Below are a collection of interviews that I have done for various people and publications over the past few years. Feel free to email me if you would like to conduct an interview! It would be lovely if you read through some of these past interviews to avoid asking the same questions, but I will most likely answer them either way.
Best wishes,
-JAW Cooper

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Interview for Vanea Cera @ Designcollector

For: Vanea Cera @

1. Can you do a small introducing about yourself?
(name, profession, where you live, where are you from, etc...)

My (abbreviated) name is J.A.W Cooper. I was born in England and grew up in Africa, Sweden Ireland, various other places throughout Europe, and finally Southern California. I currently live in Los Angeles, California in a loft downtown, where I spend an embarrassing amount of time creepily watching the comings and goings of people on the street below. For example, I watched a man psych-out oncoming traffic by rolling a taxidermied dog at high speeds towards the curb over and over to see who would be fooled into slamming on their breaks, and was thoroughly entertained for about 15 minutes. There are also an alarming number of people who prefer to conduct their daily business completely in the nude with their curtains agape. That’s not a weird introduction, right?

2. What what age did you start to draw?

I always drew, you know, scribbles and stuff. I’m not sure at what age I started drawing in ernest since it was just something I always did and was relatively good at but put little stock in. I do have a memory of being 6 years old and trying to draw a cat over and over and over to get it right and I guess it was around that time that I started trying to push to get better. So let’s say 6 years old.

3. Can you tell us more about your illustration background and what made you become an artist?

My mum always drew and painted, mostly scientific illustration which, no doubt, is what sparked my interest in art at an early age. I had no interest in pursuing a career in illustration until I took my first real art class junior year of high school. When I graduated it was still nearly a coin flip that determined that I go to art college rather than to UCLA for zoology. I am so lucky to get paid to pursue my passion and I have never regretted my choice!

4. Who/what are your best influences?

Some things that have inspired me: forms found in nature, exotic animals, anything albino, curio cabinets, taxidermy, vintage photography from the 20's and modern fashion photography, and old Victorian packaging.
Some people that have inspired me: Hokusai, Hiroshige, Sargent, Leyendecker, Haeckel, Audubon, Mucha, Toulouse-Lautrec, Steinlen and Chéret.

5. Presently you live in California but you lived in more countries.
How has this influenced your creations?

Growing up on the move was an amazing experience and certainly instrumental in shaping my attitudes toward other cultures and ways of living, not to mention my insatiable curiosity, enthusiasm for learning, and sense of adventure. I loved the strange and beautiful landscapes as well as the exotic animals that I saw growing up and that is probably reflected in my work.

6. What inspires you most?

I am inspired by forms found in nature, exotic animals, anything albino, curio cabinets, taxidermy, vintage photography from the 20's and modern fashion photography, and old Victorian packaging, and, of course, nipples.

(also see #4)

7. How has your art/style changed since you first started?

My work is constantly changing with my interests, and I continue to hone my technical and conceptual skills. At present I am increasingly fascinated by darker subject matter; more unsettling, violent and sexual, less cute, pretty and light.

8. Could you share your mental approach to developing concepts for your illustrations?

I am an avid list-maker and before I start a painting I write down everything from themes to colors to motifs that I have bouncing around in my head and then I condense these seemingly incongruous words into one overriding theme or vision.

9. Can you describe your typical work flow when you start an illustration?

I list, then I concept, then I sketch, then I transfer to Stonehenge paper via light box, then I mount the paper on museum board or wood, then I paint. The medium depends on how much I want the line work to show through and how painterly I want to get with the rendering.

10. What tools do you use to create and what are your favorites?

I work in a variety of media (acrylic, oils, gouache, ink, graphite) and also enjoy making sculptures out of a variety of materials, however my go-to media is ink and gouache. Thusly, my favorite materials are: Stonehenge paper, Dr PH Martin’s Waterproof India Ink, Winsor & Newton Designer’s Gouache, colerase pencils in carmine red and true blue, graphite pencils from 2H-6B, Winsor & Newton Series 7 #5 Brush, “Biggie Sketch” pads.

11. What does a typical day look like for you?

As a freelancer I often work from home and have the luxury of making my own schedule. I like to get up early, go for a bike ride before breakfast, and then get to work on whatever projects I have going at that time. Some days I just don’t feel like working, so I don’t. Some days I get in the zone and will work for 12 hours straight without a break. It all depends on how tight my deadlines are and how excited I am about my projects.

12. For what clients do you work?

I work as a sketch artist / photoshop comp-er / idea factory for entertainment companies, do freelance editorial illustration on the side, participate regularly in gallery shows (which I consider my “personal work”) and I accept commissions on a very limited basis as my schedule allows. I find that I am almost always wayyy to busy, which is how I like it.

13. If you could chose three pieces of your work that you would never be parted from, what pieces would you keep for yourself?

Maybe just one; the “Hunt” drawing from my show at La Luz de Jesus Gallery in 2010. But honestly, I could easily part with that one too. I don’t like looking at my own finished work after it has been shown.

14. What do you hope to accomplish in the future (artistically or otherwise)?

I want to live abroad, staying just a few months in each place before moving on, and I need to build a solid client base so that I can support this opulent lifestyle and work remotely. Everyone’s gotta have a dream, right?

15. What do you consider as your greatest achievement so far?

I discovered that one of the mutant bear-rugs that I made ended up in a lesbian pornographic video. Easily my proudest moment.

16. What advice can you give to someone who is starting in illustration?

Stay hungry, be your own advocate, and demand fair compensation for your work.

Interview for Keith Dugas @ KrossdArt

Published: Keith Dugas ( (2011)

Alright, first things first. That line! The art of JAW Cooper has this sleek, elegant, sinewy line. It's effortless and seductive as hell. It's the kind of line that few people can pull off. Mucha mastered it, James Jean comes pretty close, but Jessica Cooper inhabits that line completely.

Cooper studied at Otis (under such luminaries as Nathan Ota and Bob Dob), but the bulk of her skills are self taught. The daughter of two biologists, Jessica grew up travelling the world, all the while filling countless sketchbooks to amuse herself on the fly.

Her paintings have the same delicate grace as a Hiroshige woodblock, but seem to dwell in the forests of myth, like half-remembered dreams.
If you haven't frequented her Blog, you're missing out. It is the most generous, fan-friendly, little cyber-window into the working process that I've seen any artist offer. She's even been known to give work away when something fails to meet her standards!

Cooper is a very busy girl. Currently included in the MondoPOP group show "Taetrum et Dulce" in Rome (alongside Isabel Samaras and others), she is also feverishly preparing 8-12 new pieces for the mini-solo show "ERODE" at the WWA Gallery in February. So, I'm very grateful that she took time out to chat with me a bit:

1) We must talk about music! I discovered we have something in common. We both make specific playlists to listen to for different projects. Your work virtually oozes musical influence, but I can never get a direct line on the source material. Sometimes I think your work echoes dreampop, or opera, or Kate Bush. Can you share a bit of a recent playlist and how it related to a certain piece?

Oh yes! Music has a great influence over my work. I personally love old school hip hop and alternative music (a strange mix, I know) but my work is most influenced by the latter. I am drawn to songs that are haunting, creepy, beautiful, unearthly, perhaps a bit sad, and that tell a story. Someone recently described my work as being illustrations of a mythology from a time and place that has never existed. This really resonated with me and I think the music I listen to while making art helps me tune in to those feelings of nostalgia and magic. My playlist for my last series "Tarnished" included:

Moonlight Sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven
Pan's Labyrinth Lullaby by Javier Navarrete
Jardin d'hiver by Benjamin Biolay
End Of May by Keren Ann
Raphaël by Carla Bruni
Lovely Bloodflow by Baths
Won't Want For Love (Margaret in The Taiga) by The Decemberists
The White Whale by Beirut
Sovay by Andrew Bird
Snow Owl by The Mountain Goats
Little Yellow Spider by Devendra Banhart

...juuust to name a few.

2) Your pencil sketches are devastatingly beautiful. What are your preferred pencils (and paper)?

Oh, well thank you. My preferred pencils are prisma-colorase in carmine red, true blue, and tuscan red, as well as regular graphite pencils in HB-4B. My favorite paper is heavyweight Stonehenge, bought in large individual sheets not the kind bound in a pad. I have tried a variety of papers and have found this smooth, heavyweight, printmaking paper to be by far the best for my particular process. It is creamy and smooth but with enough tooth to make both detail work and tone-building a breeze. Additionally it is just transparent enough to allow me to transfer my drawings via light box, while sturdy enough not to warp or bubble when I then mount it to museum board using matte medium, so I can paint on it without compromising it's structural integrity. Stonehenge comes in a variety of colors, but I usually find that it is best to buy white and then tone it myself, after transferring the drawing and mounting it to board, for greater control over the color and tone.

3) In addition to the obvious natural elements in your work, there's always a strong feminine presence. Even when you render women in peril, they come across as strong, defiant, and conquering. How much of yourself is in these women, and have you struggled with any gender bias in the art world?

Art made by girls who draw girls is often perceived as superficial and the gender of the creator can soften the impact of the sexual aspects of the work. This can be a blessing to female artists who find beauty in the feminine form but do not want their work to be perceived as hyper-sexual or "pervy." In my case it is a curse as I prefer my "perv" quotient to be as high as possible. Not to say that the girls that I draw are purely sexual beings, they can be strong, defiant, and conquering, as well as vulnerable. I just do not think that these things have to be mutually exclusive and I certainly do not want their strong sexuality to be downplayed. For this very reason, I chose to make art under the name J.A.W. Cooper (an abbreviation of my full name) to disguise my gender.

4) You've lived all over the world. Where do you feel most at home (and why)?

Of all the places that I have lived, the fondest memories that I have are of Sweden. However, I really can feel at home anywhere as long as I have a little bit of privacy and can set up my space to my liking. Growing up on the move was an amazing experience and certainly instrumental in shaping my attitudes toward other cultures and ways of living, not to mention my insatiable curiosity, enthusiasm for learning, and sense of adventure.

5) Lastly, what is the most valuable thing you've learned as a working artist, that can't be taught in art school?

It took me years to learn what my time is worth and to have the courage and confidence to expect to be compensated adequately for my work. Another tool that comes with experience is the ability to say "no." As creative individuals it is easy to be caught up in the enthusiasm of a potential client's vision, and our desire to please often pushes us to settle for less than we are worth, work for people who are unreliable (or worse, friends and family), or take on jobs that will ultimately be more of a time-suck than an opportunity for growth and promotion. I still struggle with this on a daily basis, and I have to say that I think that the best preventative measure that you can take to avoid these traps is to have a reliable job (in the art/creative field, not at Starbucks) so that you never say "yes" out of desperation to pay bills or because of boredom. Stay busy and productive and you will naturally have to be more discerning in the projects and commitments that you make.

Interview for Emily White Illustration @ University of Gloucestershire

Published: (2011) Emily White Illustration @ University of Gloucestershire, England

Where in England do you come from? Do you have any fond memories?

I was born in Kettering, about 80 miles north of London. We moved to Africa before I was old enough to have any very early memories of England, but half my family is still there so we would to visit often. I loved the smell, sort of like cement after a rain, musky water, and something sweet and a bit perfumy. I also loved the candies and Crunchies are still my fav!

Were your family supportive of your decision to study art instead of science?

They were very supportive, I lucked out! It helped that my mum does art (mostly scientific illustration) so it didn't seem like a totally alien world to them.

Do you still keep drawings that you did as a child?

I didn't but my parents kept a fair number of them. Luckily, as I just completed a painting for a group show at Subtext Gallery and the premise was to have artists reinterpret art from their childhood- a really cool idea. I do have quite a collection of old sketchbooks though that date back to junior year of high school. I kept four intensive GIANT sketchbooks my last two years of high school and it's interesting to see the rapid progression in style and development of my interests during that time.

Who are you non-artistic influences? (i.e novelists, scientists, friends and family)

I love E.O. Wilson, and recently had the privilege of attending one of his talks... a very fascinating and passionate man. Naturally I am inspired by my parents who are biologists/artists as well as the incredible group of artists who graduated with me from Otis College. We were a very tight-knit class and remain in close contact.

What does your studio space currently look like?

I live where I work (when I work from home) for better or worse. I live in downtown LA in a loft that used to be a bank in the 1920's, and I love it. (see attached photo)

Some of my favorite pieces by you are draft sketches you have done in your sketchbook. Do you think some sketches are better/more appealing than the final outcome?

Almost always. It's my number one ongoing struggle- how to bring my paintings up to the level of my sketches... at least in my opinion.

Has there been anything in your recent work that you were unfamiliar with drawing but wanted to challenge yourself?

This often happens in editorial work. The thing that immediately comes to mind is the freeway overpass backdrop to the cover illustration that I did for the LA Weekly. I rarely draw mechanical or architectural scenes so it was a challenge, but a manageable one.

Do you agree with the phrase "there aren't enough hours in the day"?

Hell yeah. I often wish I could freeze time to get all my shit done without having to rush or forgo sleep.

I've tried to use gouache but find it awkward. Do you have any advice?

Hmm, well I paint with it in such thin layers that my technique could just as easily be executed in acrylic or ink... I just use gouache because I like it's creamy texture when putting down a wash and like how super matte it is when dry. Advise? I'd just say practice and become familiar with the properties of various consistencies. If you have a preferred medium (such as acrylic) it's not absolutely necessary to force yourself to use gouache as it has a number of downfalls as a medium, namely the cost of the paint and the fact that it is re-activatable and thusly must always be framed to keep moisture away. Have you tried painting on a heavyweight smooth printmaking paper like stonehenge? It's quite lovely with gouache washes and allows you to paint without loosing delicate line work.

Do you enjoy critique sessions with other illustrators?

Providing that the critique is helpful and solicited, always. In school I loved critiques and I think the trick to master after graduating is to learn to critique yourself. Being in such close contact with so many of my amazingly talented fellow-graduates is very helpful when I hit a wall as well!

What is your favorite paper to work on?

So glad you asked! I am very picky about paper and I have tried many many types. I find that Stonehenge is the best for most of the work that I do- it is a heavy and smooth but creamy printmaking paper. When painting on it I always transfer the drawing via light box (I cannot abide transfer paper) and then mount the paper on museum board for structural integrity before any paint is applied. this also reduces warping and eliminates bubbles, when done properly. I have a tutorial posted on this as it is so crucial to how I work:

Could you please explain the process you have to go through to prepare for a new gallery show?

I start with lists and lists and lists of words, motifs, colors, objects, ideas, feelings... etc. I then think about how to describe all these random things or capture them in a single concept, often a single emotive word. From this concept I list some more, being very specific about the directions within the theme that I would like to explore and from here ideas for individual paintings and the series as a whole begins to solidify. I will then often begin sketching ideas and the best sketches will eventually become paintings! My favorite way of working is on a series as a whole rather than on an individual piece. The series allows the work to be contextualized within a bigger world and allows me to more deeply explore a single concept which is where my best work tends to come from. At the moment I am concepting for a 8-12 piece show that I thiiink will be about inner demons, or being tormented or pain or something? Monsters and twisted/dying animals, and creepy sinister girls... dark stuff. Clearly I am at an early stage in my concept! ha ha

If you had the resources, what hand-printing technique would you most like to explore?

OoooOOoooo, Lithography maybe? I just adore old lithograph posters and ads.

What was your favorite imagination game as a child? (i.e cowboys and indians, happy families, teddy bear picnic)

We moved a lot when I was a child so we didn't have many possessions so most of our games were imagination games. My favorite? My sister and I did a lot of exploring together in the wilds of the various places that we lived growing up: Africa, Ireland, Sweden.. and often fabricated the context for our misadventures, we were native americans, or explorers, or shipwrecked... etc.

Interview for Jessica Roux @ Savannah College of Art and Design

Published: (2011) Jessica Roux at Savannah College of Art and Design

1. How did you establish yourself as an illustrator?

There is no secret to it, just work hard and work smart. As far as promotion goes, gallery work and keeping a well-maintained blog have done wonders for getting my work out there.

2. How did you put together your portfolio, and did you select your work based on the market, subject matter or style?

My portfolio is an organically evolving all the time as I add new work and edit out older work. I actually have several portfolios, each tailored to a specific type of work: gallery, sketch art / sketching for the entertainment industry, and editorial. In some cases variety is important to demonstrate your flexibility and range (for sketch art / entertainment industry) and in some cases demonstrating your strong, consistent, personal style and narrative skills is most important (gallery, and to some extent editorial.)

3. Who are your influences?

I think it is very important for artists to seek knowledge outside of their immediate field since an artists work is defined by their influences and interests. Investigating these influences and interests sets an artists work apart from everyone else's, and guards against "inbreeding" where they just continue to reuse and recycle their own work or worse yet, the work of those around them.

Some things that have inspired me: forms found in nature, exotic animals, anything albino, curio cabinets, taxidermy, vintage photography from the 20's and modern fashion photography, and old Victorian packaging.

Some people that have inspired me: Hokusai, Hiroshige, Sargent, Leyendecker, Haeckel, Audubon, Mucha, Toulouse-Lautrec, Steinlen and Chéret.

4. What were the most difficult aspects of illustration in school, after graduation at the start of your career, and now?

In school, finding time to sleep. After graduation, finding a job. At the start of my career, learning what my time is worth ($ wise) and having the courage to expect adequate compensation. Now, continuing to challenge myself and push in new directions in both my personal and professional work.

5. What do you think of the current trends in illustration and where do you think this field is heading to?

I do not love painting on the computer, but I think it is increasingly important to be well-versed in photoshop/illustrator/etc. There will always be a place for traditional skills but to ignore or reject a tool as powerful and pervasive as the computer is to severely limit your potential and opportunities. As to where the field is headed, what with the decline in printed media; it's hard to say, but the name of the game is adaptation and flexibility.

6. Could you describe your process from getting contacted by a client to finishing the project?

I begin by getting a firm grasp on the scope and budget for the project. Important factors to nail down: size, media, complexity, time-line, creative control, and what will it be used for... for example, will it need to be licensed to be printed on products, is it a commission for a single buyer, what kind of distribution will it have? If I am comfortable with the particulars and happy with the compensation then I usually do a couple rough sketches or thumbnails. Once approved, I do a more comprehensive drawing, and finally I paint it and touch-up in photoshop.

7. What do you think the best tools are to promoting yourself as an illustrator? Are book portfolios still in demand?

The best thing you can do to promote yourself is to work as much as possible and find a way to share all that work with the public. One good way is to do gallery work, which doesn't really make you much money but will get you noticed. Another good way is to keep a blog that you update frequently with things people care about such as tutorials, in-progress work, sketches, raffles, and tips in addition to finished work.

8. What advice would you give to an illustration student?

You have four short years to make a lot of work with little-to-no risk. Use your time wisely by being as prolific as you can, eagerly searching out new inspirations, and experimenting. I highly recommend getting a job or internship as early as possible, the more work experience that you have before graduating the smoother the transition will be.

9. How do you come up with ideas/concepts?

I'm a list-maker more than a thumb-nailer. I use the online thesaurus a lot to mull an idea around in my head until I have a solid concept to execute. My process for editorial/illustration work is almost identical to my process for gallery work, the only difference is that the narrative for editorial is dictated by the art director.

10. What is the most difficult part of being an illustrator and what is the most rewarding?

The most difficult aspect of being an illustrator is that the workload can be unpredictable, a drought/flood situation. The most rewarding aspect of being an illustrator is that you are getting paid to follow your passion so every job no matter how banal is an opportunity to learn and grow.

Interview for Paul Herrera

Published: (2011)

I’m a big fan of turn of the century aesthetic. I see from influences that you’ve listed that you share that. What about this time intrigues you, and how does it relate to contemporary times as a compliment and/or juxtaposition?

Indeed! I am inspired by Victorian lithographs, turn-of-the-century poster artists such as Mucha, Toulouse-Lautrec, Steinlen and Chéret, as well as vintage photography from the 20's. I am intrigued by the grace, stylization, and beautiful use of line in the posters and the glamour and mystery of the photographs. It is easy to idealize an era like the 20's as being somehow more luxurious than the present, and while I am aware that this perception in superficial... it's still fun to pretend. I mean look at those vintage babes!

At school, did you take non-art classes that you feel were particularly formative to you as a thinker and therefore as an artist.

I went to Otis College of Art and Design and every class there, even the liberal arts classes were geared towards art. Though I see going to art school as an important factor in my growth as an illustrator (the equivalent of immersion while learning a foreign language), I really mourned the absence of natural science/biology classes like those I had taken at city college senior year of high school. Senior year of high school I was so torn between my two loves: drawing and zoology, that it was nearly a coin toss between which I would pursue in college. I think it is very important for artists to seek knowledge outside of their immediate field since an artists work is defined by their influences and interests. Investigating these influences and interests sets an artists work apart from everyone else's, and guards against "inbreeding" where they just continue to reuse and recycle their own work or worse yet, the work of those around them.

In particular I wonder about philosophy, in every sense, ideologically, culturally, aesthetically. I feel I am always learning and shaping my own. How has your own philosophy developed through your art?

My art is a reflection of myself, so the natural evolution of my personal philosophy as I continue to grow and mature has naturally influenced my work... though I don't think it has been through any conscious effort. I would be lying if I said that I often mused about my own philosophy, though I do often muse about how many dog treats I can hide in my dog's floppy lips without waking it up.

I read that you have taken an experimental Illustration class. Can you tell me a little about that?

I was fortunate enough to take the "Experimental Illustration" class taught by the amazing Daniel Lim and it was by far one of the best classes I took while at Otis. It was the first time the class was taught so it had a pretty organic structure with a lot of give and take between the professor and the students, but the basic idea was to expose us to the conceptual and physical limits of what could be considered "illustration." In addition to several smaller guided projects, each student pitched their own "experimental" project to the class. I wanted to explore my love of zoology and taxidermy and came up with the idea to make a life-sized bear rug creature; and so "Randal" and "Buddy" were conceived.

I have seen your “Randal” and “Buddy” pieces, which seem a little more “crafty” than your paintings and drawings. What is your stance on the Art vs. Craft and or the fine art vs. design art debate?

There is often a perceived hierarchy in the art world, with fine art at the top followed by illustration and design with craft at the bottom. Naturally, I do not agree with this hierarchy nor with the idea that something you make has to be categorized as either illustration, fine art, or craft. I see the mutant bear rugs as carefully crafted illustrative fine art, as they were created for gallery shows, told a story visually, and required a great deal of attention to craft to realize. As for my stance on the "fine art vs. design art" debate, I'd say that regardless of how conceptual it is all art is commercial on some level and to think that the "commercial" quality of illustration and design somehow diminishes it's value is silly. Naturally, there are shitty illustrations out there that have been diluted by the commercial pressures placed upon them, but that can just as easily happen in fine art as well. That's just my opinion.

As students it’s hard not to get overwhelmed by our failures. What is one of your own that stands out in your mind? How did you pick yourself back up? What keeps you going when you get frustrated?

I don't know if one particular piece of mine stands out in my mind as a failure, but I would say that I am frequently displeased by my own work particularly when the piece is rushed. I have a terrible habit of leaving things until the last second.... Sometimes the rush of adrenaline as a deadline approaches has wonderful spontaneous results, but tight deadlines can also reduce risk-taking since there simply isn't time to make mistakes and have to start over. When you make something you are not particularly happy with, the only remedy is to make something you are VERY happy with. It's redemptive and allows you to see the "failure" as a learning experience rather than a reflection of your skills as an illustrator. When I get in a slump, the only way to pull myself out of it is to sketch sketch sketch sketch until I hit on something that excites me.

As an illustrator that does commercial and gallery work, what are your suggestions to an Illustration student that wants to do both as well?

I think the biggest "mistake" of the new illustrator is to work on dead-end projects. Usually these involve a lot of grunt-work, low pay, no exposure, many revisions, and high stress. Often the "client" is a friend or family member adding another dimension of complication to the mix, and usually your time would be better spent looking for legit work or refining your portfolio. Gallery work is a tricky balance... you really can't make a living at it unless you are famous, so you have to look at it as a side-hobby and use it for exposure and to build your ideal portfolio (since you can do whatever you want!) It's fun as long as you are not looking at it as a source of steady income. Commercial work can be just as rewarding as gallery work if you go in excited about it. I quite enjoy the challenge of realizing someone else's ideas while injecting some of what gets me wet (ha ha). Gallery is like working in a vacuum, it can be paralyzing unless you approach it like a commercial job where you create the prompt. Soooo basically, if you want to stay sane get a REAL job that allows you to use your skills (ie: in house illustrator, sketch-artist, storyboard artist, freelance illustrator IF you think you can rustle up enough steady work to make a comfortable living at it) and something that doesn't leave you so depleted that you are unable to create personal gallery work when you get home, and just try to stay excited about your work!

You mentioned La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Hollywood. I might be traveling to Los Angeles this summer, so what other galleries would you recommend I check out while I’m there?

Well, I only really know about the "Illustrative Fine Art" or "Pop Surrealism" or "Lowbrow" type galleries, but I'd recommend Gallery Nucleus, La Luz de Jesus, Black Maria, Gallery 1988, LeBasse Projects, Carmichael Gallery, and the Copro Gallery. Of course, for real "museums" there is LACMA, MOCA, and The Getty.... and for weird fun places to visit I recommend the Museum of Jurassic Technology, and the LA Natural History Museum.

Interview for Argot & Ochre

Published: (2011) by Daniel Rolnik

JAW Cooper is a painter, illustrator, and concept artist that’s kicking ass right now in Los Angeles. Her stunning work has graced the pages of LA Weekly as well as the walls of La Luz De Jesus, a gallery where many successful artists have had their early shows. Although she’s currently based in Los Angeles, she’s lived all over the world. And, oddly enough, a couple hours before our interview she met my brother in the middle of a park by happenstance in Santa Barbara, CA.

If you were approached by Disney to do the character designs based on a book, which book would you want it to be of and why?

Though I don’t think it’s really Disney’s cup-o’-tea I loved the book “Geek Love” by Katherine Dunn, which is about a grotesquely dark and twisted family of carneys. While reading it I couldn’t help but make little sketches of what I thought the cast of human oddities and carnival performers looked like and it influenced several of the paintings I made around that time. I love characters that are a little dark and twisted but have an otherworldly beauty about them.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve been commissioned to paint?

I accept commissions on a very limited basis as my schedule fills up quickly, however I was recently asked to paint a portrait of physicist Stephen Hawking holding a sugar scull with an albino owl perched on his shoulder. I’m not gonna lie, I loved every minute of it.

How did you get your first show at La Luz De Jesus and what’s something in Soap-Planet Wacko you’d only buy if you had a billion dollars?

I was accepted into La Luz de Jesus’s annual “Everything but the Kitsch N’Sync” show as a sophomore in college and after both of my pieces sold I was offered a six-person show later that year. Since then I have been showing with them regularly. If I had a billion dollars (and only if I had a billion dollars) I would buy Enrique Gomez de Molina’s work from the “Rogue Taxidermy” show at LA Luz last year.

Where is the best place in California to sit and sketch?

For me, nothing beats the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum’s bird hall or the Los Angeles Natural History Museum’s halls of mammals. I like sketching at natural history museums because they are cool and quiet (if you time your visit to avoid children on school trips) and since the animals don’t move you can draw at a leisurely pace. For landscape sketching, my favorite hiking/sketching spot is Sturtevant Falls in Chantry Flats during the week (it’s far too crowded on the weekend.)

What’s your favorite part of the Disneyland Jungle Cruise?

That’s easy; the smell. I adore the smell of stagnant, musty water like on water rides at amusement parks. It’s similar to the smell of wet cement after a light rain.

Who are some of your favorite downtown LA characters and how would you depict them as animals?

My favorite downtown character is a man who rides his bike around Spring St./7th St. and balances with one leg in the air and one arm waving around, often aggressively shaking a handkerchief, and making loud grunting exclamations. I privately refer to him as the “bike luchador” and I would depict him as a circus bear.

When can we see the actual sculpture of the Elephant fetus?

Right now! I just updated my blog with photos from the Terra Obscura show put on by the Upper Six Hundreds art collective. (

When you first moved to Los Angeles after having lived all over the world, what were you most frustrated about?

The lack of trees and the honk-happy drivers.

And lastly, what’s the nerdiest thing about JAW Cooper?

I love the "Dog Whisperer" show. Love it.

Interview for Monsa Publications: Cute Illustration

Published: (2011) Monsa Publications: Cute Illustration

WHO IS COOPER? Talk a little about you and your art and define yourself as an illustrator. TECHNIQUES AND INSPIRATION talk a little of your techniques and how comes the inspiration from your mind to the final piece:

"I was born in England and grew up in Africa, Sweden, Ireland, and California, and currently reside in sunny Los Angeles. Growing up somewhat nomadically, I gravitated towards drawing as an easy way to entertain myself while traveling light and over the years have been very influenced by forms found in nature, curio cabinets, fashion photography, and nipples in general. Comfortable in a variety of media, I prefer to work in gouache, oils, acrylics and graphite, usually spending a good deal of time on an initial gestural sketch before transferring and painting it. My work may be viewed online at and

I work primarily in gouache, oils and acrylics. Spending a large amount of time on the initial drawing, I tend to slowly build up layers of value and color though lately I've been trying bolder and more spontaneous techniques for fun. Inspired by fashion photography, curio cabinets, and forms found in nature, my subject matter tends to focus on girls and animals but with a hint of darkness, violence, and mystery. My work may be viewed online at and ."

Below are photos of pages from the book, featuring my work:

This book is available for purchase HERE.

Interview for Kat Cameron

Published: (2011)

It’s interview time again, and I’m pleased to introduce J.A.W. Cooper, a clever lady who paints and draws with especially clever fingers! I first came across her work while participating in the Sweet Streets II gallery show at Nucleus gallery and have since been a follower of her blog which she updates regularly with rambles, illustrations, sketches, process work and her marvellous paintings.

To me her work is reminiscent of the films by Studio Ghibli, especially Nausicaa, and Princess Mononoke. Her creatures are quite fantastical, and she is able to capture their movement with decisive brushstokes and penlines. The illusive characters that live within her work are beautifully crafted and seem as if they could leap off the page and saunter off through forest or city. This quality is hard to reproduce, and yet she does it again and again.

Here she answers questions about her technique, her passion for art and her adventures across the world. Thank you so much Cooper!


You mention in your artist bio that you have lived all over the world. Details please! :-) Do you have a particular place that you most often draw inspiration from?

Well, I was born in England to an American Father and a South African Mother. Growing up I spent a little over two years in Nairobi, Kenya and around a year in Sweden and Ireland as well as a great deal of time just hopping around various other places in Europe and Scandinavia. I wouldn’t say that one place in particular was an inspiration, but being constantly on the move made in necessary to travel light and drawing is the perfect “portable” activity.

Being South African myself, I am interested in your experiences in Africa. Thoughts?

My earliest childhood memories are of my time in Africa but since I was quite young they often revolve around my house and animals I would see. From chickens and goats to impala and lions, knowing no other life my excitement for animals did not discriminate between the exotic and the banal. From stories my parents have told me I gather that it was a very exciting, though occasionally dicey, experience.

Where in the world are you right now?

I currently live in downtown Los Angeles which is similarly exciting... and occasionally dicey.

Apart from creating things, what do you do?

For better or worse illustration is both my job and my passion so it is primarily what I do for fun. Besides making things I walk my dog a lot and enjoy biking and hiking.

What first made you want to become an artist?

I’ve been drawing compulsively since I was around 6 years old, but honestly I resisted the idea of making it a career until the very end of high school. It nearly came down to a coin flip, whether I would go to UCLA and study zoology or go to Otis and study illustration. I’m so glad that I chose to pursue my passion!

Please describe your creative process. What technique/s do you use?

I almost always start with a list of words: ideas, motifs, subjects, colors... etc. which helps me to quickly synthesize the ideas floating around in my head into a coherent concept or direction. From there I gather reference along the lines of my concept and start sketching until I hit on something that I’m excited about, and then I build the rest of the composition around it. Once I’ve finalized a drawing I scurry out to Kinkos to copy it, adjusting the size and making the lines darker and crisper and thus easier to transfer via light box. I usually transfer the drawing to a heavyweight printmaking paper like Somerset, Rives, or Stonehenge and then mount the transferred drawing with matte medium to museum board for structural integrity and to prevent warping. I let it sit under heavy books overnight and in the morning I’m ready to paint! For my freelance/editorial work I generally start with washes of water/fade–proof india ink to establish the values and then build up the color with thin washes of gouache. With this system I can easily finish a painting in a day. For my gallery work I use everything from graphite, gouache and acrylic to oil depending on what suits the project best and how much time I have.

Where do you do your work? Can you send a picture of your workspace and describe it?

I work from home which is such a luxury! I live in a studio loft apartment (one room) which is great unless I’m using oil paints extensively. FYI, sleeping around drying oil paintings for extended periods of time can make you ralph. Two whole walls are dominated by giant windows, but I refuse to sleep with them open because I am afraid that crickets will fly in during the night... and I am terrified of crickets. Other than that, I love my setup.

Do you work from life, from photographs or from imagination?

All of the above. I love to draw from life at the zoo, Natural History Museum, Angeles-Crest mountains, figure drawing workshops, etc. When I’m working on a job and need something specific I’ll look up reference online or take photos myself to be sure I get the details right and then a great deal of it I just make up off the top of my head from experience.

What influences you? Do you have a favorite place or person you visit when you need inspiration?

My fellow Otis graduates (aka the “Shomako Crew”) are a big source of inspiration and are always willing to give me feedback when I get stuck. They are all so talented; we keep each other “hungry” with a dose of healthy competition. Music is also a big inspiration to me. When starting a big project or series I’ll often make a playlist to set the kind of mood I want to have in that particular work.

I am fascinated by your multi-eyed monster rugs, tell us a bit more about them please.

The mutant bear rugs were such a blast to work on! I owe it all to an amazing class I had in college with the very talented Daniel Lim called “Experimental Illustration.” He encouraged me to think big, literally and figuratively, and I ended up fabricating a life-sized mutant bear rug named “Randal” out of foam, faux fur, fabric, and taxidermy supplies. I sold Randal in a gallery show at La Luz de Jesus and made a second one named “Buddy” which currently resides in my apartment... under my giant dog. I hope to make many more in the future!

You have taken part in various exhibitions, what has been your experience and the response to your work, any favorite shows?

I love the freedom of gallery work and being able to explore one idea in a series rather than creating a bunch of fragmented, individual pieces. My principle venue for gallery shows is La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Hollywood though I have shown at various locations around Los Angeles and the west coast. I don’t know that I have had a “favorite” show, since each builds on the previous, but my most recent show at La Luz was titled "Tarnished" and it sure was a lot of fun.

Do you promote your work and if so how?

I promote primarily through my blog, though I do also have a facebook account, send out emails and mail promo cards. I’m working on a new set of promo cards right now, actually. In general I think it is important to have a strong web presence and to go out of your way to make connections with others in your field.

Tell us about about your professional illustrations, you have illustrated for the LA Weekly, what are your feelings on this aspect of artmaking? Creating work for others can often times be tricky. Any tips on working on commissions or collaborating with art directors?

Working with the art/creative directors at La Weekly has been absolutely fantastic. They are very supportive and give me such creative freedom! In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had any major problem working with any art director since they usually know what they want and are familiar with the way illustrators work. I find working for individuals on commissions and such to be far more challenging as they tend to be less trusting and have a more difficult time communicating their ideas, but even that is usually quite enjoyable.

What advice would you give to a young artist just starting out?

Look at as much illustration as possible, promote like crazy, make solid connections, and have fun creating work! After all, what’s the point of becoming an artist if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing?

Who are some of your favorite artists or creative people and why?

Speaking generally I’d say that I have been influenced by the Japanese woodblock prints of Hokusai and Hiroshige, the oil paintings of Sargent and Leyendecker, and the zoological zeal of Haeckel and Audubon.

Treehouse or Submarine?

Excellent question! I would have to go with a treehouse because I love watching people from high vantage points. And watching spit fall from high vantage points. And watching spit fall on people from high vantage points.

In ten years, where would you like to be?

Abroad, living nomadically and drawing/painting up a storm.

Interview for Marie Provence @ Memphis College of Art

Published: (2011) For Marie Provence @ Memphis College of Art

How do you feel that your personal history influences your work? Do you draw any inspiration from your travels, pets, music, etc.

I might never have taken up drawing at all if it had not been for all the traveling that I did growing up. Jumping from country to country made it necessary to travel light and drawing is the perfect "on the go" activity. My mother is a biologist and illustrator and my father is a biologist and college professor so I'd say that they sparked my interest in both art and nature. I draw inspiration from a number of sources, the most significant of which are probably curio cabinets, fashion photography, and nipples. Who doesn't like nipples? Music is an important part of my process and I often create play-lists for specific projects to get me in the appropriate mood.

I love your beautiful sculptures, and I was particularly admiring the skill at which you were able to find a balance between realistic and fabricated qualities in your “Buddy” piece. I was wondering if you have ever studied taxidermy or surface design? How did you initially become interested in exploring three-dimensional art?

I've never studied taxidermy or surface design but I've always had a morbid fascination for it. I love to draw monsters and freaks and realizing one of my two dimensional designs in three dimensional reality was an extremely rewarding experience. I owe it all to an amazing class I had in college with the very talented Daniel Lim called “Experimental Illustration.” Daniel encouraged me to think big, literally and figuratively, and I ended up fabricating the first of my life-sized mutant bear rugs out of foam, faux fur, fabric, and taxidermy supplies which I named “Randal.” I sold Randal in a gallery show at La Luz de Jesus and made a second rug named “Buddy” which currently resides in my apartment... under my giant dog. I hope to make many more in the future!

Currently, who are the artists that you look to most for inspiration and what is it about these artists that you love? (Artists can be anyone, not just limited to illustrators)

Speaking generally I’d say that I have been influenced by the Japanese woodblock prints of Hokusai and Hiroshige, the oil paintings of Sargent and Leyendecker, and the zoological zeal of Haeckel and Audubon.

As an unknown, trying to establish a voice or direction for my art is a bit of a struggle. How did you come about your unique point of view in illustration? Did you stumble upon it, or was it something that came naturally to you from the beginning?

This is a difficult question that I seem to get a lot. Difficult, because it was never something I struggled with and I think that is because I was an avid keeper of sketchbooks. My junior and senior year of high school I completed one giant sketchbook a semester to accelerate my growth as an artist and to document my evolving interests and processes. My proficiency with drawing lept forward and in the process I naturally cultivated interests in the things that continue to influence my work today. The best advise I can give any artist struggling to find their voice is to keep a sketchbook and pack it full of sketches, lists, ideas, and images that inspire, and to write about it all in the margins so that you can trace your thought processes back in the future. You will naturally start to establish patterns and processes specific to your interests and way of working.

Can you share some of your promotional materials or techniques that you find work well when trying to reach a larger audience? Are you able to disclose some of your process in developing self-promotion ideas without giving away any secrets?

I promote primarily through my blog, though I do also have a facebook account, send out emails and mail promo cards. I’m working on a new set of promo cards right now, actually. In general I think it is important to have a strong web presence and to go out of your way to make connections with others in your field.

If you had one suggestion for an illustrator about to graduate from college, what would it be?

Look at as much illustration as possible, promote like crazy, make solid connections, and have fun creating work! After all, what’s the point of becoming an artist if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing?

Bonus fun question: If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only take three things with you, what would they be?

A sketchbook, some pencils, and a cow... I love milk.

Interview for Kelly Patton

Published: (2010)

I am very pleased to share with you today, that I had an incredible time in Los Angeles, the first city to welcome me back from my four month bicycle music tour in Europe. After enduring a 33 hour trip from Barcelona to Dublin to New York and finally to L.A., I arrived a day before my birthday.
I had arranged an interview with J.A.W. Cooper, a lovely illustrator living in downtown L.A., and was ecstatic to have this meeting with one of my favorite artists, who's blog I had been following for a year. We met at her studio, where I recorded our energized transaction about her process, her favorite artists and the creative community in L.A. It was such a pleasure to meet with Cooper, she was so personable and enthusiastic, and a full on bad-ass illustrator:

AUDIO INTERVIEW (see link above)

Interview for Orange Alert

Published: (2009)

It's long been said that if you are genuinely passionate about what you do it will shine through in all you create, and that definitely true in the case of Jaw (Jessica A.W.) Cooper. What is clear when scrolling through the posts on this California artist's blog is that she loves to sketch and that she is incredibly talented. Whether it is a sketch, a painting, a sculpture, or a fascinating (and occasionally furry) concept piece, Jaw finds a way to consistently create.

Recently, Jaw was kind enough to answer a few of my questions:

1. I love being able to look through your sketches on your blog. Do you find yourself using the blog to test new ideas? Do you get a lot of feedback?

I love to sketch more than anything and I use my blog as a way to showcase what I believe is the most fun and important part of my process. I update frequently to encourage people to continue to check on my progress and I love the comments that are left for me. When I was in college and shared a large studio with many talented fellow illustrators I cherished the feeling of camaraderie and access to so many fresh critical eyes. After graduating I felt suddenly isolated, especially since I work from home, and I began to make a concerted effort to update my blog frequently to stay connected. Though I generally receive more well-wishes than critical feedback, both are extremely helpful and encourage me to remain prolific.

2. How do you decide which sketches will become full blown pieces?

I decide which sketches to finish based on the project (or gallery show) and how long I estimate I'll have to get it done. I do not enjoy painting as much as I enjoy sketching so I will not typically take a sketch to completion unless there is an immediate purpose for it. Beyond that, the sketch has to have a spontaneous fluidity or life to it or I simply toss it.

3. You recently posted a series inspired by songs, do you typically listen to music while you draw? In what ways do you feel music impacts your work?

I always work with either music or the television on in the background as white noise. My recent slew of sketches have all been based on songs and I've found that to be a fantastic way to come up with motifs and themes that I would not normally have been driven to explore on my own. I'll put a song on repeat and then sift through my library of images and ephemera until I've collected enough reference to translate the image in my head into a sketch. While music has always had an influence on my work in a general way, this latest batch is very directly impacted by it.

4. What is about the female that you find so fascinating? I love the coy expressions you typically give your characters.

Fashion photography is one of my major influences and because of this the girls I draw are typically long, lean, and vaguely "alien." I love films by Hayao Miyazaki and Luc Besson who tend to feature uniquely beautiful young girls that are strong willed, mysterious and powerful. As a female artist I feel (perhaps incorrectly) that I can get away with a high level of shameless pervyness and so nipples and whatnot abound in my work.

5. How long does it typically take you to prepare for a show?

I tailor the quantity, size, and ambitiousness of my work to the amount of time I have been given to prepare for a show. I can whip up a small series of sketches in a week, or I can labor over a large series of paintings over the course of a year. It all depends on how much time I have.

6. What's next for Jaw Cooper?

I work constantly; if I'm not working on freelance illustrations then I'm preparing for a gallery show. I will be participating in the "Paper Pushers" show at Gallery1988 San Francisco which opens December 11th, the "4th Annual Power In Numbers (PIN-4)" exhibit at Gallery Nucleus opening December 12th, and the "Twilight Zone" show at Gallery1988 Los Angeles opening May 18th. I would really like to work on more editorial and advertising illustration in the future as well as continuing to show in galleries.

Bonus Questions:

1. If you could sit down to coffee with anyone (alive or dead) who would it be?

Hmmm. I would have to pick either E. O. Wilson (the american biologist, researcher, theorist, naturalist and author) because he is absolutely fascinating and makes me wish I was a feisty elderly man, or J. C. Leyendecker who is my favorite painter of all time.

2. What type of music do you enjoy and who are a few of your favorites?

I enjoy all kinds of music and I go through strong phases. Right now I'm obsessed with the main theme from the Pan's Labyrinth soundtrack... it's creepy and beautiful. I tend to like artists that tell good stories like Andrew Bird, Leonard Cohen, and Jurassic 5.