Monday, January 5, 2015

Around the World Blog Hop: Michele Cooper, Artist

So, last week the lovely and talented Tina Koyama, of Fueled by Clouds and Coffee, invited me to participate in the Around the World Blog Hop. My thrill gene activated! I was curiously alarmed and intrigued, so I said yes. Go peek here to see Tina's blog hop stop. She managed to make a sketch every single day of 2014 and writes wonderfully informative articles about her thoroughly tested pens, inks and sketching kits! Enjoy more of Tina's on-the-spot sketches and blog posts on the Seattle Urban Sketchers site. You can track back to Joan Tavolott (she invited Tina) and so on and so on.  The blog hop is quite simple: answer a few questions and invite up to three more people to join in. Each publishes on their blog the following Monday after being nominated.

Well, if you look back at the other posts, they're all quite lovely and journalistic.  Unfortunately, my blog is primarily focused on the visual aspect (with occasional flashes of eloquence) so I'm just going to answer the questions and invite three more bloggers (who will surely do a much more poetic job than I have!)

1.  What am I working on? I have several things going simultaneously at the moment:
a. Sketching as often as possible with the urban sketchers at home and in my travels. This has proved a wonderful way of meeting local artists and keeping up with my regular sketch journals.
b. I have a panoramic format sketchbook that I want to fill. It's already halfway full.
I sketched in the car at the Cap Sante Marina in Anacortes, WA.
c. Planning lessons for the winter quarter of my watercolor classes. I teach watercolor in several locations around the greater Seattle area. 

2.  How does my work differ from others' of its genre?

Tea Party at Gasworks Park
Every artist's work is as unique and individual as the artist.

I'm sure there are certain facts about things that everyone sees pretty much the same way, like the freeway commute to work, a cup of tea or the dairy section at the grocery store. But I have seen truly unique paintings of these mundane subjects simply because they are viewed uniquely by the artist. I particularly enjoy it when ordinary things appear to me in an extraordinary way.

Sometimes the day takes a whimsical turn. I met with the Friday Group of Seattle Urban Sketchers at Gasworks Park on a drizzly August morning. What I expected was a selection of great industrial looking shapes from which to choose. I didn't expect that one of those shapes would remind me of a teapot and another of the stacked platters of cakes and sandwiches at a tea party. Once the "creative train" crested the hill, the rest of the day's sketches followed in a fantastical way.

3.  Why do I write/create what I do?

I create my sketches as a way of seeing. We move our eyes along the landscape from right to left to right and back again. That's why I feel the panoramic format is so appropriate for landscapes and marine subjects. 

If a sketch is a phrase, then perhaps the painting is a sonata. So the painting will be more carefully composed, but relies on the information gathered quickly in the sketch.
This sketch developed into more of my "completed watercolor" style as I lingered to savor the experience. 
I share my knowledge and experience with my readers and my students because I believe that it's such a fulfilling thing to be creative. I want everyone to know what that is like. I know my students have something to say with their work and all they need is a little bit of courage and the tools to make it happen. I think I can help with that.

4.  How does my writing/creative process work?

I started blogging as a means of sharing my paintings in a more spontaneous way than I was getting with the somewhat static, business card style of my website. In the beginning, I posted small images and very little text. First the visual, then the verbal. That's because, to me, seeing and painting/drawing/sketching is a language in and of itself. And for me, that is my first language, my heart language.

When I am out on a "sketch hunt" I try to keep an open mind about subject matter. Sooner or later the atmosphere or an arresting pattern of shadows or unusual contrasting shapes and colors will "speak" to me. Sometimes the connection is immediate. Other times, it may take two or three or more successive visits to a location, but eventually the subject evolves as I deepen my experience. Out comes my sketchbook and I try to get the important part of the message down before it all changes. I often start with ink line (Micron pen) followed by watercolor washes.
The weather was changing moment by moment, so I quickly sketched the unique shapes of foreground, middle ground, background very simply. I relied on my brush to add contrasting values, colors and shapes. From a recent trip to Hawaii.
Every little minute detail is not essential. I want just enough description to get the point across with room for the viewer to add their visual contribution to the conversation. As the viewer, your memories and experiences activate as you view my work and it becomes partly yours, too. 
I visited Jennings Park in my town for three days in a row to make this 15" wide by 7" tall spread. It includes a sketch of my own DYI palette of 6 colors which I made in an Altoids Mini tin. I made the accordion fold sketchbook, too.
I do love the written and spoken word. If it enhances the sketch, I will write my thoughts, impressions or facts about the subject right there on the sketchbook page. I often write haiku in my other sketchbook next to thumbnail sketches to eliminate unnecessary details and get at the essential core of my subject. Sometimes I read poetry or particularly fine literature to inform and develop the concept of my painting. After all, reading is a visual experience, too.

I wish that I could be as eloquent as Robert Henri, author of  "The Art Spirit" and one of my favorite authors for encouragement and inspiration. When I thought about inviting three people to join me in this blog hop, I knew whom I would choose. They live continents away, but we met this past year by admiring each others' art on Instagram. Our acquaintance reminds me of a quote from Henri, "Through art mysterious bonds of understanding and of knowledge are established among men. They are the bonds of a great Brotherhood. Those who are of the Brotherhood know each other, and time and space cannot separate them."

The next part of the hop:
In the spirit of our global (and I mean global) blog hop, please hop on over (to France, Britain and Australia) on Monday, January 12, 2015 to visit my three new friends:

Juliette Plisson, of,  is a correspondent for USk France. She lives in Paris, France and spends her vacations on an island called Noirmoutier. Juliette and I met on Instagram while we were both trying to keep up with friends who were attending the 5th International Urban Sketching Symposium in Paraty, Brazil, this past summer. We exchanged a few conversations online and have been viewing each other's blogs, Flickr feeds and IG accounts ever since. I am sure you will agree that Juliette has produced some beautiful sketches (see her Instagram here) with expressive line, beautiful watercolor and just the right amount of white space.

MMFXRofe, who describes himself as  Shabby wanderer, stumbling thinker... Founder of the #postcardartgroup. His recent watercolor studies of Britain's dusk, dawn and evening skies remind me of the musical compositions of Claude Debussy, Clair de Lune being particularly apropos. See them here on his Instagram.
MMFXRofe is in the process of making a new website and blog. I will update this post with a link as soon as it is launched. If for any reason his blog isn't ready yet, I will host a guest spot for him here on my blog on Monday, Jan. 12. Update: The new blog is up!

Suzi Poland of Vignettes de la Vie. Suzi is one of the most accomplished persons I have ever come to know. Again, we recently met on Suzi's Instagram, through her #coffeeosophy tag. Unknowingly, I plunked a sketch of a cow spotted coffee stand right in the middle of her beautiful black and white cappuccino sketches. I apologized for my error, was forgiven, and gained a new, gracious friend. If she ever comes to the Pacific NW, we are going to go out and sketch that coffee stand together. Swim on over to Suzi's blog for a peek and then make sure to see how she will answer the four questions on Jan 12. I say swim, because it's summer where Suzi is in Australia right now and she's got a few great swimming spots to share with you.

I eagerly await hearing more about all their creative processes next Monday!
You can certainly peek ahead and enjoy what they already have on Instagram, Flickr and their blogs. 


  1. Wow, what an inspiring post! I'm so glad I "tagged" you on this Hop, Michele! It's so interesting to understand more about your process and how you see your sketch and painting subjects. Bravo and thanks!

    - Tina

    1. My thanks to you, Tina. First for "tagging" me. I probably wouldn't have done it without a little nudge. Second, for your kind words. It is greatly appreciated when someone whom I respect has a nice word to say about my efforts. Your journalism along with your sketching is an example to any who would like to follow this journey.
      Cheers, Michele

  2. Michele, your post is so beautifully done!!! Both the writing and the sketches are just lovely. I can tell you put a lot of thought into what you said and showed. I just love this phrase you wrote: If a sketch is a phrase, then perhaps the painting is a sonata. Did you write that or did you hear it somewhere. It says volumes in such an artistic way! I hope you don't mind but I am going to steal it. I have also updated my blog post for today so that it provides a link to your post. Bravo!!!

    1. Thank very much, Joan, for your kind words. They say that there is nothing new under the sun, but I did write my own phrase about sketches, paintings and sonatas. You may quote me if you wish. Now I'm going to hop back to your blog and see what you're up to today!