About - Jill Thirza Cooper

Photo by Gracie Hagen

Photo by Gracie Hagen

Hey there! I’m Jill Cooper, an architect/set designer gone to the art-side! After years of working on projects that require structure and inhabit a particular space, I now explore deep color, flowing movement, and open swaths on canvas. Color and movement were always present in the design of my built forms but as a painter I am constantly drawn to the expansive, ever changing vistas of the sea and sky.

My journey to paint the sea…

Water figured prominently in my formative years. I grew up in a tiny fishing village on the coast of Newfoundland.  As a kid I spent my summers as a Sea Cadet on the water in Nova Scotia, and became a lifeguard/swimming instructor in my teens.

Then, I spent a LOT of years in university (B.Sc. in Computers, a Bachelor and Masters degrees in Architecture.) It was there that I stumbled onto painting. I started with small scale gouache on paper, using melting, swirling colors as an escape from the rigors and technical requirements of school. Painting took a back seat after graduation and a move to Toronto. I spent an awesome, crazy-busy, fifteen years working as a set designer with some of the best and brightest in Canadian Television. (For a peek at a snazzy video about the design and build of my Daily Planet set on the Discovery Channel a few years back, check out http://jillcooperdesign.blogspot.com ).

Life changed again when I met a very talented writer from Chicago at the World Horror Convention in Toronto!  It didn’t take long to fall in love with Jude Mire and his two awesome daughters, and be spirited away to Chicago. In a couple of years we formed a custom frame shop/gallery, AND a third daughter! It was after the birth of the baby and the business that I finally found my way back to painting. In desperate need of a creative outlet that was also some solo time, I carved out a few hours in the back of our shop to start slapping some paints around. This time it was acrylics and canvas and let myself happily jump around wherever my brush led me. My saturated color abstracts evolved into seascapes and I started to study some of the sea painting greats, like Turner and Aivazovsky. Moving into liquid landscapes, like where I grew up, was a natural progression.

My first year of acrylics produced the twenty pieces that comprised my first gallery show; A Slice of Undertow. A combination of pure abstracts and water themed studies, called “Ode to the Masters”. (All but one of the Masters series has sold.)  I have since moved to even larger canvases and water soluble oils (which I love – handles like “buttah” on the brush). My first years of painting were largely related to exploring technique and mediums. Now, while I continue to develop my painting chops, I have the desire to express more than layers of clouds and waves. It is important to me to create something captivating, that strikes a chord, captures a moment, even if it is just the evocation of wonder and beauty in the natural environment, looking beyond the built form into the skies, the seas, the heavens.

Beyond the seas…

A couple of summers ago, my family and I took a giant plunge to forge another home back in Canada, on the coast of Nova Scotia. We spend our time straddling these two adjacent, but surprisingly different countries. It has been hard for me to reconcile my innate desire to create “pretty” paintings while concerned not only with the political instability of the nation of half my family and friends, but with global climate uncertainty.

My husband, the writer, who is much better at introspection and articulating such things, once declared that I am, as he is, an “egalitarian futurist”. I have tumbled this phrase around in my brain many times since then. I have always believed that all humans should have equal rights in a safe, healthy space on this planet as long as as we don’t go around trying to infringe our crazy shit on someone else. Or something like that. “Egalitarian futurist” sounds better! With that in mind, I have been working on a variety of painting series’ that bridge my love of rendering of water and sky with the pull of my outrage over of inequality and oppression. “Her Steady Horizon” and “Seeing Through the Smoke” were the first two in that vein. And because I need levity I also completed my #50quickies series, posted on instagram, last year to celebrate my 50 whole years here on the planet!

To see my painting life in action, check out my instagram and Facebook pages. 

NOW, to go get my paint on! xo, j