Melinda Cootsona – Artist Interview
Bridge (2011), Oil on canvas, 24 x 24 in.
Northern California artist Melinda Cootsona caught my eye this past Spring at the San Francisco Art Fair as part of The Studio Shop exhibit at the Fair. EIL writer Michael Accorsi recently caught up with Melinda in an interview.
MA: Tell us about your studio. Where do you do most of your work? What would you say is the best modification or change you have made to your studio over the years?
Melinda Cootsona: My studio is my two-car garage at my home. There are pros and cons to having your studio at your house, but, for me, the pros out way the distractions. Now that I focus on figurative and abstract I do most of my work in the studio, unless it’s a really nice day and then I may paint outside. Insulating my studio made a huge difference. Not particularly romantic artistically, but very practical! I also had two large windows installed when we first moved in.
MA: What subjects do you enjoy covering the most? What are some of your plans for upcoming work?
Melinda Cootsona: I painted landscapes and still lives for twenty years and then I just couldn’t paint one more eucalyptus or oak tree. I now focus on figurative and abstract work, although I still have fun with a good still life every now and then. My upcoming work is getting larger, but the subject matter is the same. Although I’m known for my color work, I’d like to produce some paintings with dominant neutrals. This is a challenge for me because I always want to “spice things up” with splashes of color.
Seaglass (2011), Oil on canvas, 24 x 24 in.
MA: Your clean use of lines, angles, and composition is fantastic. It almost seems geometric as it creates depth in your paintings. Talk to us a little bit about your style and how you approach painting a subject.
Melinda Cootsona: Thank you! My BA was in Architectural Interior Design and I tend to like linear forms. Most likely the visual cues go back to years of drafting and creating “architectural shapes.”
All of my paintings begin as an abstract. I paint shapes, lines, patterns and various colors over each canvas. I call them my “graffiti marks.” I repeat this abstract layering approximately five or six times before I even begin to think about what the “subject matter” might be. These layers create a rich history to each painting.
I then decide to work with a figure or to keep the painting an abstract. My figures come from photographs or sketches of live models. I constantly pay attention to the canvas while I work, basically looking for directions and answers. You have to be able to sacrifice any part of the painting at any time. As Diebenkorn said, “Use and respond to the initial fresh qualities but consider them absolutely expendable.”
Holly (2011), Oil on canvas, 36 x 42 in.
MA: What is one tool in your studio (perhaps unusual/handmade) that you can’t live without?
Melinda Cootsona: The “Colour Shaper” and a shower squeegee. They are basically rubber tools that take paint off really well. You can also draw into wet paint with a Colour Shaper. They are kind of hard to find in large sizes, which is unfortunate because every oil painter should have several. I also use oil based Sharpies to get the black “sketch” line in some of my work. (OK, I know that’s more than one).
MA: Which artistic influences do you reference from the most?
Melinda Cootsona: The Bay Area Figurative movement, in particular Richard Diebenkorn and David Park. The Society of Six (early California landscape painters who were influenced by the Fauves). Linda Christensen who is one of the best figurative painters working today. Dan McCaw, Ray Turner and William Rushton for their amazing brushwork and paint application. Kim Froshin for her color work and endless creativity. I’d better stop there because I could go on for a few paragraphs.
Deja Vu (2011), Oil on canvas, 24 x 24 in.
MA: Where can interested collectors see and purchase you work?