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Meet Cole Case

Today we’d like to introduce you to Cole Case.

Cole, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
As long as I can remember, I was always the kid who could draw bugs, cars, planes – all the things that visually interested a young boy growing up in California in the mid-1960s. My mother was a big early influence, taking me and my sister to galleries and museums much more so than the other families we knew. I learned how to draw cartoons by copying Charles Schulz’ Peanuts characters, and I primarily drew cartoons until I was in high school. I was lucky to have had a hugely supportive and brilliant art teacher in high school named Lyle Suter, who seriously expanded my knowledge and skillsets to include fine art as well as pop culture.

When I was about to go off to college, my rebellious teen self thought that everyone just expected that I would be a professional cartoonist — so I decided “I’ll show THEM”, became an English lit major instead and played in rock and punk bands with the goal of being a musician.

I then proceeded to wander in the desert like an idiot for the next 14 years before experiencing the epiphany that would lead me back to my origins in drawing and painting and return me to college, this time to art school.

The teachers and fellow students at ArtCenter completely transformed who I was and what I do forever. I have been teaching there and at Cal State LA and Cal State Long Beach ever since. Becoming a teacher was not at all a part of my master career plan at the time, but the old cliche about learning more from your students than they learn from you is 100% true, and it is a pleasure and a huge privilege to be a teacher. I am thankful for it every day. In every class demo and lecture, I try to be like Mr. Suter from high school.

I have also been fortunate to show with two fantastic galleries, first with Cliff Benjamin and Erin Kermanikian at Western Project and then with Eva Chimento at Chimento Contemporary. My relationships with them as well as with the artists they represented were as important to my development as an artist as my academic career has been.

It has definitely been a journey, full of triumphs and tragedies as well as doubts and drudgery. In those ways, it is an ongoing story like all human lives are, whether they are artists or civilians. I am thankful that this story is still my work in progress. Art saved my life. Literally.

And now I still draw bugs, cars and planes (among other subjects). I will close with a quote from Albert Camus: “A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.”

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Absolutely not, but you can easily fall asleep on a smooth flat easy road. And crash LOL. The challenges keep us on our toes.

I am sure I am hardly the first of your interviewees to describe the financial difficulties that fine artists face. I am incredibly lucky to be able to squeak along on my teaching income, and that goes for many of my friends and colleagues as well. Getting gallery representation was also a blessing, it is so incredibly difficult for many people I know to get and hold onto those relationships.

COVID-19 is presenting a whole new battery of challenges, it is still too soon yet to tell how damaging the disease will be to our small corner of the cultural world.

Please tell us more about your art.
I draw and paint from observation, preferably from life but lately, I have had to rely sometimes on photos due to COVID-19. It isn’t as satisfying but it is safer under certain circumstances. I do not do portraits. I paint landscapes, still lifes, the moon, birds — and airplanes, bugs and cars 🙂

Contact Info:

  • Website:
  • Phone: 13109892653
  • Email:
  • Instagram: @colelcase
  • Facebook: colelcase

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1 Comment

  1. Ronald Ostrin

    January 15, 2021 at 19:13

    Cole Case is the Chagall or Monet of our time and place. Cole’s work is based on his perception filtered through his eyes, heart and brain. It documents our time and place by taking the commonplace and vacant spaces and like the Lascaux Cave Paintings declare we were here. It memorializes with an artist’s hand and heart the specialness of our existence. Like Hockney or Hopper a Cole Case painting is instantly recognizable and he is an under known treasure of California painters. As David Pagel of the L A Times wrote “Case handles paint like nobody’s business…he makes everyday reality seem to glow.”

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