Tucson Festival of Books Recap – Floyd Cooper

Those of you who know me, know that I love going to panel discussions and presentations where artists and authors talk about their craft and their passion. While listening I tend to take copious notes which I often refer back to as time goes on. These are great resources for me but I tend to keep them to myself. I will endeavor to share some of my notes that I took at the Tucson Festival of Books so that those that did not get a chance to attend can see how incredible some of the programs were.
One of the amazing presenters this year was Floyd Cooper. He is the author and illustrator of over 95 books and has won countless awards including a Coretta Scott King Award for his illustrations in The Blacker the Berry and a Coretta Scott King Honor for his illustrations in Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea and I Have Heard of a Land just to name a few.
Mr. Cooper was on a number of panels but the one I enjoyed most of all was his studio demonstration where he stepped us through his technique. He mentioned that people sometimes confuse his technique with pastels because his artwork has a beautiful grainy texture. He refers to his techniques as “subtractive” or “erasing” and I was quite amazed at the process. In order for us to gain a better understanding of how he creates, Mr. Cooper provided us with materials in order to create alongside him.
Mr. Cooper uses Bainbridge Illustration board which has a wonderful surface texture. After fixing the surface he applies a thin layer of burnt umber oil paint mixed with brush cleaner. He has about a six hour open time for him to be able to work the surface before it dries. His painting tool is a knead-able rubber to lift of the paint. I had never seen this technique before and was enthralled with how easily he was able to pull off the paint and create a portrait simply by breaking his image down into the most basic shapes.

He even stepped us through, shape by shape, how to create a face. My attempts were rather feeble compared to his practiced hands.
Mr. Cooper finds this way of working to be very freeing. If he makes a mistake, he simple applies another layer of paint. It was amazing how he simply started working at the surface without any previous sketching. He indicated that at times he may use an orange Prismacolor pencil in order to lay down his composition, but for the most part he simply starts subtracting the paint away. Almost like two dimensional sculpting. It was amazing to watch how easily he creates stunning images. He feels that over-sketching zaps the energy of a piece.
If you have ever looked a one of Floyd Cooper’s illustrations, you will know the incredible detail that he adds to his images. To see some of the original artwork up close was incredible inspiring. To top it all off, Mr. Cooper, is incredible down to earth and a really nice guys to boot. Thank you for a most amazing experience.
You can find more information about Mr. Cooper on his website which will be operational soon. www.floydcooper.com
Check back for more recaps on some of the panels and presentations.
Happy creating to you.

3 Responses to “Tucson Festival of Books Recap – Floyd Cooper”

  1. Yvonne Mes

    Thanks for sharing your notes and videos Tanja. I was not familiar with Floyd Cooper’s work before (blush), I am fascinated by his technique. Wonderful.

  2. Sylvia Liu

    What a great post. Thanks for sharing this great technique. I need paintings that practically paint themselves! What a treat it must have been to meet and see Floyd Cooper work.

  3. julie rowan zoch

    Fantastisch, Tanja! It’s always amazing to see HOW other artwork is created. I look in every picture book for the materials used, and once in a blue moon an artist shares more of the process there. Maybe we could start such a sharing process in our fb12ex12 crit group! Thanks for sharing this!


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