Tuesday 19 July 2011

The Art of Janine Cooper Ayres

Recently while doing research for another article I was fortunate enough to stumble upon Janine Cooper Ayres’ site http://www.j9art.com/ and I was immediately captivated by her wonderful artwork on display there. The vibrant warmth and playful humanity of her work reached out of the screen and held my interest effortlessly. Her elegant and natural talent is driven by an adventurous creative spirit and beautifully organic abilities and the results are delightful, often surprising and always a pleasure for both the eyes and the heart. Though she has developed an unmistakable and thoroughly charming style of her own Janine will also at times branch out, consider possibilities and alternative artist strategies to challenge herself to create something that amply explores what can be achieved when you put your enquiring mind to it. First and foremost her art, like much of the music I rave about on here, is creativity for creativity’s sake and as such perfect for inclusion here on Art Into Dust.

Oh I did I mention that Janine was also a touring bass player and occasional keyboard player in Let’s Active back in 1986, specifically before and during the second national tour supporting R.E.M. and later on a member of the excellent Downy Mildew? So that also makes her a perfect candidate for my "musicians who also paint series" that have appeared here on occasion. Janine’s also really smashing to talk with; keen minded, down to earth, modest, thoughtful and passionate about life and art. To know her is to bring a smile to your face. So let’s get going and find out what makes her tick shall we?

So how did you start on your creative adventure?
Janine: "I began drawing and painting when I was pretty young - about seven or eight years old. I was given a 'paint by numbers' kit of a cat and I was hooked from that point on. I have three older sisters, all of which are creative in different ways. Seeing them express themselves made me want to do the same. My parents had insisted that we all take piano lessons, which I, of course, thought was a bore at the time. I wish I could go back and really take in those lessons again. By the time I graduated from high school in northern California I knew that I just wanted to be an artist and a musician."

Hollywood Sighting
But you did not choose to follow the art college route. Why was that?

Janine: "I was concerned about losing my own creative voice and didn't want to get too caught up in learning how to draw and paint like someone else, or too realistically. I didn't go to art school for that very reason. I was afraid I'd lose touch with my individual style. I was also concerned about the possibility that my instructors might stamp out my fire and inspiration with their constant critiquing. I've heard stories of art schools and how judgmental they can be. So, I'm self taught or for the most part. In 1986 I moved to L.A. to pursue a career in the arts and like most other creative individuals who lived in the City Of Angels I found work in the film industry. At about the same time I had my first solo art exhibit. It was at the Leammle movie theatre in Santa Monica. They had these large walls and somehow I convinced the manager to allow me to hang my artwork on one of them in the lobby. The exhibit was up for about six months and I sold about fifteen paintings all together. It was quite a thrill to see an empty space between paintings on the wall when I came in to check every week or so. That meant that I'd sold a painting. "

Domesticated Sphynx


Happy Ram
"I started my professional art career working at Roger Cormans' movie studio near Venice Beach. I worked for free for two days and then was hired as a 'scenic artist' at $75.00 a day. Corman was King of the "B" movies and he'd make one every three or four months as opposed to one every year or so like most production companies. It was near home and I'd ride my bike to work. When things slowed down I heard about another movie that was 'crewing up' and worked on that one for a while (I think it was Charlton Heston's last movie). I went on to work on the Oliver Stone movie "The Doors". I was hired to recreate Jim Morrison's sketches, so I'd go on to the roof of the apartment where he used to live on Venice Beach and try to summon his spirit! After that project I had found the confidence to go the production office of my favourite show at the time, The Wonder Years. I introduced myself to the Art Director and before long I was the on-call scenic artist/set decorator and this lasted for three years."


And you kept up working on your own stuff during all this?

Janine: "I continued to create my own art on the side, not only because I enjoyed it, but because I needed the money to pay my rent. When things got tight I somehow always found somebody willing to buy a painting. I was mainly painting abstracts and space art at that time. Over the past thirty years I've sold an estimated 200 paintings. I don't have an agent and I usually sell my art for very reasonable prices. I believe that art should be available for everyone, not just the wealthy. More recently I've joined a few Art Guilds. It's a great way to find venues to exhibit and also a place to meet other creative people. It's always fun to dust off my art and take it out into public. There are usually a wide range of reactions. Some people love it and others are disturbed by it! A few nights ago while eating dinner my husband wanted to watch the movie, Frida (about the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo). I'd seen it before but wanted to see it again too. But, then I remembered how much pain she lived with for much of her life. I don't know if you know what happened to her, a trolley car accident, a metal pole going right through her pelvic area and out the back of her. And I was reminded how art transports us and enables us to go to another place while painting. The act of creating is a natural painkiller. It's definitely been that for me. But more emotional pain than physical.

Bird In Hand

Jumping Horse

So what is your medium of choice when it comes to your wonderful paintings?
Janine: "My favourite mediums are acrylic on canvas and oils too, although I tend to make a mess whenever I paint with oils. I've also begun painting 'pet portraits' recently which is a lot of fun since I love animals and enjoy working with others to co-create a painting that I would've otherwise not have painted on my own."

"The portrait of Otis was sent to a couple back east as a wedding gift."

"Noche (means 'night' in Spanish) was commissioned by a couple in Venice (beach) who rescued a black cat from a shelter who loved to prowl around at night, so I called it Noche @ Noche."

"I love animals. I love how they become friends and family and get into your heart and you love them just as if they were human. Powerful connections. I've had dreams where I've been visited by departed pets which makes me believe that they have souls too... Anyway, don't mean to get too metaphysical here.I've also recently begun working on the computer, manipulating my characters in a collage sort of way. (This new endeavour is heavily inspired by an amazing fellow artist named Mick Dillingham.)" Janine has put together a youtube video (with music composed by her) of this new endeavour, E.T, Chic that you can check out in the post dierectly below this one.

Janine: "I thought I'd pass on these two photos, images of ways that I was able to actually make money using my artistic abilities. This first photo is of "Animal Planet" a live animal show at Universal Studios in Universal City, California. I worked alongside about fifteen other scenic artists and carpenters and welders too. It was a hefty project. We did most of the painting in a set shop in Glendale, then everything was moved to the stage. That's where a smaller group of us worked nights for about a month doing touch ups to the areas that were affected by the bolts and nails that were used to put the facades up. It was quite a challenge, as were so many of the jobs I had during the ten years I worked as a professional scenic artist in the film industry. I also worked for Disney and on numerous TV shows and movies. In the end, I was really burnt out by it! It's a long day - sometimes 12 or 14 hours on your feet, going up and down ladders, working on scaffolding or up high on genie lifts. At its best, it's invigorating; at its worst, it's miserable! Finally, one day I threw out all of my paint clothes (almost all my clothes were paint clothes!) and I vowed never to go back to doing it. It was almost like an abusive relationship or something! Now, I work a normal day job (although I'm hoping to get back into something more creative) and I still rent and sell my artwork to the studios from time to time. In fact, with the fall television season quickly approaching I need to get the word out that I have paintings that are a little bit "different" available to buy or lease."

"This second image is from the TV show "According to Jim" with Jim Belushi. The art director rented ten of my paintings and bought several art magnets and t-shirts from me. I made nearly a $1,000, which was a real kick!! So, it can be done. There is money to be made in art. These days it's getting more competitive with more talented and savvy artists out there. If you're not comfortable with the marketing aspect of promoting your art, then chances are the opportunities out there will go to the artist who is. I don't mean to sound dramatic, but in a way, it's do or die. Die an unknown, impoverished artist or learn the art of marketing and get by - or perhaps even get rich."


Emma Leah


blue trees



I see you’ve also kept your musical side going with a series of albums of educational music for children.
Janine: "About five years ago I asked myself the simple question of 'How many Presidents' names could I remember?' I'm embarrassed to say that I couldn't get past three of them! So, I printed out the list, picked up my guitar and wrote a song that would help me to remember them. After I wrote that song I decided to do a whole CD of songs about the Presidents and then a second CD came through about American History and a third and fourth! It's been an interesting experience not to mention I feel as though I may be helping a few students out there learn a little easier. I'm not getting rich with it, but it's been great fun."

A big thank you to Janine for letting me share a few of her many wonderful paintings here

Band Of E.T.s
Now be so kind as to scroll down and have a look at her new video below. If not for me then for the little green men.

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