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Carylon Ann Cooper, The Spirited Artist

Updated: Apr 12, 2022

(Photo Credit: Ballard Designs)

In my opinion, Carylon Ann Cooper creates some of the most joyous pieces in our gallery’s collection. The energy and emotion that emits from her bounding, panting dogs always brings a smile to everyone’s faces. Her cows and horses are endearing. Her boats: peaceful. Barns: nostalgic.

She describes her self as a minimalist. I’m guessing this is because she doesn’t fixate on minute details. Rather, I imagine, she paints with more explosive energy, allowing her to create these forms on a larger scale. She concentrates on the overall energy of the composition, making intentional and well placed marks but leaving the details to the viewer. So, I see this different than minimalism; her art is more than just the physical collection of colors and lines.

Her pieces keep my brain working and my heart thumping.

Obviously, being great Carylon Ann Cooper enthusiasts, we wanted to dedicate our next Artist Spotlight to her and her work.

Please enjoy reading the interview that she did a few years ago, but is still completely valid to her process and current portfolio today.

You can check out more of her blog (which, by the way, is totally uplifting and inspirational) at her website,

Tell us a little about yourself and your path to becoming an artist.

“In the fourth grade my teacher told me I was going to be an artist, and I just took her word for it. That’s why I went to college to study art. My focus was in Italian printmaking, and I continued that after college until a gallery owner in Atlanta told me she loved my work but that her clients wanted larger pieces. The press bed will only accommodate certain sizes, so she suggested I start painting large pieces on canvas. It turned out I loved painting large-scale. That was at least 20 years ago.”

And the rest is history?

“Not exactly! I took a 20-year sabbatical to raise a family. We had four children — and now I have 11 grandchildren — and I didn’t try to do art during that time. I just kind of put it on the shelf. I got into the fitness industry and developed a fitness center here in Chattanooga, because that was something I could do with the kids. Once the kids were settled, I got back into art. (BD Editor’s note: Carylon received the Governor’s award for physical fitness for raising awareness of the need for fitness programs in Chattanooga.)

How would you describe your art?

“Minimalist. I keep it in the back of mind always to identify the essential and eliminate everything else. Typically, I start with a particular form, which I refer to as an icon. I use icons in my work, and it’s actually how my art is divided on my website: Figurative, Boats and Water, Still Life, Cows, and Hounds and Horses.

Boats is one of your popular series. Can you explain the significance of this icon?

“The boat is an icon for surrender, peace, stillness and rest. You have to get into that boat, but once you’ve entered it, everything you need for a moment in time is inside that boat. The headmaster of the Baylor School here in Chattanooga wrote a book and he used to say, ‘I love a boat. A boat is small enough to create an order, one that is complete and satisfying even though the rest of your life is in chaos.’ I really identify with that.”

So starting from an icon that is representative of an idea is what inspires your work?

“Absolutely. Each one of these icons is about getting down to the essence of an emotion, a memory or a thing. Trying desperately to put a thought with an image in the most simplified, honest way that I can. I totally appreciate people who give lots and lots of detail to their work, but that’s not who I am. I paint with big brushes and I paint really quickly. My husband says I paint like the studio is burning down. I have more energy than I know what do with. And I think sometimes that comes across on the canvas, but hopefully it comes across in an uncluttered, simple way.”

As you said, your boat scenes exude a certain quietude, not unlike your cows. So…why cows?

“While we raised our children we lived on a city farm that’s actually just two miles from downtown Chattanooga where we had cows, horses and chickens on 20 acres. We lived there for 30 years. I’ve always loved cows. It’s their strength and their calmness. They’re also gentle, quiet and humble. I also love to paint horses, but they are intimidating. Horses know more than I do. Cows do not!”