Interview of Erin Cookson by Freya Bennett
Tell us a bit about yourself, Erin!
I am a Melbourne based artist with a Fine Arts Degree in Printmaking from R.M.I.T. I have had an international upbringing, spending most of my adolescence in Brunei Darussalam and traveling around South East Asia. My Dad is from Oregon USA and my Mum is from Northern Ireland, I had a pretty open minded childhood, traveling and learning about the world from a very young age.
Now based in Melbourne, I still get to experience all the wonderful cultures of the world and live in a place that has beautiful and diverse landscapes. I live in the Diamond Valley with my husband and two cats, Odin and Gertrude.
How did you get started in art? What’s your favourite thing about it?
My Dad is an artist, a ceramist, so my life has always been filled with art. Drawing was a daily activity for me ever since I was a little girl. Throughout high school, art classes were always my focus and I have always loved to make things. Paintings, sculpture, furniture, clothing, cakes, etc. Making things makes me happy.
There is something gratifying when you hold up an object or image that you have worked hard on. A feeling of accomplishment. I may not have changed out of my pajamas all day but I finished a painting!
I love talking with people at the markets I go to about my work. It’s always amazing to hear what others see in my landscapes. People bring their own histories and ideals to everything they see and it’s fascinating to hear someone tell a story they see in my artwork that I hadn’t see before. It’s like each time a new person tells me a story about what they see in my art it adds another layer of meaning to the artwork.
Tell us a little bit about your landscape pieces.
I start with watercolour paint. It can take a while to lay down all the layers of the mountains as I wait for each colour to dry before painting the next on top. If it’s raining or there is a lot of moisture in the air this can take a few days.
Once I’m comfortable with the base of the landscape I start to work over the watercolour paint with pencil creating patterns. I usually use pencil as it gives a textured quality to the lines of pattern rather than the clean lines that are formed with ink.
My printmaking background has helped me turn my paintings into limited edition Giclée prints. Giclée prints are a high quality digital print, printed on a pigment printer with archival inks. I add a hand stamped chappa and signature to each print before packing them into plastic pockets or frames.
What inspired you to create beautiful landscapes?
Mountains and hills have strongly influenced my life as a nomadic child, and they still have a powerful pull over my creative ideals. Both as a meditative retreat and as subject matter. The decision to move to the Diamond Valley had a lot to do with the accessibility to the mountains and all the green bushland.
I like to think of my landscapes as having a meditative quality and each painting is an amalgamation of memories of my travels.
I enjoy the idea of the Sacred Mountain and the symbolic aspect of the peak of a mountain, which is often, in many cultures, believed to be the closest point to heaven or the stars.
You have a very specific palate, why do you choose to work more with blue tones?
The act of painting for me is a very meditative experience and the colours I use tend to reflect that. I am also an early bird and love to watch the sun rise over the horizon. One of my favorite moments is before the sun rises and the landscape is flooded with the soft blue light of predawn. These blues, greys and purples tend to find their ways into a lot of my work.
There is a psychology to the colour of blue. Blue is a very soothing colour. Strong blues will stimulate clear thought and lighter, soft blues will calm the mind and aid concentration. The tones of blue I tend to use are calming. I once had a lady describe one of my works by saying “it looks as if you could float away into the image”.
List five things in life that fascinate you.
Plants: grow all the things!
Light: pre-dawn light is a big fave
Patterns patterns patterns
That there are millions of people all around the world living their own individual lives that I will never truly understand.
If you could tell your 15-year-old self something, what would it be?
Don’t look at what other people are doing. Focus on what you love and enjoy doing and don’t worry about pleasing other people.