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.) How did you begin your career as an artist?

It's always hard to know how far back to go- I was drawing a lot since the age of 6 but didn't intend on becoming a professional until Senior Year of High-school when I contemplated going to an art college instead of pursuing a degree in zoology. I ended up going to Otis College Of Art And Design and started working freelance while in school, maybe around Sophmore year. I did designs and illustrations for products, souvenirs, stock illustration sites, etc. Out of school I focused a lot (maybe too much) on gallery work and continued to do freelance illustration (mostly editorial.) I got a regular gig with LA Weekly doing a monthly "visual column" which could be anything I wanted providing it related to Los Angeles in some way. I basically just scraped by for a while and was pretty frustrated and miserable until I discovered the wonderful world of freelance in-house art/illustration for print/motion/entertainment/advertising agencies. Now I only have to work 5-10 days at month at Print/motion companies doing some sketch art, compositing, art directing, but mostly my favorite part of the whole process: initial concepting for TV and Movie campaigns/posters. The rest of my time I spend camping and working on personal projects.

2.) How would you describe your creative process? Where do you find your inspiration?

Word lists are a big part of my creative process- I'll attach an example. From that I distill a single concept and build the work from there. I do a lot of image pulling as well and fashion photography and old ephemera are always great sources of inspiration.

3.) I've seen you work in several mediums, from your awesome little sculpture bugs to your brush pen sketches at the NHM! What is your favorite medium, and how do you choose the right material for each creative idea?

My favorite medium is waterproof india ink and gouache on stonehenge paper. I have been increasingly interested in mixed media and often fix "mistakes" by adding layers of precisely cut paper to make it look intentional.

4.) Do you need to work another job to balance income, or do you live completely off your work? If so, how did you get to a place of stability?

I live completely off of my creative skill set and talent, but not completely off of my personal work (thank god.) I've tried it that way- and my personal work became so inbred and stagnant. If I became a millionaire tomorrow I would still work 5-10 days a month at print/motion studios because that helps expand my visual and conceptual repertoire which then strengthens my personal work.

5.) Is there anything or anyone in particular that has had a major influence in helping you develop your skills over the years?

My mum is a freshwater biologist and scientific illustrator and there is no doubt that she has been my biggest influence and I would never have started drawing in the first place if I hadn't had her example to follow. Both my parents were incredibly supportive of me which I am incredibly grateful for- many are not so lucky!

6.) What are some of your professional goals as an artist?

I have a number of small goals (release a book next year for example) but they are all toward a singular goal of growing my "brand," increasing my exposure, and using that exposure to get bigger personal jobs and more solo shows.

7.) What are the most important elements to the business side of art?

I try to update my social media regularly, reply to fans questions, stay involved and accessible, and then in terms of clients I am very clear when discussing expectations and always meet deadlines.

8.) What is one piece of advice you would give to someone looking to begin their art career in LA?

Seek a balance. That doesn't necessarily making a living doing EXACTLY the thing they want to do (gallery work, self published comics, whatever) right away- and you shouldn't want to. That said it's so important to have a job that is tangentially related to what you want to do. Tangential is great because it pushes you out of your comfort zone, forces you to work and think in ways you would otherwise not be exposed to, but is still challenging creatively and technically so your skills are always strengthening. You number one priority should be to meet your financial obligations (pay your bills) and then you next goal is to be able to accomplish that with as much free time left over as possible.

9.) In your opinion, what is the difference between illustration and fine art, and do you identify yourself with one over the other?

I make illustrative fine art. Fine art is an object. Illustration is intended for duplication or for a purpose other than being hung on a wall. One piece of art can be both. It's all just context.

10.) What role does social media have in your career, and how do you handle things such as copyright issues and gallery commissioned pieces?

Social media has been such a powerful tool for me to get my work seen and build a fan base and a following, and on a personal level it keeps me motivated to stay prolific because I know people ARE watching! People and occasionally companies rip my work off but at this point I usually just shrug it off unless they are making money off of the plagiarized pieces- then I send a cease and desist and they usually concede. I really dislike accepting commissions. The way I see it- if you want one of my pieces buy one of my existing pieces! My print/motion work more than pays my bills and that's where I execute other people's visions, so when it comes to my personal work I'd rather just do what I want to do. There are exceptions of course- if someone want a very large or expensive piece (I tend to work small/medium) or if the idea they have tickles my fancy.

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