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Meet Shari Cookson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shari Cookson.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
Just after the 2016 election, I was walking down my street in a kind of fog when I fell into a pothole and broke my leg. For the next six months I sat on my couch, watching cable news and getting riled up about the political situation. The need for some kind of outlet became clear, but hobbled as I was I wouldn’t be taking to the streets in protest. I started drawing pictures that I titled, “The Unrequited Voter,” which I posted on social media. I drew them on my iPad with my fingers, so I hardly needed to move. I had no idea what I was doing, but I couldn’t stop. This new passion kept growing and soon led me out of my political funk and into happy explorations of shape, color, composition and feeling. Truth is, I never thought I could draw more than a stick figure so each painting brought a sense of wonderment. I’ve had my share of creative experiences as a documentary filmmaker, but to work in this new medium as an artist is quite honestly thrilling and a road I might never have traveled if not for that pothole.

Please tell us about your art.
I’m inspired by the intersection of perception and creativity. As a documentary filmmaker, I’m keenly interested in capturing an authentic moment, and when I paint I tend to search for a moment. What I love about the painted moment is the added layer of creative interpretation. I paint digitally on an iPad Pro because it allows me to experiment and refine my ideas. Sometimes I mix in pieces from photographs or create layers of paintings, often in abstract and deconstructed ways. For example, a photo of a garden poppy might set the color palette and also add shape and texture to a portrait. I enjoy the fluid journey of a painting and sometimes I’m quite surprised at the result. I prefer to paint with my finger because of the direct contact with the canvas. I like telling stories that touch upon diversity and humanity. I consider myself an expressionist and favor intimate depictions with an emotive quality and unexpected juxtaposition.

Do you have any advice for other artists? Any lessons you wished you learned earlier?
I’ve learned that there are many ways to express creative ideas. You can translate artistic language into different mediums and grow as an artist as you do. I think filmmaking has influenced my paintings. I also think painting has influenced by filmmaking. The challenge of physically putting an image onto the canvas has given me a new understanding of how to pursue what I see and feel. I’m glad I live in a time of digital platforms because it emboldens me to try things. For me, painting digitally is akin writing on a computer versus on a typewriter. You can start before you know the linear progression and for my particular brain this works better than staring at the proverbial blank page. It’s not always easy to trust the creative process and go wherever it takes you. For me, every creative venture seems to center on conveying something authentic. Authentic expression is compelling and powerful in any artistic medium.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
I post my art on social media: Instagram, Twitter and Facebook as well as on my website. These sites feel like little galleries and I like the sense of accomplishment that comes from displaying my artwork in a public space. I’ve not yet had an exhibition, which would be wonderful—kind of like a film premier for paintings. And I haven’t tried to sell anything. Maybe that will be the next step. Right now, I’m caught up in the art. I finish one painting and start on another. There’s so much I want to explore and discover about the medium and I find myself marveling that I can do it on my own—I don’t need a production team or funding, I’m not constrained by outside forces. So from a purely creative perspective, it’s been quite liberating.

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