Monday, December 6, 2010


Welcome to the Cooper studio, Jefferson, Iowa. We will discuss The Look today. I'm sorry, but you know it had to happen. And it's not really my fault. We are blaming it on ArtCalendarMagazine, even though those people put out a wonderful publication, which no artist should be without.

I finally got started reading my online copy of ArtCalendarMagazine this morning. Next up was the article about a figurative painter from LosAngeles, Kent Williams. The heading described Mr. Williams as a consummate draftsman and rigorous observer. Rigorous observer. Aaargh. The Look.

Rigorous observer. So easily written. Deceptively easily written. Take a moment and peer into the meaning of those two words, bearing in mind that Mr. Williams is known as a figurative painter.

You don't get it? You must be focusing on landscapes or still lifes.

At a recent event, I was across the room from a friend who was in the motion of painting a bunch of flowers. She was doing "the squint", you know, blurring out the unimportant, concentrating on finding what matters for the painting. Of course, she deserved a bit of teasing, due to the interesting countenance it gave her. But what's a painter to do? We have to squint.

However, you need to be aware, "the squint" is only part of The Look. Back up to paragraph #2 where we unleashed the phrase "rigorous observer". Followed closely by figurative painter. Granted, if that figure you are painting is a model in your studio, they possibly understand the squint. The Look. But some of us are trapped in the intrigue of painting the folks out on the sidewalks of our lives. Those poor folks don't know we are just being rigorous observers. They see someone do "the squint" in their direction, and they begin to worry. A complete stranger, doing "the squint", and following up with a camera--whoa--we have to wonder if sirens and arrest are imminent.

Yes. You are correct. I do exaggerate. But it's a constant battle of artist-desire to capture everyday people doing their everyday thing on canvas, versus artist trying not to annoy those everyday people doing their everyday thing.

So, I hereby promise to try and not be too rude with my rigorous observing. And if you aren't an artist, at least now you know the reason behind "the squint" --- The Look, and you don't have to go running for cover. And if it happens to you, questions or a quick peek at the sketch book are all cool, be my guest.

Thanks for stopping by!

Later, Cooper

Okay, one more little bit. I have to show you this painting again. I saw these kids at ArnoldsPark, in the town by the same name, next door to Okoboji, Iowa. Surely you understand the need to paint them? When photos are involved, more than one is always better. So my camera and I stood fence-side by the "Scrambler", and every time their little car came around, I clicked. By photo #6, the boy in the middle was beginning to show signs of "who are you, and why are you taking our picture?" By photo #7 he was beginning to express his strong desire to have his daddy come talk to me. At that point I decided to let them finish their ride unencumbered by artistic intervention. But it was worth it, right? :)

Slide On Over, acrylic painting on canvas, measuring 30 x 30 inches, and yes, in my portfolio
(click on the red text) as well.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

No. More. Malls.

Welcome to the Cooper studio, Jefferson, Iowa. So I just gave this blog post a title, and now I'm wondering if it's politically incorrect. OhWell. My thoughts and they are true.

Have I mentioned my husband and I are not shoppers? Last week as more and more stores advertised "open on Thanksgiving" we cringed. Cringed for the people in retail who were required to spend their holiday as NOholiday. Cringed bigtime for the shopaholics who spent their holiday at the mall. What kind of a holiday was that, and just how much thanks did they give, anyway?

And may I rant on just a little more? A local DesMoines (Iowa) television station gave air time to the people who camped outside a shopping mall just so they could be one of the first of the 37 thousand in the door. Don't understand. Not going to go there. And may I suggest an alternative? Didn't see that one coming, eh?

This weekend, December 4th and 5th, the UniversityOfIowa fine arts council sponsors an event at the Iowa Memorial Union in IowaCity, Iowa, called Thieves Art Market. We don't know where the name came from, but I can promise you it's all on-the-up-and-up.

If you crave:

>camping out on frozen concrete so you might be the first one in the door
>stampeding crowds fighting over who gets one of 3 come-on sale items
>non-existent sales staff
>or if you luck out and find one---sales staff really not interested in helping you, and probably don't know how even if they are
>mauled over merchandise
>surely by now you get the idea?

IF you crave any of the above, then you won't like Thieves Art Market. So don't come.

Later, Cooper

Oh, maybe I should mention: if you love a laid back atmosphere, where you can look at unique interesting things, and have the people who created them tell you why, then you are a Thieves Art Market kind of person, and you should come. 10AM to 5PM each day. I have a painting I'd love to show you. :)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Geometry Of Art Marketing


Welcome to the Cooper Studio, Jefferson, Iowa, where I am pondering that old geometry rule about the shortest distance between two points being a straight line. And no, we are not discussing paint-on-canvas kinds of lines today, we are talking about conceptual lines (whew, lift your feet, it's getting deep) and thoughts of art marketing.

Conceptual lines. And that's where the problem begins. Artists are by nature visual people, right? We like real lines. Lines we can see. What are we supposed to do with a conceptual line that's just "out there". We're supposed to be able to see it's reality, even though it's not even there. Dios mio.

Are you ready for my point of contention? I don't think conceptual lines behave well in the geometry classroom. I think conceptual lines ignore the fact that they are supposed to go straight. At least when we are talking about the conceptual lines in art marketing.

Let me share two links to excellent posts that got me started on thinking these deviant thoughts.The first, written by Lori Woodword, is titled The Future Of Art Marketing. In the article Lori discusses the future need for galleries representing artists versus artists representing themselves online.

Then you need to go read Olivia Alexander's thought provoking post at Olivia mentions her own art marketing is now on a 3 to 1 ratio with painting. Yup folks, that's 3 for the marketing, 1 for the painting. AND don't pretend that's not your story as well. I spent the entire day yesterday "marketing" my art at the Octagon (Ames, Iowa) Art Festival. One way or the other art marketing soaks up an amazing amount of hours.

Okay, now we need to get back to the geometry of this whole mess. I've plotted the two points: PointA (The Future Of Art Marketing) and PointB (Challenges Of The Present Day Artist) Olivia talked about taking an internet marketing "fast" while Lori wrote about limited gallery role partnered with go-it-on-your-own marketing. Surely those are the extremes, the opposite points, right? Quick! Draw a straight line between those two points! Right---it aint gonna happen. I think reality says that if you made that conceptual art marketing line into a visual one, you would see that it hooks and curls and detours all over the place. Quite possibly there are even some road blocks and maybe even a few dead end signs on that conceptual line-turned visual.

So, you are an artist. Where do you belong on that line? Are you on the hook part where you love meeting and greeting patrons and telling them about your art? Maybe you don't need galleries so much. Are you the artist who anguishes over not getting enough studio time? Maybe you are supposed to be hanging out on that conceptual line curl where galleries are oh-so-important. Maybe you are the artist who still has to try a little of both the conceptual line curls and hooks until one of them hits a road block sign, and sends you the other direction. Not a pretty thought, is it, that road block?

Which brings us full circle to my parting shot. (Don't you love how we just came "full circle" in a geometry discussion of two points and a not-so-straight line?!) IF we were all alike, we would paint exactly the same paintings, and we could all market them in exactly the same way. Fact of the matter is, we aren't, we won't, and we can't. Just like painting, we need to find our style, our niche. Find out what works for this ONE artist.

Somewhere on that not-so-straight conceptual line of art marketing, somewhere in between internet fasting and full bore self marketing, is the place that likely has your name on it. How do you find it? It's just like developing your painting style---you have to study, practice, experiment. Oh, and you have to expect a few road blocks and dead end signs---hopefully not too many. Good luck in your search.

Later, Cooper

Tuesday, July 13, 2010



Welcome to the Cooper studio, Jefferson, Iowa on a gorgeous Tuesday, July 13th.

I just read the latest "painter's keys" newsletter from Robert Genn. Most of it was about the age old problem of knowing when it's time to stop on a painting, how to avoid working a painting to death, literally and figuratively :)

The article included a statement that really stopped me:

"I find our world to be loaded and cocked with creator wannabees. We artists represent the last bastion of the hand of man."

I would love to sit down and have a cup of coffee and converse with Mr Genn about his thoughts given there. To me, the contrast between the wannabees and the creatives is especially stark.

I just returned home from KraslArtFair, St Joseph, Michigan. (yes, it's a wonderful event) Lately, at art fairs, I've noticed my work attracting more young people---maybe it's what I'm painting, or the way I'm painting, or is it the "creator wannabee" factor? Quite possibly it's the compilation of all three. Is it the next generation looking ahead and contrasting automated versus creative? I try to always encourage: practice, practice, practice, and never stop with the studying. I balance it with: it's hard work and you have to have the determination to persevere. And as they walk away romancing the life of an artist, I wonder which side of that contrast line between wannabees and creatives they will end up on?

Ok, so we'll rename today "philosophical Tuesday" :) but now it's time to go paint. Thanks for stopping by. Have a lovely day.

Later, Cooper

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Welcome to the Cooper studio, on a SUNNY beautiful day, in Jefferson, Iowa. There's probably minimal painting happening in the studio today, as it's time to pack again. This weekend I am showing my paintings at KraslArtFairOnTheBluff, in StJoseph, Michigan. If you feel the need to give yourself a treat, go there---there are not many spots on the map as beautiful and relaxing as the park overlooking LakeMichigan. There is a perfect hotel, The Boulevard Inn, right next to the park. I have plans for someday when there is a blizzard heading east from Nebraska: I will grab my husband, load us into the car, drive to that hotel (hopefully staying ahead of the storm) move into an upper floor room, and watch the storm come across the lake. I think it will be an exceptional sight. :)

Anyway, maps. When I travel to art fairs, I am pretty picky about maps. I learned quite a while ago that saving paper does not rate, when compared to having mapquest directions to my location printed off in LARGE ENOUGH TYPE to read sans glasses. Tollway traffic through Chicago does not approve of people stopping to read the fine print on their maps.

And then, maps of the art fair sort. Last summer there came an aha! moment. Prior, setting up my display at an art fair was a long drawn out process---which painting should hang where, what painting would fit into that long skinny space, which one would fit into that wide space, ooops, we didn't leave enough room for that one, better scoot it over 4 inches---you get the picture. The solution was so simple, I can't quite believe it took me years (literally) to see it.

I use a propanel display system as my exhibit walls at art fairs. I "hinged' together pieces of foam core that simulate the dimensions of my display system. Using the same scale, I print images of my paintings that are making the trip to the art fair. Do you know how much easier it is when, glass of iced tea in hand, I can sit at the kitchen counter and plan my exhibit? If I think "Smells Like Summer" looks better next to "Ped Mall DogWalk", but then change my mind and think I need to try "Elementary School Readers" all I have to do is move a couple little squares of paper. Surely I don't have to tell you how much easier THAT is than moving the actual paintings? And getting it right, when you know you've got people coming to see in just an hour or so?

Prior to the great aha moment that lead to the mapping system, I used to plan for a minimum of two hours to get everything organized for an exhibit. May I brag a little?---I now allow 40 minutes. For those of you who have not set up an art fair exhibit, I know, I know, that's only an hour and ten minutes difference. But. On the morning of an art fair, it's a BIG difference. May I share just a little more insight about that?

If I had a roadie who set it all up for me, so that I could waltz in last minute, it would be different, but usually, I am on my own, doing it all myself. People come to art fairs hoping for an enjoyable outing. If I am out of sorts due to a hectic setup, helping those people enjoy their outing is a dim possibility. By removing the chance of "hectic" from the setup routine, it gets my day off to a good start, where I can share with visitors about my paintings, and we can all enjoy the day.

The 49th Annual Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff happens on July 10th, 10-6, and July 11th, 10-5. If you want to see the booth map in action, you'll have to stop by exhibit #164 about 7am on July 10th. The good folks of Krasl, and Port 412 are serving breakfast for the artists and I plan to hang paintings before dining! :)

Oh, and the varnish is almost dry on this new painting, so it will be making the trip to Michigan as well:

Beach Chair Occupied, an acrylic painting on a perfect little 20 x 20 inch canvas. I promise to get it into my portfolio very soon!

Later, Cooper

Saturday, June 19, 2010

How About Painting?


Welcome to the Cooper studio, Jefferson, Iowa, on a fine June Saturday morning.

I am off my regular running schedule this week---surely I can blame it on the midnight ride home from Chicagoland (Hinsdale Art Festival) last Sunday. I try to run M-W-F, but when the car parks in the garage post 1am on Sunday, you KNOW how Monday morning feels. So this week is a T-T-S kind of week. And because I'm already going about it weirdly, it seemed only logical to make the Saturday morning portion of that running program a little different as well. I added some distance. I didn't say lots, I said some. And the last portion of it was up what the town of Jefferson claims as a hill. (Jefferson doesn't know hills very well) Anyway, I felt the difference. My feet were just barely coming up off the street, I'm pretty sure. Is it possible to run flat? I don't think my side profile was very attractive, and definitely it was not good form. (never is) But I pushed, and I made it back into the driveway. The garage was once again a welcome sight.

A week ago, for some odd and unknown reason, I went some extra distance on Monday. Do my feet have built in odometers?---somehow they knew because Wednesday and Friday's normal distance was a breeze. It causes me to ask theis question: If you push extra hard on one day, does the normal routine seem easier, IS it easier, on subsequent days? And does it apply to more than just running? How about painting?

If I put an oversized canvas up on the easel, and start adding paint, does that 20 inch canvas seem easier when I get back to it? If I do a commissioned painting for someone, and then get back to painting whatever amuses me, is it easier?

What about signing up for a new class? I did that, and this past Tuesday was the first day. About halfway through, I realized I was thinking of the regular figure drawing group at Ames (Iowa State University), and even the previous one up at Okoboji (Pearson Lakes Art Center). It would have felt like old-home-week to be back in either of those groups rather than working to adjust to all that was new and different at the DesMoines Art Center class.

So, how about painting? Is it good to push for some extra distance? I think I just answered my own question. And it's affirmative. Thanks for stopping by.

And if anyone is wondering, I'm working on a cool painting of two people with their bikes by the lake. Hopefully a posted image is in our near future.

Later, Cooper

Thursday, April 29, 2010

"Choosy Mothers Chose Jif", And Who Makes Authority?


Welcome to the Cooper studio, Jefferson, Iowa, on a fine Thursday, April 29th.

Today we are going to talk about authority. More specifically, we'll talk about what makes it. Yesterday's conversation started with toast, of the burnt variety, someone wasn't paying attention to the details. Peanut butter toast is the headliner today, possibly because I just consumed a piece. While my slice of bread was languishing between the heater coils of my counter top machinery I happened to read the label of the peanut butter jar. Immediately my mind brought forth their advertising slogan, "Choosy Mothers Choose Jif". (to give equal time, do I need to mention that "Skippy is the peanutiest"?) What makes either of them the peanut butter authority?

As you can clearly see that brings us to our subject of the day! We've got several varieties:

1. authority by power: bigger, tougher, meaner, I can tell you what to do, and enforce that you believe me
2. authority by purchase: lots of money, can buy the opinion, and everybody believes it because there's lots of money involved (forgive me for typing this word on my blogspace, but think "lobbyist")
3. authority by talent/skill: you are so blooming good at what you do, that no one wants to even contest that you are not the authoratative expert
4. authority by volume: the majority rules, in bad form it could be the lynch mob, in positive form we call it the common good
5. authority by election: everybody loves you and they want you to have it
6. authority by knowledge: know it all, way more than you, I can belittle you about your lack of knowledge while I overwhelm you with the mass of mine
7. authority by experience: you've seen it all and done it all, and everyone else wants to take the short cut, so they ask you

When we look at 2 + 2 = 4, most of us will agree, the math teacher can be an authority. Is it one of the few places in the world where authority is based on fact rather than opinion? If you put two apples with two apples, you really do end up with four apples. In contrast, when we've got a painting hanging in a prestigous place, and the critic lauds it as the best ever, and calls the creator "the next big thing" don't you just want to ask "who made you the authority, Mr. Critic?" [Robert Genn's newsletter from yesterday was about "the next big thing" and you should go read it.] Is it really the best painting ever? Why doesn't anyone holler out "prove it!"?

A little time spent in blog-land can yield up quite a few misappointed authorities. Not so long ago, I read a fellow artist's post on the subject of "how to varnish a painting". I wondered where his authority came from. He obviously hadn't read the label on the back of a jar of Golden. (For you non-painters, Golden is a producer of quality art products, including varnish) Yet, if someone googled "how to varnish a painting", aforementioned fellow artist was going to be there, ready to tell you how to do it, and wrong. Whoa, am I calling myself the authority on truthful blog writing? This could really get sticky.

By now, I suppose a few of you are beginning to wonder if I grew up in the "challenge the authorities" 60's and 70's, and yes, yes I did. Let me quickly state that I firmly believe authority can be good, and we need the good kind. However! I think as artists, we need to constantly remind ourselves that authority is so often just an opinion. Be it the opinion bought with money, OR the opinion of someone with great talent and skills. So fellow artist, when the person in charge says "nope, we don't want your painting in our show", that means it's NOT time to heave that painting toward the nearest dumpster, rather it's time to go find a different authority. After all, it almost always is, just an opinion.

Later, Cooper

Friday, February 26, 2010

Let Me Explain


Welcome to the Cooper studio, Jefferson, Iowa. Hey, it's Friday. At least I think so.

As I checked blog comments, I noticed a slightly interesting something about the most recent post here. If you didn't patch together the post title and one of the internal links, well, then all was craziness.

Let me explain. The title was "Cooper Studio Newsletter Published (Yay!)" Down in the text was a link to said newsletter. I completely knew what I was doing. Many of you maybe did not. These things happen once in a while.

Let's put it in black and white, better yet, red. Cooper Studio Newsletter Published (Yay!)

Now, all you have to do is click on those red letters, and I promise you, you will get there. And a tip for the viewer unfamiliar with the format: at the bottom of the video screen is a "box" with four arrows. Clicking on that will give you a full screen view. Much more enjoyable, I think. Have fun!

Later, Cooper

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cooper Studio Newsletter Published (yay!)

Welcome to the Cooper studio, where as a general rule, we try to answer the everpressing question "why do artists paint the way they do?"

Today we are reverting to section A, qualifier 2, subparagraph 413 where is asked:

"What on earth is up with THAT artist?"

And here's the answer

And of course I aimed for slightly fun. After all, we are still having winter, and we need all the help we can get.

So the painting has a name: A Fine Sound (July 4th At The Park), an acrylic painting on a nice little 12 x 12 canvas. And yes, of course it's available in my portfolio. The "fine sound" mentioned is a vocal artist , Bonne Finken, whose band we saw at Arnolds Park (Iowa) last summer. Truely fine.

Back to the easel. Have a lovely day!

Later, Cooper

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Me, Myself, and I


Welcome to the Cooper studio, where we often attempt to answer that everpressing question:

Why do artists paint the way they do?

Answer: Because left brained people drive us to borderline ludicrous-osity. Instead of painting, I have just spent the last 5 hours 32 minutes figuring out how to fill out AND WIN over somebody's idea of mandatory questionaire fun.

However, it's a well documented fact, that right brained people are incredibly stubborn, fueled by large quantities of perserverance and competitiveness. That means I won, and am now certified compliant to PCI-DSS.

If you are an artist who exhibits at summer art fairs and accepts credit cards, you'll need to certify as well. On my other website blog I've given a couple of tips to make it slightly easier.

Oh, but I can't make easier the part where they charge you $85 dollars. In fact that's probably already hit your account. That's how I first discovered the whole situation.

Later, Cooper

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Crutch Alert


Welcome to the Cooper studio, Jefferson, Iowa. So we'll blame it on the weather. I haven't written at this blog since December 9th, and guess what? The weather is exactly the same, only more of it. My husband got a new snowblower for his Christmas present. What a stroke of genius that was!

But let's get back to the title subject. I have been reading a book chock full of thought provoking stuff: Conversation In Paint, by Charles Dunn. I wrote an article on my other blog about artist's crutches, and have been mentally adding to the list ever since.

Can I quote a whole paragraph? Here, try this one on for size:

"You don't have to draw well to produce pretty good art. The invention of the camera did away with the need for traditional academic drawing. Looking at the mature work of Klee, Miro, Pollack, and Chagall, I don't see much in the way of traditional academic drawing skills. Like many artists with the skills to work anywhere on the concept-related/image-related continuum, these artists deliberately chose to work at the simpler, concept-related end. If you don't have much confidence in your drawing skill, work closer to the concept-related end of the scale."

Wow! Crutch alert! Artists that can't draw? And why not? Are they taking the easy road? Are they lazy? Is drawing not important?

Oh this is definitely going to take further investigation. And while you're waiting, please note that everything in paragraph four is in quotation marks. That means I shared someone else's thoughts and words. I am not yet persuaded to be in agreement :) Stay tuned for possible answers to some of those questions up there in paragraph five!

Later, Cooper