Artist Interview: J.A.W. Cooper

We touched base with artist J.A.W. Cooper about the inspiration behind the artist's much anticipated works for our upcoming exhibition, Feral Creatures: curated by Stephanie Chefas.

ME: What was your initial reaction to the theme of "Feral Creatures" and from where did you draw inspiration for this show?

JC:  I was already working on a concept for a series titled "Feral" when I was contacted to participate in the "Feral Creatures show at Modern Eden. I have had a long-time fascination with feral children mythology, lore, and the occasional confirmed account. The idea of animals or people reverting to a more "wild" state is simultaneously romantic and haunting and I played with that duality while concepting my pieces for this show.

ME: Do you have any wild animal stories?

JC:  I spent the early years of my life growing up in various countries abroad; most notably I spent a couple years in Nairobi, Kenya. Our van got stuck in mud in a nature park at dusk and we had to walk five miles back to the Ranger Station to get help. By the time we arrived at the station my grandmother's lips were blue with cold and we spent the night there, sleeping on cement slabs. The next morning when we awoke and walked back to collect our van we saw dozens of lion tracks- we had been stalked all the way to the ranger station the night before and were very lucky to have arrived before nightfall.

ME: What is your art process?

JC: List-making and the meaning of words are very important to my process. I usually begin concepting by making lists of ideas, colors, emotive words, motifs, etc. I take these lists and try to come up with a single word or a short phrase that concisely describes my idea for the piece and use that as a decision making tool as I begin sketching. I take my rough sketch and transfer the drawing to a high quality paper using a light-box, and then mount the paper to a board so that I can paint on it without any warping or inconsistencies. I use a variety of media but my most common technique is to establish initial tones with thin washes of waterproof india ink and then go on top of that with layers of gouache to build up color and depth. Of late I have become very fond of plein-air painting with gouache and I incorporate that into the backgrounds of my pieces.


ME: What’s your daily life like? What are some things you do when you’re not painting / making art?

JC: When I am not working on gallery work I am making a living as a freelance illustrator often for print/motion studios here in Los Angeles where I currently reside. I like to hike and camp and I try to go on one camping trip a month to get out into nature and paint and explore.


ME: What artists most inspire you (alive or dead)?

JC: Hokusai, Hiroshige, Sargent, Leyendecker, Haeckel, Audubon, Mucha, Toulouse-Lautrec, Steinlen and Chéret.

All Images © 2014 JAW Cooper

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Kim Larson
Kim Larson