San Francisco-based artist Koak uses her work as a form of communication, a way to connect with people. “Creating comics or paintings and sharing those with others feels like the most natural way to have a voice,” she explains. Koak’s work is influenced heavily by cartoon imagery and old comics which stems from her childhood in the 80s and 90s. “I grew up around a myriad of brilliant illustrative storytellers. I think this imagery has always appealed to me because there’s a visceral absurdity in it that ties into the message I’m trying to convey,” says the artist. “Cartoons do a brilliant job of connecting us to inanimate visual images as if they were ourselves – in part they do this through their own hyper-stylised form of visual language.”
Koak’s bold characters are humorous and mysterious, and her style makes everything feel wonderfully nostalgic. The artist often draws from her own experiences when creating work but uses her loose, curvy figures as symbols and personifications of her “personal mythology”. She currently uses rehydrated chalk pastels with milk casein to create her works, which then are drawn onto rag paper that’s been mounted over a panel.
“I like working this way because it creates a texture that feels alive, that’s both reflective and velvet,” says Koak. Throughout her portfolio, the artist also deploys simple monochrome linework to create her works, allowing the viewer to focus on her mark-making. “Not only can the shape of lines guide our eye through an image telling us a story, but it can also create the illusion of movement and conveyance of emotion,” she says. “Simply nudging it in one direction, amplifying its curve, or tapering it at the end can completely change the resonance of a work and how we view it.”
Koak’s images create energy and intrigue and her interpretation of the female form is expressive. “When I’m drawing these women, one of the most important feelings I’m trying to convey is tension,” she explains. “I may draw a figure with confident breasts, but a defeated leg, a crushed hand, or a shy foot. It’s about creating these amalgams of being, which I think is very much about the human condition. I think there’s something very relatable about this.”