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Daily Inspiration: Meet Cathy Cooper Scott

Today we’d like to introduce you to Cathy Cooper Scott.

Hi Cathy, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
In a nutshell…I am a Jersey girl. Loved growing up in the Garden State and fell in love with New York City at an early age. I earned my BA in Communication at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, and returned to NYC to start my career as a producer of TV commercial ads. I married a Scottish scientist in 1995, had triplets in 2002, moved to Poway in 2008, and participated my first artist group show in 2012. Nothing I do is in moderation…marriage, kids, work, painting…I’m all in!

As a child I loved recreating illustrations from a very cherished children’s fairy tale book that my parents gifted me titled “The Bumper Book.” My mother saved every homemade card I ever created for the family and it recently occurred to me how much I enjoyed doing that – even up to my high school years where I would while away the hours in my bedroom exploring with charcoal or pencil – drawing just to clear my head and relax.

I have had a circuitous route to becoming the artist I am today. It was a slow realization for me.
Fast forward to graduating from DePauw University and moving to NYC to begin my career. I learned so much about the artistic process from myriad world-class directors and production designers and ad agency creatives that I collaborated with through the years. And yet art and drawing came to a standstill as I moved up the ranks from production assistant to producer. One of my jobs as a producer is to take the clients out for dinners and I started an ice breaker with each new gig…asking each of them the question: “If you could do or be anything in the world – and not have to worry about money – what would you spend your time doing?” The answers were always so revealing and of course led to some interesting conversations. A majority of the time most people let on that they would rather be doing something else – other than advertising. The first time I answered this question, I blurted out: “I want to paint.” My director, who had known me for years, responded: “Paint? Like paint a house?!” I still laugh at that…”No, be an artist and paint!” I responded.

At one point before having kids and moving to San Diego County, a colleague asked me if I wanted to go to Taos, New Mexico for a week to take a Plein Air painting class and I jumped at the chance. There out in the middle of fields of strewn in citrine, chartreuse and scarlet and mountains slopes draped in mahogany, amber and lavender, I realized just how much I had missed this creative outlet. The idea that color evokes feelings and sensations has been an important part of my journey as an artist. It amazes me how emotionally impactful simple strokes of carefully selected color on a surface can be. I am my paintings. They remind me that life does not have to be lived within the lines and can be experienced in many different mediums, colors and configurations. I paint on whatever materials happen to end up in my studio – salvaged canvas, particle board, wood shelving, plexiglass, corkboard, mirror, and panes of glass. Each surface allows for the oils and their hues to convey a distinctive story…unique to one’s own personal life experiences. Thus, Abstract Expressionism is an art form that speaks to me. My influences when I began painting over ten years ago were Mark Rothko and Howard Hodgkin…and now I find that they inspire me even more.

In my current series DOUBLE EXPOSURE, I explore the feeling of color and texture. These pieces are executed on glass with chunky strokes of oil and spray paint – with freedom to explore beyond the boundary of the frame. Once satisfied with the color, texture and feel of the one side, I simply remove the backing to experience the reverse image which conveys a calmness, a reflectiveness and an alternate insight into the piece itself. Correspondingly, it seemingly reflects the inner soul of the frenetic, byzantine, rowdy voice of its oily textured twin.

The DOUBLE EXPOSURE series broadly reflects aspects of a landscape aesthetic – real and imagined. I am surrounded daily, living in Southern California, with stunningly vibrant, whimsical and breathtaking natural beauty. From the Pacific Ocean beaches to the high desert mountains, I am inspired and motivated to capture my experience of nature. Likewise, my subject and material choices reflect concern for climate change and sustainability.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The biggest obstacle for me as (or to become) an artist is getting out of my own way. There is a tendency for my brain to persistently whisper…”You can’t be an artist – you’ve never had any training – how will you make a living – this is a waste of time.” It took a long time before I realized that painting was the only activity in which I was bulletproof. My husband bought me an easel for Mother’s Day years ago and I began to SLOWLY put paint on canvas. In the beginning, it was most daunting just to look upon that glaringly blank canvas. I started (and have stayed) with oil paints and I remember being so afraid to just simply start the process. I began on a small canvas and I reworked and reworked whatever was in my mind so many times that I finally scraped everything off the canvas…and guess what…that was when it clicked for me. The beauty of oil paint is that it takes so long to dry that you can always start over. I did eventually finish and frame that piece and little by little it got easier for me to just relax and remember how cathartic and relaxing this art form can be.

I initially painted in our bedroom – but my canvases got bigger and bigger. My father helped me create a studio in the garage and then it was really GAME ON. I would paint on literally anything that was available…mirrors, wood shelving, panes of glass, old framed prints, bulletin boards and of course canvas. It got to the point that the studio was so filled with artwork that my father said to me: “Kid, whatcha gonna do with all this?” My response: “I don’t know Dad…why don’t you get on that.”

And a week later, bless my father’s heart, I was meeting with the art buyer from the Rancho Bernardo Inn! Kristen Mingert came to the house and she decided I would be the ONE local artist she would highlight for their Fall Art Show. I will NEVER forget the feeling I had when she pulled out of the driveway. I burst into tears of joy and felt a happiness that I’d not known before. The cool thing about being bulletproof is that it literally does not matter if someone likes or dislikes my art…as long as I like it. Don’t get me wrong – it takes a lot of do-overs before I like some of my pieces – but when I do…it’s just the coolest experience.

I am most proud of the fact that I am getting out of my own way and actively putting my art out there for people to see. It’s a big moment when you decide what it is in this world you would like to spend your time doing…and for me, well this is it!

I believe that there is an artist in every single person if they are able to explore that side of themselves. I was encouraged by an amazing artist to “just get some paint under my nails”…and here I am, self-taught and still exploring. Art is a soulful thing…something that everyone has…and that aspect cannot necessarily be taught. As my father has always said: “Life is not a dress rehearsal”…so let’s enjoy every second of every minute of every day…and most importantly, get out of your head and follow your heart’s desire!

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I am a mother of triplets, two boys and a girl – and they are my best critics. When the kids were three years old, Jimmy was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy – a lethal muscle wasting disease that still has no cure. The specialist looked us in the eye and said, “Enjoy the time you have with your son.” My husband is a neuroscientist and began researching every avenue of hope conceivable. We were accepted into a clinical trial at UC Davis and thus began the weekly flights from San Diego to Sacramento, and the 4-day annual intensive DMD visits to Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati, and the constant local visits to Rady’s Children’s Hospital and physical therapy. In short, Jimmy and I spend a lot of time in hospitals. Flash forward to one of the myriad hospital visits – Jimmy says to me, “Mom, your paintings are so much happier than these on the walls…you should tell them to use yours.” We began to take notice of each doctor’s office each waiting room, and I agreed that my work may brighten up a mood but I had no idea how to tackle such a thing. Except I knew that I just needed to keep painting.

My art is an extension of me and what I think or worry about or am happy or sad about…and I think that emotion is transferable to everyone. The stress of life always seemed to dissipate once I got my emotions out of me and onto a surface of some sort. It was, and still is, a cathartic experience. I love abstract art! I believe in the power of color and texture; that they are emotional and transformative. Abstract art is purposely personal – to the artist and the viewer – wherein your heart, mind and life experiences determine what you see and how you feel about the artwork.

Nature is a big theme in my work…oceans and trees, the color of seasons. There is something very calming, daunting, scary, beautiful about the nature of these two subjects. It’s all about perspective. The wave is coming …but maybe it will be the one to wash away all “the bad.” The forest is dense – but wait…is that a clearing ahead? Art is important in every sector of our lives – but I feel it can be most welcomed when we are at our most uncertain or when we are at our most thankful…or perhaps especially so when we are in the “in between.”

My first solo exhibit “Double Exposure” at the Escondido Arts Partnership Expressions Gallery (January 8-28, 2022) has been supremely rewarding. I am so humbled and excited to have sold over 40 percent of the “Double Exposure” series during the run of the show. A few years back, my business manager Kim Hutson de Belle was helping me get through a creative block and decided the painting in question just needed a different frame. I tend to paint on glass – salvaging old framed prints at the resale shops – and then creating new works of art over old. It was quite a realization when Kim took the back off of the framed glass and showed me the OTHER side which revealed a uniquely cool abstract image. We then started to take the backings off of other finished works and low and behold…the birth of my “Double Exposure” series. I am always surprised by the calming twin image on the reflective side of the chunky chaotic sister side of each piece. And I am so very grateful to those who support my art and enjoy it in their homes and workspaces. It really does “take a village” and I am blessed with an amazing creative support team: Jen Gladheim Photography, Vern Elmore at Citrus Frame Shop, and J.S. de Belle, design and production guru at CB4 Creative Collective. Getting outta my own way is truly inspiring!

Cathy is a member of the Escondido Arts Partnership, Escondido Arts Association, and CB4 Creative Collective.

What do you like best about our city? What do you like least?
I love everything about San Diego! I love that I can live in the hills with roadrunners and coyotes and still get to the ocean in 30 minutes. I love the diversity of people and their different professions from agriculture, to biotech, to art…everyone has a distinct experience and story. I love walking down Cedros in Solana Beach and browsing in so many amazing shops and galleries. I love the “chill” of San Diego. I remember coming back from producing a job in NYC and as I was driving up High Valley Road to our house I unconsciously exhaled long and audibly. I can really breathe here, I realized. San Diego County calms me and makes me appreciate every little thing in life that much more.

Contact Info:

  • Email: cathycooperscott@mac.com (Artistic Inquiries)
  • Email: khdebelle@yahoo.com (CB4 Creative Collective-Business Inquiries)
  • Website: https://www.ccsartgallery.org

Image Credits
Jen Gladheim Photography

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