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 at jawcooper(at)gmail(dot)com if you have a specific question not already answered below:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Student Interview

1) First, is in regard to your working method. What interests you the most about working with traditional methods and why do you choose to work this way? Do you ever use other methods such as digital?

I split my time and energy pretty evenly between commercial work and personal work. You will only be familiar with my personal work as I am unable to share my commercial work because of Non Disclosure Agreements (NDA's). My commercial work is mostly for advertising companies (mostly TV/Movie poster and campaign concept and design). I have also done character design, storyboarding, sketch art (for pitching to AD clients)… 90% of that work is digital sketching and painting or … ideation (coming up with the core idea behind the campaign.) Increasingly I am paid more for my mind and taste than my sketching skills though that was initially made me valuable to my clients and continues to help me "sell" my ideas internally. I work freelance and this kind of work compensates highly so I only have to work commercially 3-4 days a month to pay my bills, so I work commercially an average of 10 days a month to live comfortably, save for the future, travel, etc.

That leaves the rest of the month open for me to work on personal projects (mostly gallery work and occasional editorial gigs) which I almost always execute traditionally. Digital media is ideal for commercial work because I can make such quick changes, share it easily, etc, but the visceral joy I get from working traditionally is incomparable. I like that things will go wrong and I have to get creative to "fix" it, I like the happy accidents, and I enjoy the feeling of creating something that is a unique object. You can make prints of a painting but there is still only one painting.

2) Secondly, how do you choose your subjects? Do you take commissions from anyone about anything or do you pick subjects which you have a personal interest in? And what would your interests be?

I have developed a pretty consistent process for concepting for a painting or series over the years. First I carry a very small notepad on me at all times in which I make copious lists - visual elements, colors, phrases, emotive words, etc. I think it really helps to pour out all the idea fragments you have floating around to make room for more, possibly better ideas and once it's all down on paper you can always refer back to it so you don't feel a need to hold onto it. Once it's all written down you can also scan the list and start to pick up on patterns and connections. Each time you scan the list you see something different, like a Rorschach Test, so it can be used repeatedly to create many works in a series. I list the patterns and connections I see often in an emotive or descriptive phrase which easily lends itself to the initial visuals which is the starting point for a sketch. As I add to the sketch I use the phrase or word as a decision-making-tool which streamlines the process of adding or editing elements. This keeps me from being bogged down in indecision and I can focus more on the aesthetic qualities such as flow, composition, etc and trust that my decision-making-tool will keep me on track conceptually. This continues into the painting phase.

For example, the painting I finished yesterday called "Sticks /Stones" had an emotive phrase that went with it "those closest to us know where the chinks in our armor are for better or worse." The image is of a warrior woman being impaled by her own shadow who uses a stone to hammer branches through a tiny chink in her armor. I decided to add in Swallows which are a symbol of trust and loyalty (they mate for life) and as I was working on the piece I saw an opportunity to have the shadow of one of the birds fall across the woman's face so that it appeared as if the shadow was whispering into her ear. I would be surprised if many people catch this detail but I think it is small details like that that add a richness and depth to a concept. I hope that wasn't too rambling of an example! Here is detail shot of that part of the painting:

I used to accept commissions and I felt like… I was sort of obligated to or something… Many artists make their money that way but I've slowly realized that I hate doing it and I no longer accept them except on very rare occasions. I love my commercial work for advertising companies and it's all about working with a team on something outside of yourself, taking direction, etc… but then when I come home and do my personal work I don't want to take direction from anybody.

I was raised by two freshwater ecologists/entomologists (AKA stream-bug scientists) and grew up all over the world because their research and teaching work took us to live in Kenya, Sweden, Ireland, etc and I think those two things have directed my interests more than anything else. I am fascinated by the natural world, science, etc and I am fascinated my different cultures, different ways of perceiving the world and different experiences of reality.

3) Thirdly, who inspires you the most to create artwork?

Hmmm that's a difficult one! I have drawn compulsively since I was very young so I don't remember ever not experiencing the world that way; creating is sort of inextricable to my experience of life at this point. As far as what gets me really excited to create something specific I think that exposing myself to a broad range of visuals (I have extensive image libraries to trigger inspiration… it's been very helpful in my work creating moodboards for commercial purposes too.) I think that living compassionately, being present, traveling and camping, learning and exploring, having beautiful experiences with other people, and creating a community of friends and colleagues around you that challenge and support you is not only invaluable to having something to say with your work, but also the key to being absolutely delighted with life. I also listen to A LOT of Allan Watts recording while I work. ha ha ha

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