics retailer]. It took me 2 years to complete the book, working nights and weekends around my shooting schedules, but I did it. However, I don’t suggest doing a 215 page book for your first time out, just FYI.
From there my career as an illustrator and comic’s creator grew. I was still working in TV but drawing covers before and after work [and using their equipment, but don’t tell them], until I was making enough off of doing cover illustrations and interior work to quit my job and work in comics full time. I was invited to comic book commercials and was working on an ongoing comic book full time.
Currently I’m still drawing covers, I have a book coming out with Vault later this year and I’m drawing a new book at Image as well as developing a secret project with a big comic company that will sue me if I say any more.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
No road is ever smooth, especially if you’re clearing your own path. There were, and still are, defiantly struggles. Money was tight in the beginning, very tight. Starting out as a full-time artist can be financially frustrating. I even had to move home with my parents for a time when I was finishing my first graphic novel. But I think the biggest struggle has been to not get in my own way. I’m not as good as a lot of other artists out there and there are some mornings where I don’t know why I’m even trying. I have to ignore my brain saying my work is crap or I’m no good. I just put blinders on a march ahead, never giving into my doubts. I still won’t look at old work — it gives me the creeps. I’m constantly trying to learn and grow, practicing every day and taking lessons where I can so hopefully, one day, I can be confident in my work. I’m always proud of what I’ve accomplished, but I’m ever reaching forward to do better work.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I illustrate mostly for comic books. I do the occasional TV show artwork [I’ve done work for Key & Peele, Disney and most recently the show Them]. I do a lot of variant covers for comic books for publishers like DC, Boom!, Image, Valiant and Vault and I’m currently working on a book for Image with my hubby, Donny Cates. You should also read his comics — he writes for Marvel and Image, look him up, he’s kind of a big deal. I’ll be writing and drawing a graphic novel starting next year that’s going to be all kinds of weird. I’m also a practicing witch and create custom artwork for people’s altars as well as starting up a shop this fall with specialized artwork for people who are into witchcraft and/or the occult. My work is usually very dark but with a humor to it, I think that’s what I’m most known for? I don’t know. I also like to draw monsters and gore and sexy ladies. You know, all the good stuff.
Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
The comics industry is very small, so being nice and a collaborative person goes a long way. I’ve found that having a good work ethic, getting your pages done by the deadline, being communicative with your team [that includes the publisher] and not being a butt will take you a long way. Having talent helps, don’t get me wrong, but you can be the most talented writer and/or artist in the world and if you can’t get your pages in or you’re impossible to work with, you’re not going to get work. Also, ditch the drama. A lot of creative people are bogged down with insecurities, depression, doubt [myself WAY included], but don’t let those get in the way of your work or how you treat other creatives. We’re all on this crazy journey together and there’s no time for anyone’s malarkey [I’m trying to keep this PG].
- Website: blackem-art.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/blackem_art/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/blackem_art