#Lives of Artists…With Eileen Cooper

What time do you wake up?
Anytime from 6.00am…hopefully not before!

What do you eat for breakfast?
Variety is the spice of life, so all the usual, breakfast gets postponed till after the dog has been walked.

Describe where you produce your work, and why you chose that space?
Over the years I have developed a few workspaces. At home my painting studio and a separate small drawing studio, plus a flexible print space purpose built on the back of the house where I have an Albion press. I’m very committed to working from home, but this became a necessary choice when I found I was pregnant with our first child 36 years ago.
I also share a print studio with a friend nearby, we set it up 20 years ago and bought an etching press, aquatint box etc. We bought a stone litho press as well a few years ago…we’re still waiting to set it up.

Do you have a particular daily routine that helps you work?
I try to get domestic stuff sorted and the admin out of the way, then I’m bored and very keen to get creative. I listen to music and the radio.

Where do you go for your creative sparks?
Other art and films, the natural world, the body, museums, books.

What are you currently working on?
I always have a few prints on the go, linocut, woodcut or etching (sometimes all 3). I spend a long time colour proofing and it can be quite slow, often I put things to one side and come back to them later (it can be even take a year or two). At present I’m also working on small oil paintings, I find small oils difficult, but I like the challenge and so far so good.

What do you do when you need to reset your mind?
Pilates, I’ve been doing it for almost 20 years. Reading. A walk in the park.

Who was your most important mentor or inspiration?
I never had a mentor but I’ve had brilliant teachers from school and art school. I think I’m part of a privileged generation, I was supported by the state during my studies.
I get inspiration from photography, childhood stories, cartoons, books, films, art history, folk art and art from different cultures. I am also hugely inspired by materials and processes, engaging in making. Teaching art students was always inspirational, I’m sure I learnt something each day from my students.

Who do you speak to when you need a second opinion or who gives the best feedback?
When I’m painting, my eldest son is pretty good, he’s an animator, but he’s not around all the time. For printmaking it’s my friend, artist Sara Lee, who has been part of my printmaking process since the mid 1980’s.

What’s the best advice you have ever been given?
One tutor at college asked, ‘What about the background?’, which helped me to consider every part of a canvas. I also believe ‘What goes around comes around’ but I can’t remember who first said that to me.

If you weren’t an artist what would you do?
In my fantasy, maybe a dancer or writer, I’m much too old now of course. Careers advice to me in school 1969 was to consider hairdressing!

How do you switch off from work in the evening?
Dinner, TV and reading in bed.

What book are you reading right now?
Two novels on my kindle, I am just finishing Slow Horses by Mick Herron and starting The Familiars by Stacey Halls.

Who is the other artist working today that you most admire?
I can’t choose one! Paula Rego, Cindy Sherman, Chantal Joffe, Marlene Dumas, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Marina Abramovic.

If you could have lunch with any artist from across time, who would it be and why?
Picasso, he’s been a major source for me since I was 20 years old.

What are you most proud of in your career?
I don’t really allow myself to feel proud, I’m always hoping to keep developing creatively, always looking forward, I find it difficult to look back.

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