Brushstrokes: Getting to know CoCo Landscape Artist, Deidre T.

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“A full childhood spent outdoors in nature, especially by the water, has filled my mind with imagery and understanding of my favorite subject matter: the landscape. Using varied brushwork, color relationships, line, and compositional movement, I love to share my vision of beauty through my art.”

Plum Island, Triptych

Plum Island, Triptych

The newest addition to the CoCo Artist family is Deidre T., who has been painting landscapes for over 30 years. She was born and raised in New England, where the beauty of her surroundings has been a huge influence in the depth and vibrancy of her work.

Down on the Marshlands

Down on the Marshlands

Private collectors from around the world have purchased her paintings. The magical realism of Deidre’s works have appealed to so many individuals, especially those looking to commission a setting that has emotional relevance: an unforgettable vacation spot, the site of an engagement, or the backdrop of a wedding ceremony.

Encircled on the Edge

Encircled on the Edge

Deidre’s work is priced at an accessible range, where a 36” X 36” canvas size would run just under $5000. To learn more about Deidre T’s work and other landscape artists, contact your CoCo Consultant.

Artist Feature: CoCo Artist Stephen B. -- Studio Fire Reduces Lifetime's Work to Ashes

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Today, we’d like to focus on one of the first artists to join the CoCo Gallery network, Stephen B. His larger than life portraits have been made into United Nations stamps, rightfully so, as he has put a lifetime of effort into traveling the world and raising awareness of the beauty and nuances of indigenous populations through his art. His mission is to preserve and celebrate the world’s diversity through a unique style of realism using interpretive color.

Welcome to Beswick , acrylic on canvas

Welcome to Beswick, acrylic on canvas

Sadly, 45 large portraits and his life’s work, were lost in a recent studio fire while Stephen was away on a painting trip in Indonesia. We spotlight Stephen today to raise awareness of his unique talent and also to promote his work. CoCo Gallery is proud to offer commissions from Stephen at a 50% discount. In addition, we can provide clients with a tax-deductible receipt, as the proceeds from sales will go towards his nonprofit, Faces of the World.

This painting and more were lost in the fire.

This painting and more were lost in the fire.

From an early age, Stephen had a strong fascination for the human face. Despite being an incredibly versatile artist, Stephen settled into portrait painting fairly quickly, coining a colorful style that artists in various corners of the world have tried to replicate. Over the last 20 years, Stephen traveled to over 30 countries, seeking out often marginalized ethnic groups and highlighting their facial features and ritual adornments at a grand scale. The most celebrated of his portraits were around 7 feet tall and spanning 5 feet in width, with every wrinkle, dimple, and sunspot boldly and proudly showing through. Young, old, joyful and withered faces populate these vibrant canvases, highlighting so many ethnic populations.

Beach Baby,  acrylic on canvas

Beach Baby, acrylic on canvas

Stephen also does portraits in other styles: abstract, more neutral in color, and black and white, in order to appeal to the mainstream’s preferences at times. He is equally talented in those genres, particularly in capturing the realism of the human eye, inviting the viewer to experience a oneness within all humanity.

Commission:  Roland’s Grandkids

Commission: Roland’s Grandkids

We hope that you’ll join us in supporting CoCo Artist Stephen B., by commissioning a unique portrait that you’ll cherish forever.

Commission:  Simon and Matt

Commission: Simon and Matt

6 Ideas for Wedding-related Custom Paintings

It’s the most momentous of occasions that prompt us to think about the fleeting nature of time and how to capture them in our memories forever.  Commissioned paintings can be an amazing way to not only freeze a special moment but to also re-experience the emotions that came with it. Whether it’s as a gift or to indulge yourself, and whether it’s a pre-wedding commission to display at the event or a post-wedding painting to place in a first home, an upcoming wedding conjures numerous ideas for custom art.  Here are just 6 to get those creative juices flowing!


CoCo Artist Holli M.

CoCo Artist Holli M.

1.  The Dress

Plenty of people save their wedding dresses as a memento of the special day, but it usually ends up in a bag in the attic somewhere. A painting of your dress allows you to enjoy it every day, while adding a touch of glamour and sophistication to your interior.


CoCo Artist Jean J.

CoCo Artist Jean J.

2.  The Ceremony

A painting of the ceremony allows you to capture your wedding day exactly the way you imagined it.  Perhaps it’s based off of your professional photos, or maybe it’s a scene that didn’t get captured by the photographer.  Either way, it carries the feelings of the moment you thought was most important in declaring your love for each other.


CoCo Artist Brittany S.

CoCo Artist Brittany S.

3.  The Couple

This is always a classic choice. Your portraits could be from the first photo you took together, a shot during an engagement session, or a re-imagining of one of your wedding photos.  If it’s either of the first two, it could also serve as part of a fabulous display at your special event!


CoCo Artist Holli M.

CoCo Artist Holli M.

4.  The Jewelry

Commissions of rings, or of hands wearing them, is a beautiful way to commemorate one of the most potent symbols of commitment. If that’s not your speed, what about immortalizing that ‘something borrowed’ or a precious heirloom you wore on your wedding day?   


CoCo Artist Terry P.

CoCo Artist Terry P.

5.  The Honeymoon

The beautiful photos you took on your romantic getaway can be the perfect inspiration for a serene landscape, to be placed in a master bedroom. This commission can transport you back to that idyllic evening at an exotic location during a once in a lifetime trip together.


CoCo Artist: Toni S.

CoCo Artist: Toni S.

6.  The Cake

The cake was a work of art in and of itself, and just because you and your guests went to town on all 12 tiers doesn't mean you only want one evening to admire it!

For more ideas on your own wedding-related commission, brainstorm with a CoCo Consultant for free!


Inside the Artist's Studio: Donna L.'s Warehouse Workspace

CoCo Artist Donna L.’s studio is located in Long Island City (LIC), a stone’s throw away from Manhattan. The city’s skyline gleams from across the water, but feels a world away from LIC’s hushed industrial landscape now populated with warehouse-cum-artist studios.



Donna’s studio is located on the third floor of one of these warehouses. She meets me at the top of the elevator and leads me to her studio, past a community library where a mix of art books, cookbooks, and philosophical manifestos perch precariously on a bookshelf. Donna’s studio is strewn with art supplies. Brushes, stacks of papers, and boxes absorb the available surfaces. In the middle of the room is a folding table covered with newsprint. The beginnings and in-betweens of projects rest on the surface. Against one wall are stacks of pastel drawings of sky-scapes, seascapes and mountain-scapes. They are breathtaking in person, and seem to glow with a lit-from-within quality. I mention this to Donna and she smiles. “Yes, my real subject is light.” She’s not kidding. Despite the studio’s lack of windows, Donna’s radiant work gives the impression of a sunlit room. There’s a stack of metal drawers against another wall and she opens them one at a time to reveal a marvelous collection of works on paper. They are much smaller than the ones lounging against the walls, here lie entire horizons collapsed into the space of a business card.


CoCo: Why do you work in such dramatically different scales?

Donna: These little worlds are so much faster to finish than some of the larger ones, I like the immediacy. It helps to get an idea out quickly, and provides some relief from the larger pieces. Of course, the large ones provide something to focus on for a long time. I have really large ones too, works that are 40 x 60. I’ve noticed that the larger works have a softness to them that isn’t present in the smaller works, it’s interesting how scale can affect something like that.




CoCo: How do the images take shape. Do you use reference photos?

Donna: Yes, but not usually just one, I combine multiple photos and sample the elements that I like. Sometimes I make it up. I’ve done enough of these now to understand how the sky could look.



CoCo: Can you tell me more about your choice of materials? Why pastels and not oil paint or graphite?

Donna: I enjoy the way the pastels allow me to work in thin layers without a heavy build-up. When I work I’m able to wipe away the layers, thin them out, blend them with my fingers and shift things around easily. I usually do high-contrast black and white pieces, but I’ve recently started working with grayer tones. It doesn’t have the same wow factor, but there’s some subtlety there. It’s delicate. I worked on a whole series of black and white seascapes that I wiped down with tissues so you can see the black pigment give way to a warm, yellow-tinged undertone. That’s something you can only get with pastels. It’s also interesting to use a material that isn’t traditionally associated with this type of work. Pastels are usually associated with flowers or still-lifes. I also enjoy working with watercolor and collage. I’m hoping to explore more of that soon. I’m inspired by some of the early 20th century collages, Kurt Schwitters and the like.”



CoCo: How do the  white edges of your works stay so pristine?

Donna: I tape around the edge of where I want to image to go. This creates a clean line when I remove it and stops any powder from smudging on the white border. It’s funny in comparison to the rest of my studio, which isn’t exactly organized.

CoCo: What’s been one of your favorite commissions?

Donna: A man once commissioned a black and white seascape with a  pop of red. It was my second commission with this client. I know lots of artists who wouldn’t be open to working this way, but I don’t feel like that. To me, there’s always something to learn. Of course, I had my doubts about how it would turn out. Red, as a color, is not very see-through. It’s not particularly luminous. Red has a density to it, and so much of my work is about light. It was a struggle to find a shade of red that lit up. That’s the thing with commissions, they always push you.This one was very difficult, but I ended up loving the result and it influenced the works that I made after. There’s an ad on the subway for Westworld now that looks remarkably similar, I feel like a trendsetter.


CoCo: What drew you to this topic to light and atmosphere?

Donna: This is such a lame reason, but when I was younger we had this convertable and I was always obsessed with having the top down and lying the seat all the way back and staring up as the sky. Of course this was terribly unsafe, and I probably never had my seatbelt on correctly. But I’ve always loved the sky, there’s something very spiritual about it for me.



CoCo: What commission are you working on now?

Donna: I’m about to start working on one with rainbows. I can see this sparking a whole series. As much as my works is about light, I also want them to provide a refuge for the viewer to feel at peace.

The best time to buy travel art...after your trip?

Have you ever been on an international trip and wanted to buy a piece of art to bring back home?  Far too many travelers would love to bring home artwork that commemorates their trip but find it logistically impossible.

CoCo Artist Suhita S. depicts the Mayan ancient site Chichenitza in a watercolor.

CoCo Artist Suhita S. depicts the Mayan ancient site Chichenitza in a watercolor.


First, trips are often jam packed with site-seeing and experiences.  Finding the right gallery or researching a local artist and fitting a visit into your itinerary is usually impossible.  

CoCo Artist David P. depicts Mt. Rainier in a realistic way, but overlaid with pop-art dots.

CoCo Artist David P. depicts Mt. Rainier in a realistic way, but overlaid with pop-art dots.


Furthermore, carrying the work back home is also an issue -- either it’s too big to carry on, or you didn’t plan in advance by bringing another suitcase for check-in (who does?!).  With all the other knick-knacks that might be stuffed in your bags, it’s hard to justify a quick and uncertain art purchase among those.

CoCo Artist Teji K. captures a Bombay street scene with textured palette knife strokes in acrylics.

CoCo Artist Teji K. captures a Bombay street scene with textured palette knife strokes in acrylics.


Finally, as you emotionally escape daily life during your vacation, it can be hard to visualize where in your home this work would go, if it would fit within the color scheme or even the space available.  It’s not like we bring floor plans and color swatches with us on our vacations!

CoCo Artist Francis L. shows a serene safari scene of mother and child.

CoCo Artist Francis L. shows a serene safari scene of mother and child.


Once you are back, you can commemorate your trip with a commissioned work of art. Look through your photos and choose your most cherished memory; use it as the inspiration for your custom work of art.  You’ll be able to pick the perfect travel memory, spot in your home and the exact dimensions to fit the space.

Email us at if you want to brainstorm some options for travel art!


Commission Spotlight: Taj Lake Palace

Shilpa and Suhrid are world travelers.  Despite having two kids and busy professional lives, they have prioritized getting out of the country as a family as well as on their own.  It was only fitting, then, that Shilpa would want to gift Suhrid a painting of the trip where it all began for their 15th Anniversary –  the place where they got engaged.

Shilpa and Suhrid's living room, where the commission currently resides.

Shilpa and Suhrid's living room, where the commission currently resides.

When Shilpa first came to CoCo Gallery, she wasn’t entirely sure what she wanted, however.  She brainstormed a number of ideas with her CoCo Consultant, including a gallery wall of 10 watercolors that each represented one of their trips together.  While we had the perfect artist lined up to help her with this idea, some twists and turns led her to choose an impressionist rendition of the Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur, India…the breathtaking backdrop of where Suhrid had proposed.  The artist that could best do this was prominent in his field from India and just happens to be in our network: CoCo Artist Teji K.

The "Taj Lake Palace" commission: conceived by Shilpa, brought to life by CoCo Artist Teji K.

The "Taj Lake Palace" commission: conceived by Shilpa, brought to life by CoCo Artist Teji K.

The request

Shilpa found an image of the Taj Lake Palace online, as a sample representation of the 24” X 36” impressionist painting she wanted.  It was important to her that the painting primarily had blue and purple hues, to fit well with the interiors of their fully designed living room.  She also wanted to make sure there was a tiny indication of a couple having dinner on a pontoon near the palace, representative of their evening on that special day.

A sample of the blues and purples Shilpa wanted for the painting.

A sample of the blues and purples Shilpa wanted for the painting.

The living room where the painting will reside.

The living room where the painting will reside.

The initial sketch

Having a highly layered and textural style, Teji thought it would be best to sketch directly on the canvas and to adjust his work based on frequent feedback.  While the online image Shilpa found was more aerial in view, Teji chose to take a more head-on perspective of the palace.  He thought it would better represent a special event that happened there rather than to just highlight the stand-alone site.  Shilpa fully agreed, and Teji got to work with his acrylic paints soon after.

The online image of the palace that was used as a reference.

The online image of the palace that was used as a reference.

Check-ins and the final product

Within a few days, Teji had filled in the base of the work with paint.  At this point, he starts his unique spatula-technique, where he creates the impressionist look by layering paint using just a palette brush.  Once he uses the palette brush, he can change the colors of the painting but not the composition.  Shilpa was on board with the base of the painting, thus, Teji carried on.

The base of the painting, before the spatula technique.

The base of the painting, before the spatula technique.

Later check-ins were not as smooth as the earlier ones.  Shilpa’s primary feedback was that the painting looked “spooky” because of the number of shadows that were in the palace.  Teji took the feedback seriously – he brightened the painting a bit, and put lights into the corridors of the palace so that it looked less like a haunted house and more like an evening-lit palace.  With that, the painting was done.  Within three days of being fully dried, the Taj Lake Palace commission arrived from New Delhi, in pristine condition, rolled up in a tube, at Shilpa’s front door in Arlington, VA.

The "spooky" version

The "spooky" version

Inspirations: Interview with CoCo Design Partner, Gray Oak Studio


We found Gray Oak Studio on Instagram and have been loving their collaborative perspective on home decor.  Recently, the trio of designers shared with us their story, style, and own inspirations.  We hope you love this new, Massachusetts-based interior design company as much as we do!




CoCo: What inspired you to become a designer?  

Gray Oak: We were all settling into our own homes – Sonia built her home, Michele and Leah renovated their homes – and found ourselves constantly discussing tile and molding and paint colors. We’ve been friends for years and at some point over the last year we realized how similar minded (and passionate!) we are about home design. At first it was a running joke that we should start an interior design business and then, very organically, the dream became reality. Five months later, here we are!



CoCo: How would you describe the style of your work? 

Gray Oak: We don’t have one style. Between the three of us, we each favor a different style. Michele leans Farmhouse. Sonia leans Coastal. Leah leans Scandinavian. We take our different perspectives and work with clients to find the style that works for their lifestyle and feels like home.




CoCo: How important is art in your work? 

Gray Oak: Art is really important and people can be really afraid of it. It can be difficult and a bit intimidating to choose something you love that’s not commercial…from IKEA or HomeGoods. We try to help clients think of an area of their life that we can translate into art. Art is so personal that the most important thing is for the homeowner to love it and not worry about whether others do.




CoCo: How often do you recommend that a client commission a work of art, and why? 

Gray Oak: Often…if it’s in the clients means. And, we should take that back because commissioned art doesn’t always mean super expensive. What it really means is personal. Sometimes that’s hiring a well-established local artist, sometimes that’s finding a young art student whose ready for her first commissioned job or sometimes that’s finding a low key crafter at a local fair/festival. Can you tell we love local?


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CoCo: Describe one of your favorite clients.  What made it fun and productive to work with them? 

Gray Oak: One of our favorite clients, and favorite projects, was a homeowner who inherently trusted us. Right from the start she was deferential to our opinion, even if it diverged from her instincts. She understood that considering design elements in a vacuum was unproductive and, instead, considering the big picture was tantamount. She had opinions, of course, but she bravely gave us the green light to run with our vision.

Inside the Artist’s Studio: Our Visit to CoCo Artist Michael M.’s Workshop

CoCo Artist Michael M’s studio is almost a visual rush of personal experiences.  Everywhere you look is an example of collaborative commissions – with his team, Michael takes anything and everything and transforms it into fine art through a wax overlay.  Whether it be old clothes, ticket stubs, programs – literally anything – it becomes part and parcel of a mixed media artwork, such as a portrait of a child, a depiction of a pet, or a meaningful landscape.   Read on to learn more about the backdrop of this very personal and unique style of art.


Brooklyn, by Michael M.


CoCo: How would you describe your work?

Michael: I would classify my work as contemporary, at times bordering on pop-art.  More than anything the work is 100% process based.  As an artist I am extremely calculated and have every step of the process mapped out prior to production.  With great attention to detail I feel you provide the collector with a very finished product as well as a beautiful piece of fine art. 


Michael, as an artist, focuses solely on commissions now.

CoCo: You used to be in finance. Tell us how your life is different now.

Michael: Finance was always something that served as a means to an end but was never emotionally rewarding.  As so many people know, it is so easy to get caught up in the "Rat Race" and sometimes place what is truly important in life on the backburner.  By refocusing life on my two passions, art and family, I can honestly say that I feel an emotional success that I don't feel was possible in my past life.  

CoCo: Tell us about your space.  What about it works well with what you do?  

Michael: When my daughter Charlie was three years old, I asked her what I should name my studio and she very innocently said, "My Life."  This is a space that was created to do art...YES, but to do art and have the ability to be with my children.  It's through interactions with my children that my personal style and approach have evolved into something much deeper.  My Life studio does commissions now, focusing on creating a depth of emotion and memory to a fine art piece. It is extremely important that everyone that walks into this space, feels the connectivity as well as the innocence that this studio was so thoughtfully named.


Michael M.'s daughter, Charlie, aptly named his studio "My Life" and he has modeled the space as an area to both create art and interact with his children.

After a career in finance, Michael M. refocused his life on his two passions: art and family. 


CoCo: Do you have any personal “rituals” that help you with your work?

Michael: I wouldn't say that I have a particular ritual but I do try to draw inspiration from the materials at hand.  I will always have a few pieces going at any one time ranging from personal pieces for an exhibit or commissions.  After dinner and getting our girls to bed, I return to the studio at night in order to complete any unfinished tasks from that day.  It is often at that hour that I will take a step back and see what works-in-progress are screaming my name.  It's not the best thing for a good night sleep but I find myself focusing on that unfinished piece and come up with some really great solutions to be excited about first thing in the morning.

CoCo: What is the best part of what you do or the best part of your day?

Michael: I constantly find myself comparing my life now to what I was doing in the world of finance.  Before, my focus was on my clients and building a business.  I felt my priorities were completely upside down.  I now get to wake up to my amazing little girls, (sometimes) take our time getting to school and focus on our own little world.  After saying goodbye to my family, I get to head down to my art studio.  I could tell you that it's the ability to create what I love most about the studio, but its not.  My favorite part of the day, is when I open the door and turn on the lights.  My Life, is a great Life!


Feeling inspired? See more work by Michael M. below.

Commission Spotlight: Ganesha

Ganesha, by Laura S.


When Vijay and Kalyani bought their home near Los Angeles, they worked with a designer to make sure their own personal style came through their choice of furnishings.  They had a unique idea for a 70”X30” painting in their foyer, which had to be customized.  CoCo Gallery artist Laura S. teamed up with the couple and their designer to bring their vision to life.  Here’s how it all happened.


CoCo: What was the inspiration for your commission? 

Our wedding invitation had a very modern representation of the Hindu god Ganesha, who stands for new beginnings and good luck.  When we bought our new home, I thought that customizing a work of art around that special day in our life would be a great way to commemorate our space.  We immediately thought that the symbol of Ganesha, rendered precisely the way it was on our wedding invitation but on a large wooden panel, would be the perfect thing.

CoCo: Why did you choose that particular CoCo Artist?

We felt like the artist really understood what we wanted to achieve and how we wanted our end product to look like. She had even done some of her own research on the subject (about the significance of Ganesha in Hinduism) before we talked to her the first time. I knew she could deliver on our vision because she was so willing to work with us.  She also gave us some advice on colors that would work best and types of materials to use.

This digital rendering was done by the couple's designer and gave CoCo Artist, Laura S., an understanding of their vision.


CoCo: Were you nervous about anything going into commissioning? 

I think Laura understood us very well and made a huge effort to make us feel comfortable.  During our first Skype conversation, we took her on a tour of our home so that she understood our taste a little bit as well. During the sketching process, she even presented four mini-paintings with different background colors/textures so that she could better understand our preferences in this regard. In the end, the painting was even better than what I had expected it to be.


CoCo: What aspects of CoCo’s services were most valuable in your commission process?

CoCo Gallery was invaluable in helping us choose Laura as an artist.  We had originally liked the style of another artist, but our consultant suggested that this piece was less about style and more about technique since the artist had to use silver foil and we had a very clear vision for the painting.  She made it so easy to correspond with the artist, and she made sure that each side was being understood properly. All of that helped us feel extremely comfortable in the process.

The commission is now the first thing guests see when they enter Vijay and Kalyani's home.


CoCo: Where is your commission now (where does it hang)?

It is the first thing someone sees when they walk into our home – a perfect way to welcome everyone!


Feeling inspired? See more work by Laura S. below.

Commission Spotlight: NYC in Motion

For years, Eva and Anton had been searching for the perfect representation of their experience as ex-pats in New York City.  To them, the most special thing about NYC was the energy within, without, and all around it.  It’s this energy that has been the backdrop of their growing family’s life here.

When the couple came across CoCo Gallery and Piero M.’s work, they knew they had finally found the artist who could visually express their feelings about the city.  So many of Piero’s works have bursts of color and complex texture that signified rapid movement city’s everlasting vigor.  Thus, their commission began.


NYC in Motion, by Piero M. 


Request: The couple wanted the skyline, from downtown to midtown, depicted with the water and bridges prominently featured as well.  Eva’s vision included small details – the presence of a cab, people, and bike riders, things that would help display the perpetually stirring nature of the city. 


Piero M. quickly produced a digital rendering to hightlight for Eva and Anton the most important aspects of the painting. 


Initial Rendering: Piero quickly produced a digital rendering that helped highlight the most important aspects of the painting, to give the couple an impression of the final product.  One of the defining aspects of Piero’s paintings is that each contains a section of improvisational multi-colored texture, which allows the painting to go into the abstract.  The rendering simply cannot shed light on this aspect of the painter’s style.  Piero made sure that Eva and Anton would be okay with embracing the unpredictability that came with this part of his painting in its final form.  Once the couple was on board, Piero got to work with acrylics on canvas.


Piero M. added more color per Eva and Anton's request to the sky and water. 


Check-in, Feedback, and Final: Within one week, Piero was almost done with the painting and he sent the couple a photo of the progress.  They were overjoyed, but there was just one thing missing in their minds.  It lacked a certain brightness; it didn’t convey the overall feeling of contentment they had living in the city.  Piero knew just what would flip the switch – he added a touch of color to the sky and water.  That did it.  It now happily hangs on top of Eva and Anton’s living room couch, and it is set to accompany them on their upcoming move out of the city.


The final painting now hangs above Eva and Anton's living room couch. 

Brushstrokes: Interview with CoCo Artist Patrick L.

New to the CoCo Artist network is Patrick L.  His work uniquely spans florals, birds, and a range of other objects, like cars, for example.  The common element among all of them is the incorporation of collage from vintage sources.  Check out our brief, but enlightening chat with Patrick:


Flowered Tom and Jerry, by Patrick L. 


CoCo: What inspired you to become an artist?

Patrick: I have been an artist as long as I can remember. Specifically I fell in love with art in the fourth grade as well as with my art teacher Miss Gallo. It was love at first site on both accounts! I also remember my love of objects, antiques, and anything vintage. I eventually graduated with a Masters Degree from the San Francisco Art Institute in Lithography.

CoCo: How would you describe your artwork?

Patrick: My work is rich with color and nuanced with a surface quality that is engaging. My love of paper, surface and collage continues to this day.


Library or studio? Patrick L. draws inspiration from literature. 


CoCo: What type of media do you use and why?

Patrick: In my Seattle Studio, my images room surrounds me with hundreds of books and cuttings from pages of history books from various cultures, erotica from the Kama Sutra, original letters and journals, encyclopedias, old children’s books, and vintage wall paper. I am intrigued with the past and the associations that can be made with aged surfaces and vintage ephemera.  My technique is to combine paint with collaged ephemera from these sources.


Patrick L. incorporates collage from vintage sources in his work, which is evident in his eclectic studio. 


CoCo: What is your favorite thing about doing a commission?

Patrick: I love working on commissions, I love the challenge of being given a project to create what matches the client’s ideas and desires with my own creative vision.  What is unique in my work is I am able to combine pictures or collage elements that the client provides of their family, memories and significant events and I incorporate them in a lasting work of art for them.   I also have produced large-scale paintings for restaurants, hotels, hospitals, law offices, and ten years for major department stores nationally.


Patrick L. enjoys matching the client's desires with his own creative vision.


CoCo: Tell us about one of your favorite commissions.

Patrick: One of my favorites is a client’s house, depicted as a cake.  The client was a professional baker, and to make it personal, the windows of the house have family photos collaged in them.  Another was for a client's wedding anniversary; she wanted two florals with an Italian background, and images of The Kamasutra collaged into the flowers.


A commission by Patrick L. that uses original family photos in the windows. 

Commission Spotlight: Salkantay Trail

Bay area resident, Deepika, recently commissioned a special work as a surprise for her husband. She chose CoCo Artist Justin C., an abstract figurative artist who is from New York City but works out of Norway.  Here’s a little bit about how her commission played out.

Salkantay Trail, by Justin C. 

CoCo: What was the inspiration for your commission?  What were you looking to do?

Deepika: My husband and I had gone on a trip to Peru the year before and it was a very important trip for us as it was a celebration of success, on many fronts, for us both. Unfortunately, I lost my phone at the end of a 5-day trek in the Andes and lost all the photos. But then I stumbled upon CoCo Gallery. I figured that commissioning a painting was an excellent opportunity to give shape and form to a memory that only existed in our minds. Plus, it would be a great way to buy our first painting. Our wedding anniversary was coming up so I immediately jumped on the idea! 

CoCo: Why did you choose that particular CoCo Artist?

Deepika: Of the three artists that my CoCo Consultant shared, I found Justin C. to have the style that spoke to me. I saw his painting titled Ugruk and knew that he was kind of free spirited in his expression and that's the kind of feeling I remember having when I was in Peru, so I felt he would be the right artist to bring my memory to life. I did have a second option in mind, but CoCo helped me zero-in on my top choice. 

Ugruk, by Justin C. 

CoCo: What do you remember about your first conversation with the artist?

Deepika: Our first conversation felt like he was really listening, he had looked at the materials I had shared earlier. He sounded really sweet and accommodating too. I felt comfortable having him use his imagination to create the painting I had in mind. 

Justin C. adjusted the initial sketch because Deepika wanted to show her husband helping her cross the stream. 

CoCo: Were you nervous about anything going into commissioning?  Were your concerns allayed and how?

Deepika: I tend to be very verbose and detailed in my descriptions of what I am looking for. I was worried if I had left little room for Justin to express himself. CoCo’s guidance on how much direction to give to artists was helpful.

CoCo: If you had a very particular idea in your head of what it would look like, how did the painting turn out differently than that?

Deepika: The painting turned out very similar to what I had expected. I didn't realize how layered/textured the painting would be, so when it arrived and I saw how it looked up close, I was pleasantly surprised. I like that about it.

Justin C. eventually altered the painting to give it a more impressionistic feel per Deepika's request. 

CoCo: What aspects of CoCo’s services were most valuable in your commission process?

Deepika: Help in choosing the artist from a shortlist and also in understanding how to provide input to the artist in the most productive way.

CoCo: Where is your commission now (where does it hang)?

Deepika: It's hanging in our bedroom! 


Brushstrokes: Interview with CoCo Artist, Galen C.

Despite living in rural Vermont, CoCo Artist Galen C.’s paintings reflect the energy of the urban environment.  As we interviewed Galen about her abstract paintings, she described just exactly what goes into creating unabashedly strong works worthy of making a statement in any setting.

Galen in her studio.

Galen in her studio.

CoCo: How would you describe your artwork?

Galen: I would describe my work as process-driven abstraction.  My work moves forward through the investigation of materials and processes.  It is physical, visceral, and visually compelling.

Artwork by Galen C.

Artwork by Galen C.

CoCo: What inspired you to become an artist?

Galen: I’m pretty sure I was just born that way.  However, I did get the message from my mother at a very young age that being an artist was not only valid, but also important.

Galen in her studio.

Galen in her studio.

CoCo: Who is your art for?  What type of person are you speaking to?

Galen: People who appreciate my work are those who embrace the imaginative qualities of abstract painting.  They like the experience and pleasure of seeing something original and of bringing their own interpretation to the work.

Artwork by Galen C. 

Artwork by Galen C. 

CoCo: What does your work of art bring to its environment?

Galen: I only allow my best work to leave my studio.  I do this, in part, because I want my paintings to have integrity and enduring appeal; I want them to stand the test of time and continue to unfold and reveal themselves to the viewer over the years.  If I’ve done my job, my paintings will enrich and transform any environment in which they are placed.

Artwork by Galen C. 

Artwork by Galen C. 

CoCo: What is the most important part of the artistic/creative process for you?

Galen: The most important part of my artistic process is that I be present and open to what is happening in the moment.  While I bring many years of painting experience with me into the studio, every painting is unique and has its own story to tell.  It is crucial that I am quiet and vulnerable enough to be able to listen and allow that new painting to push forward.

Artwork by Galen C. 

Artwork by Galen C. 

CoCo: What type of media do you use and why?

Galen: I am currently working with three distinct media.  I continue and will always work with basic oil on canvas or panel, as it is a rich and versatile material.  I am also working on ink on paper constructions, which I began during a recent art residency in China.  The third area of interest for me, which is also inspired by the work I began in China, is collaged paintings.  These works involve cutting and ripping existing paintings and reassembling them into new works of art.  It is a dynamic and endlessly interesting process.

Take a girl to China , by Galen C. 

Take a girl to China, by Galen C. 

CoCo: Tell us about an interesting piece that you have displayed in your own home?  Where exactly is it, and why is it there?

Galen: I have one spot in my living room that serves as a viewing spot for paintings that I have recently finished.  Hanging new work and living with it for a while allows me to know whether or not it is really finished.  Sometimes it takes looking at a painting for a while to know for sure.

Artwork by Galen C. 

Artwork by Galen C. 

CoCo: What is your favorite thing about doing a commission?

Galen: It is a great thing to create a work of art in collaboration with people who have are fans of my work and who have a vision and passion to work together.  It is extremely rewarding to place a painting with people who love it and who were instrumental in its creation.

Brushstrokes: Interview with CoCo Artist Liza M.

In today's Brushstrokes, we interview Liza M., an abstract artist who often works closely with interior designers on commissions.  Using a variety of techniques to insert motion into her more soft-colored paintings, Liza's works can often function as both a complement to one's home-decor as well as a standout statement.  We sat down with Liza to understand a bit more about how she brings her works to life and for whom. 

Artwork by CoCo Artist Liza M.

Artwork by CoCo Artist Liza M.

CoCo: How would you describe your artwork? 

Liza: My work depicts my vision of landscapes, cityscapes, waterscapes, chinoiserie florals, ombré and ikat abstracts. All of these themes are abstract with wonderful color combinations and metallics threaded through. 


CoCo: How do you work with your clients?

Liza: I have been blessed with many clients that have become great friends and collectors of my work. They are open minded and just want me to create without any boundaries. I love to constantly think outside the box with new and refreshing ideas. I am inspired daily and it's so wonderful to share that with my clients. 


CoCo: Who is your art for?  What type of person are you speaking to?

Liza: I feel my art speaks to interior designers and private collectors specifically. Interior designers love the color, pattern and movement in my pieces. My pieces complement their interior spaces and can complete a space. Private collectors also love my work within their spaces to help pull their rooms together. My pieces are a reflection of them and how they live their lives: colorful, free and full of life!! 


Starlight  by Liza M.

Starlight by Liza M.

CoCo: What does your work of art bring to its environment?

Liza: I have a tendency to use a lot of green, beige, white and metallics and then a real punch of color. For instance in my newer work, you will see that I am using pools of colors to depict reflective pools with a horizon line. Starlight has pools of blue with accents of champagne gold and white. I love the monochromatic look of this piece.


Artwork by Liza M. 

Artwork by Liza M. 

CoCo: Can you lead us through an important aspect of a special technique you use?

Liza: One technique that I use quite a bit especially with my chinoiserie pieces is using oil on top of wet paint. This technique dries and looks like dew drops from a spring morning. Love that and the sense it really could be droplets on leaves, branches or flowers.

A client of mine turned some of my pieces into fabric and wallpaper. Cotton and quill have been a joy to work with as they have gotten my work out there to the interior design world. I am working towards building a brand and this is one of the stepping-stones to that.


Emerald City  by Liza M. 

Emerald City by Liza M. 

CoCo: What is your favorite piece and why?

Liza: I love Emerald City. I did it three years ago and it is in my sister’s house, who I adore!  She absolutely loves it and that makes me so happy. 

The greens and the champagne are beautiful together.


CoCo: What is your favorite thing about doing a commission?

Liza: I love helping a client determine a look, colors and theme for a special piece. I usually meet and take pictures of the space. I then start the piece and will show the client my progress half way. Once they see my direction that I am going we then determine what needs to be added. I then show them the final product and again review any additional changes. Once we have agreed on everything, I then varnish the piece for completion. The process can take two to three weeks depending on my schedule and how busy I am at the time. 


Oz too  by Liza M. 

Oz too by Liza M. 

CoCo: Tell us about your favorite commission.

Liza: This is one of my favorite commissions that I completed for a client in Raleigh. It's called Oz Too. It's 48” X 48” and it makes a great impact in a large area. 

Brushstrokes: Interview with CoCo Artist Toni S.

“Aerialscapes,” a term coined by CoCo Artist Toni S., refers to her paintings of urban to rural landscapes from a flattened, above ground perspective.  In our interview with her, Toni tells us a little more about how these unique depictions from the sky come to life, and what they are really all about.


Paterson, NJ,  16"X16", acrylic on canvas by CoCo Artist Toni S. 

Paterson, NJ, 16"X16", acrylic on canvas by CoCo Artist Toni S. 

CoCo: What inspired you to become an artist?

Toni: I always knew that I wanted to be an artist. Growing up, I spent a lot of time drawing and painting. Art is a passion that I was lucky enough to be born with. It is a joy and part of my being alive.   

After studying painting at the Philadelphia College of Art and realizing that I needed a job, I pursued studies in graphic design as a career. I applied my application of graphic solutions to my painting concepts and the abstract representation of my imagery, which was present in my design work.

Toni S.'s Studio

Toni S.'s Studio

CoCo: Who is your art for?

Toni: Regardless of the time, I believe my raison d’être as an artist is to share my vision of the world. I want my aerialscapes to be a commentary on our lifestyles and environment, a collection of urban and suburban way of life as well as a representation of the natural and industrial worlds. I will be satisfied if my paintings encourage people to step back and see our world as affected by humanity in a different light.

NYC Water tanks , 48"X48", acrylic on canvas by CoCo Artist, Toni S.

NYC Water tanks, 48"X48", acrylic on canvas by CoCo Artist, Toni S.

CoCo: What do you think your aerialscapes bring to their environment?

Toni: My aerial-view paintings represent various places and spaces of the contemporary landscape seen from an above ground perspective. The flattened surface planes convey the textures of abstract space enhanced by compositional aesthetics and skillful use of color. My images of cities and towns, factories and farmlands, power plants, suburban communities and highways are conceived with a distinctive angle on structures and a fresh visual vocabulary. The flattened plane reduces details to strong graphic images. I like the subject for its many aspects and possibilities.

Wanting to depart from traditional landscape perspective, but still incorporate realism, the view from above allows me to combine elements of abstraction and representation, pattern and grid, surface and illusion, as well as observation, imagination, and memory. My work can be understood on many levels, from the simple interplay of shape and color to the narrative of the pictorial story.

Jodhpur, India,  36"X48", acrylic on canvas by Toni S.

Jodhpur, India, 36"X48", acrylic on canvas by Toni S.


CoCo: What is your artistic/creative process?

Toni: I start with a location that fits my narrative, then proceed to sketch my idea from one of my own photographs or stock material using the bird’s eye view. The next step is to block out the shapes, patterns and color working with Photoshop to further refine composition and color. Although the color is not realistic, there are close similarities. Finally it is time to work at the easel.


Open Field Cultivation , 30"x30", acrylic on canvas by CoCo Artist Toni S.

Open Field Cultivation, 30"x30", acrylic on canvas by CoCo Artist Toni S.

CoCo: Tell us about an interesting piece that you have displayed in your own home.  Where exactly is it, and why is it there?

Toni: Edison Industrial is a bird's eye view of a New Jersey industrial area including industrial plants, factories, farms and homes.  I attempted to capture the landscape with somber color and let the pictorial tell the story. Hovering above, it examines the relationships between the man-made and the natural. It is hanging in my dining room with NJ Subdivision, both 48” x 60”.


Edison Industrial  and  NJ Subdivision  by CoCo Artist Toni S.

Edison Industrial and NJ Subdivision by CoCo Artist Toni S.

CoCo: Tell us about your favorite commission.

Toni: The One, in Jersey City was a rewarding challenge. A real estate developer wanted an aerial view that portrayed the location. Through a series of sketches the image was developed.

The One  by CoCo Artist Toni S.

The One by CoCo Artist Toni S.

Inside the Artist’s Studio: Our Visit to CoCo Artist Iris S.’s Home Studio

Artwork by Iris S. 

Artwork by Iris S. 

Join us in our new series Inside the Artist’s Studio, which takes an integrated look at how our artist’s produce their masterpieces within an environment that promotes creativity for them. 

In today’s post, we take a deeper look into the space that makes CoCo Artist Iris S. tick.  Iris describes herself as “an intentionally approachable contemporary impressionist that just happens to finger paint.”  Or put more simply, “an oil painter that uses her fingers.”


CoCo: Tell us a little bit about this beautiful, airy home and studio you’ve created for yourself.

Iris: Corner unit, 3rd floor, heaps of northern sunlight.  I work never by the lights I have, but rather I try to paint only with sunlight, which I have found makes me focus longer without burning out. I have a custom made, push button gigantic easel that my step-father made me out of the mechanics of thrift store found drafting tables.  I tend to throw away anything that doesn’t have a major purpose in moving me forward.  I DO NOT hold onto clutter.  I have lots of recurring dreams of not being able to find a plane ticket because it’s under clutter.  I have a strong aversion to stuff! 

CoCo: What motivates you about your space?

Iris: Painting is like a boyfriend…or a girlfriend.  If there isn’t a tiny bit of tension, you can become complacent and take everything for granted.   So, a virtual wall exists down the middle of the house.  I can see my work at all times – it’s always nagging.  I also grew up with that.  My daddy was a cabinet-maker and my mom was a piano teacher.  Their work was always around the house.  I’m used to that; it’s a way of life, which means that I’m always going to feel sickened and with guilt to get back to work. 

Artwork by Iris S.

Artwork by Iris S.

CoCo: Tell us a little bit about how you work.

Iris: Well, first, there are a few restrictions I’m working with.  One, I don’t do details. There are no fine points in a finger point.  Also, since fingertips are all the same size, I’m basically using the same size brush all day long.  The other thing is that I’m racing a twelve-hour window of dry time.  It’s actually a blessing.

My paintings take a day to make but about a week of planning and worrying about.  During that week, I try to run into all the problems I’m going to run into and find solutions to them.  I only paint once or twice a week, and almost always finish a painting during that time.  With a big cup of coffee and music, I start at 10 am and go until 1 am; I take one lunch break.  And, it is exhausting.  Every single second of that time is spent thinking.

I get really lonely while I work, so I like to listen to audio books.  And, my favorite thing to do is to bring a friend right at the end…to “boss.”  They tell me things like, “This is too short, that reads weird, what’s going on here?”  While they are talking, I change things as fast as possible.  Non-artists are the absolute best at criticizing an unfinished work, and bringing it to perfection.  Anybody can tell me what’s not working, but as the painter, I’m the only one who can fix it.

Iris in her home studio with her cat, Foxy.

Iris in her home studio with her cat, Foxy.

CoCo: What makes you get to working everyday, when you could easily just relax since you’re in your home?

Iris: I’m in love with where painting in general could go.  I think in the long-term, as in what I could be by the time I’m 100 (painters live a long time).  I’m very lucky that I can take this career all the way to my deathbed.  I could accomplish a ton in 70 years!  If I just make a tiny bit of progress everyday, what I produce will be huge.

To learn more about CoCo Artist Iris S., email us at

4 Landscape Commission Ideas that are Beautiful and Meaningful at the Same Time

We believe that landscape paintings can add charm to any interior.  They bring a taste of the most beautiful and scenic places to an indoor setting in a way that no amount of floral pillows and rugs can provide.  Why not make the landscape painting in your home one that is personal to you?  Perhaps, something that reminds you of your favorite place, a special place, or just a place without which your life wouldn’t be the same.  Here are a few ideas, directly from CoCo clients:


Artwork by Julia C.

Artwork by Julia C.

1)   Your honeymoon getaway

It’s back to reality after a trip as special as a honeymoon.  But while you’re in the middle of your daily grind, what better reminder of a magical reality that once was than to look up and see your favorite honeymoon scene depicted on canvas?


Artwork by Charlotte E.

Artwork by Charlotte E.

2)   Your childhood home

We often look back at our childhood with fondness – the innocence, carefree spirit, and laughter of our formative years are hard to recreate in any other time period and yet so important to retain throughout life.  Having a visual depiction of the place that reminds us most of where we grew up can help bring back the atmosphere of a time that has passed.


Artwork by Brooks S.

Artwork by Brooks S.

3)   Your most adventurous vacation

Have you ever done something so adventurous that thinking about it brings back a side of you that you can’t seem to exhibit otherwise during the everyday?  Perhaps you trekked in Peru, went on a safari in Africa, or island hopped in the Galapagos?  What better way to revert to the explorer in you than to have your most memorable experience depicted in a painting, destined for that huge spot right above the desk in your home office?


Artwork by Patty S.

Artwork by Patty S.

4)   Your everyday neighborhood park

Whether it’s Central Park in New York City or just the lovely clearing of flowers and grass down the block, there is beauty to many of the places we frequent on a daily basis.  An original painting of one of these spots can allow you to see your everyday in a more special way…

Brushstrokes: Interview with CoCo Artist Nick L.

CoCo Artist Nick L. approaches his subject matter primarily through abstraction — to evoke rather than illustrate the intersections of society and nature. His works organically creating diagrammatic structures and planes of flat color reminiscent of the built environment. Commissioning a big, striking work by him would be perfect to fill in that large empty wall in your home, especially because his colors and lines will definitely bring together all your aesthetic preferences. We interviewed him before Affordable Art Fair NYC where he painted in front of a live audience.

CoCo: How would you describe your artwork?
Nick: My artwork ranges widely in subject matter and medium, from completely abstract oil paintings, to highly rendered realistic graphite drawings, to multi-media installation art. The constant that ties everything together is my interest in the natural world and the connections between society and nature. All of my work, whether abstract or representational, relates in some way to my experience of the real world…in other words, whether there is a recognizable reference in a work or not, my inspiration for the things I make always comes from actual experience.

CoCo: Tell us about your training as an artist.
Nick: I’ve always kept a sketchbook, even as a young kid. But art was never a part of my academic life until after college. I was an environmental science and biology major. After graduating, I spent several years living in the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada where I taught ecology and geology for the Yosemite Institute. It was during that period living in the mountains that I decided to put all my energy into my artwork and to make it my life pursuit. I moved to New York in 1996 and attended the New York Studio School for a couple years while I built a portfolio that I needed to apply to graduate school. I wanted to study with the British painter John Walker, and was fortunate to be accepted into his graduate program at Boston University. I finished an MFA in painting there in 2000 and then returned to NYC where I’ve lived and worked ever since.

CoCo: Describe one of your favorite collectors/clients.
Nick: My favorite collectors are people who were initially drawn to my artwork on its aesthetic merits alone, but with whom I’ve also developed strong friendships over time. As we get to know one another more and more, they trust in what I do, regardless of style or subject matter. It is fantastic to know I have the enthusiasm and support of sharp-eyed, intelligent and informed people who are interested in each new stage of my development as an artist. 

Coyote ; 60"x70", oil on canvas

Coyote; 60"x70", oil on canvas

CoCo: What does your work of art bring to its environment?
Nick: I strive to make my artwork interesting and dramatic enough to catch people’s attention, but it is also important to me that, once they look at it, it also inspires them to think more deeply about the world around them. Put simply, my artwork doesn’t pass muster until it has both graphic punch and deeper evocative appeal.

CoCo: What type of media do you use and why?
Nick: I use all kinds of media and techniques, often mixing them in unconventional ways. I believe that being open to all possibilities of expression, especially modes that are unfamiliar to me, can be an important key to unlocking new imagery and new creative territory.

Image courtesy AAF NYC

Image courtesy AAF NYC

Coco: What are you working on now?
Nick: I’m having a fantastic time doing live drawings at the Affordable Art Fair in New York City. I’ve never worked in front of a crowd this way and the performative aspect of the experience has been fun and invigorating.

CoCo: What is your favorite thing about doing a commission?
Nick: I love the collaborative aspect of working on commissions. It is thrilling to meet with clients, see the space for which they envision an artwork and then work together with them to come up with something that excites them as much as it does me.

CoCo: Tell us about your favorite commission.
Nick: It’s difficult to single out one commission as a favorite above all others, but one of the most exciting commissioning experiences I’ve had was working on some site-specific works for the lobby and media room at Richard Meier building at Grand Army plaza in Brooklyn. It was fantastic to respond to his architecture and to speak with the enthusiastic building residents who came through the space over the course of the painting and installation process.

If you are interested in learning more about Nick's work, contact

What to do at an art fair

A few tips from our Founder on how to make an art fair work for you

The month of March is filled with art fairs in New York City. It’s fun – you see what’s out there, sometimes sip a few cocktails, and hopefully, you either purchase something, get a better idea of your own aesthetic preferences, or just have a good time with all the visual stimulation.

Fairy Tale in the Key of C (Castle, Couch &  Cock), Jeffrey B.;  50"x46", oil on canvas

Fairy Tale in the Key of C (Castle, Couch &  Cock), Jeffrey B.; 50"x46", oil on canvas

Despite starting a company that helps you commission works of art rather than buy existing works, I am a huge fan of going to these fairs. First, I don’t believe that every work of art in your home needs to be commissioned. Second, even if you are interested in commissioning a work of art, seeing more live works gives you a better sense of your commission vision and more vocabulary with which to articulate it. And, third, I truly believe you’ll confirm even a slight interest to commission a work once you come back from one of these.

But, the fairs can also be overwhelming, inundating you with too many genres and media, and ultimately leading you to doubt your own aesthetic sense. Here are a few tips to guard against just that and to make these fairs work for you:

1) Don’t trust your own memory. Decide on one or two walls in your home for which you are shopping.  If you would like for the artwork to fit your décor in a specific way, take pictures on your phone of those spots and their surrounding environments, especially the defining aspects of those settings (such as key pieces of furniture, statement display items, or rugs). These are the very things that we seem to experience and remember differently than they actually are.  You don’t want to be buying artwork off of your memory of these things. The pictures will be something you can refer back to as you walk through the aisles of an art fair and will help you visualize a potential piece in your home.  

2) Be strong in your vision. Cement your vision for those walls as strongly as you can before you go to the fair. Simply noting down your preferences in size range, medium, colors, genre, and overall feeling of the artwork will help you stay true to your vision when you get to an art fair and start seeing a few hundred works in front of you. You’ll be able to identify works that fit your vision quickly. Moreso, you’ll be able to trust yourself if you become intrigued by a work of art that doesn’t fit your original vision – you’ll know that it might be worth veering off course with a certain work of art that is just that stunning to you.

Neptune, Julia C.;  48"x48", acrylic

Neptune, Julia C.; 48"x48", acrylic

3) Go to one of the first days that the fair is open. I am a big believer that if you can’t stop thinking about something for more than a day, then there is something more there. Go to one of the earlier days of the fair so that if something caught your attention and just won’t leave your mind alone, you can go back and get it the next day.

4) Note what you didn’t find, and collaborate with an artist to commission it instead. Remember that you don’t have to buy something that already exists. Be okay with not finding what you wanted at a fair. Despite how many works you’ll see, all original artwork is unique and was made by someone other than you, which means that you won’t necessarily find what you’re looking for. Make sure to note down what was missing in the pieces that perhaps were “almost there.” You can always get something made just for you.

Brushstrokes: Interview with CoCo Artist Chamisa K.

As part of our ongoing Brushstrokes series, we interviewed CoCo Artist Chamisa K. Primarily an illustrator, Chamisa's magical drawings and imaginative scenes have especially peaked the interest of our clients with young children. We love the idea of a series of Chamisa's custom illustrations in a nursery or kids room.

The Light in the Tree 1 ; 8"x10", ink and watercolor

The Light in the Tree 1; 8"x10", ink and watercolor

CoCo: How would you describe your artwork?
Chamisa: My work is magical realism. It belongs in a world that looks like ours, but where the rules are tipped on their head. I draw everyday scenes overlaid with imagination.

CoCo: Tell us about your training as an artist.
Chamisa: I began drawing very young, around age three. Both of my parents are artistic, and work as architects and urban designers. There was never a shortage of drawing and painting supplies in our house. Ball-point pens were my go-to tool. The way the ink flowed out around the tiny ball at the point, the satisfaction of seeing it sink into the paper; I spent hours drawing with them. I consider this foundation of drawing as a kid to be extremely important to my training as an artist. If it really does take 10,000 hours to master a skill, then I’m lucky I got a lot of my drawing time in at a young age.

From first grade through high school I attended Waldorf school, a private school system that puts a lot of emphasis on art and working with your hands. This, of course, was an absolutely perfect environment for me. It felt so natural to have drawing and painting so seamlessly integrated into my every day school life. In first grade I was introduced to watercolor, and since then have been combining watercolor and pen and ink in my work.

After high school, I applied to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Nothing could have really prepared me for the work load at RISD, but all the drawing and painting at a young age certainly helped! I studied Illustration, and while I can’t say I loved every minute of it, I certainly made a lot of personal creative discoveries. I met so many incredible artists, got my ego knocked down a peg or two (or ten), and after trying a ton of other materials, reaffirmed my love for ink and watercolor. They are the tools I use most in my current work.

Childhood Drawing 2

Childhood Drawing 2

The Light in the Tree 2

The Light in the Tree 2

CoCo: Who is your art for? What type of person are you speaking to?
Chamisa: Anyone who loves it and connects with it! I aspire to illustrate and write children’s books, so I always find it fascinating when children look at my work. There is a childlike place in each of us, something authentic and honest. This is the place I hope to speak to with my work.

CoCo: Can you lead us through an important aspect of a special technique you use?
Chamisa: Lately I’ve been creating three-dimensional works which I call “Light and Shadow Boxes”. I use cut outs of ink and watercolor illustrations and layer them to create depth. The light portion comes from small colorful LEDs, which I set behind the layers of paper so they shine through and create shadow and glow. Working with light has been a great learning process for me. Since the LEDs are battery powered, it requires some calculation and mathematical precision. Thinking about color, in the context of a piece that has it’s own light built in, is also a challenge. A piece can change drastically depending on how it’s displayed and whether or not the lights are turned on. As an artist it’s important to have something that drives you to create a lot of work, something that pushes you through the layers of learning. For me, working with added light is that thing that has ensnared my curiosity. I can’t get enough of it!

In the Belly of the Wolf

In the Belly of the Wolf

CoCo: Do you have any rituals or routines you must perform before you start or continue on a piece?
Chamisa: When I have a day where I get to focus solely on making art, I make sure to schedule in breaks. I dabble in string instruments, and a short session of strumming the guitar or picking at the banjo really clears my head, while keeping me in a creative mental space. It’s not a total departure since I still get to use my hands to make something, but it lets my mind shift so that when I come back to the drawing board I see it with fresh eyes.

CoCo: What is your favorite piece and why?
Chamisa: My favorite piece is one I did while still in school. I call it The Wanderer. It isn’t my best technical work or even my best idea, but it is significant to me because it represents a breakthrough in my work and my mindset towards being an illustrator. The Wanderer was made for an assignment in a children’s book class. I had been trying and failing to mimic work that I liked, illustrators who had succeeded in a certain style. Naturally, I was failing left and right, because I wasn’t following my own intuition; I was forcing it. But this was one of the last projects for the semester, and I think I was so tired that I just couldn’t force it anymore. I returned to that feeling I had as a child, of drawing for the pure joy of it, and not for the purpose of copying something or someone else. Teachers always said, you can’t force style, and I never “got it” until that point. I stayed up all night working on The Wanderer, which wasn’t unusual. The unusual part was that I wasn’t brain dead the next day. I was liberated from this self-imposed weight, and making that piece only made me want to create more.

The Wanderer

The Wanderer

CoCo: Tell us about your favorite commission.
Chamisa: Recently a friend commissioned me to design and woodburn an image on a hand-made wooden surfboard. I don’t have woodburning examples in my portfolio, but he wanted an image in my drawing style (he knows my love of line), so he approached me about learning this new skill. The limited times I’ve worked with a wood burner have been great experiences, so I readily agreed. 

There are three reasons why this has been a great commission project: one, it allows me to learn a new skill, without taking me away from the style I like to work in. Two, the idea and design have been a pleasantly collaborative effort, and the client has allowed me full reign on the technique and fabrication. Lastly, it has opened up the possibilities for future projects like this one, and bolstered my confidence in expanding my repertoire of materials.

(All photos by Phil McElroy)

If you are interested in learning more about Chamisa's work, contact