of dogs and cats and flowers and birds: the whimsical beauty of vanessa cooper’s paintings

“Next Supper” (2015)

The other day, in my ongoing quest for art that makes my heart sing, I stumbled upon the work of UK-based artist Vanessa Cooper.

Can you see why I instantly fell in love? Why shouldn’t doggies be treated to a variety of scrummy cakes and a homey checked tablecloth?

Dogs aren’t the only ones who receive special treatment at the dining table. Vanessa also includes lots of cats, the odd budgie, goat, or whatever stray she might happen upon. I love her sense of whimsy.

She’s a Hampshire native who studied at Portsmouth University. She started painting in her teens and her style is defined by her bold use of color, striking compositions, and charming details.

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elsa mora’s stunning cut-paper art

for Self Magazine

Are you familiar with the gorgeous cut-paper creations of New York-based multi-media artist Elsa Mora?

Although she is a multi-disciplinary artist — photography, ceramics, jewelry design, painting, illustration, bookmaking — it was her stunning papercuts that first caught my eye about five or six years ago.

for Oprah Magazine

Originally from Holguín, Cuba, Elsa grew up poor, the fifth of eight children. Though she was exposed to many of life’s harsh realities at an early age, her MO for survival has always been the ability to envision her own reality, using the resources at hand.

Elsa with her Winter Wonderland display at the MoMA Design Store in Soho (2014)

When she was 16, she learned her birthday was actually May 9 instead of May 8. Apparently her mother preferred the 8th because that year it was Mother’s Day. This discovery changed Elsa’s thinking — she decided she could be whoever she wanted to be.

Growing up poor taught me a series of important lessons that I will always treasure. I learned that the most precious possession that you have is your mind. I also learned that creativity and imagination could solve any problem, whether it’s a material problem or an emotional one.

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ruby silvious’s exquisite tea bag art

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When is a tea bag more than just a tea bag?

In January 2015, New York-based artist and graphic designer Ruby Silvious began a tea-licious new project: she would record impressions of the moment every day on used tea bags. Sharing her visual journal, “363 Days of Tea,” on Instagram allowed her to push her creative practice and “spark a different kind of inspiration.”

rubyreplacementWhile most of us discard our tea tags without a second thought, Ruby saw them as unique mini canvases. Once family and friends heard of her project, they started sending her a variety of tea bags, some with different shapes and interesting tags. Sometimes the tea bags were kept intact after being emptied of their leaves, while others were split open and laid flat. Stains and torn edges became part of the beauty.

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I love the great range of subjects — whimsical everyday objects like mugs and umbrellas, shirts and pets, along with evocative glimpses of the natural world, interesting portraits and street scenes. Of course my heart quickened at the sight of soup cans, slices of pie, sushi, noodles, and teapots. 🙂

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ruby23This past Fall, Ruby published 363 Days of Tea: A Visual Journal on Used Tea Bags as a beautiful coffee table book. It’s wonderful following her creative journey day by day, marveling at her pieces of drawn, painted, and collaged microart.

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Indie Artist Spotlight: Julie Schronk of Just Folks

“Our Big Family” © 2016 Julie Schronk

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Each of Julie Schronk’s whimsical folk art paintings feels like a big-hearted welcome, a friendly invitation to step right into the scene to join all the fun.

Fancy an old fashioned church picnic, quilt show or yard sale? Maybe you’d prefer a lazy afternoon at your favorite fishing hole, a stroll down main street, or a quick bite at the local diner. Julie’s cheery, engaging slices of old-timey Americana, rendered in vibrant colors and bustling with activity, brim with just the kind of quirky details that beg a closer look.

“By the Sea”

Originally from Dallas, Julie now lives in Hillsboro, Texas, where she paints traditional, Black, Bayou and bohemian folk art. She calls herself a memory and storyteller painter who kindles memories of bygone days and inspires people to imagine their own stories in her pictures.

Julie’s now in her 16th year of creating and selling her acrylic originals, which have been shipped to almost every state in the union and to countries such as France, Singapore, Canada and New Zealand.

I love the warmth and convivial vitality in Julie’s pieces, which are like mini cultural history lessons with their depictions of cotton gins, juke joints, country stores, Amish barns, farmyards, and city skylines.

“Night Fishin’ on the Bayou”
“Trolleys” is Julie’s favorite painting.

I’m so happy to welcome Julie to Alphabet Soup today to tell us more about her joyous paintings and a bit about her children’s books. I know you’ll enjoy stepping back in time and hearing how this talented artist works.

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feasting on joël penkman’s food paintings


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When I first saw Joël Penkman’s work, all kinds of superlatives came to mind: Incredible. Gorgeous. Exquisite. Amazing. Beautiful!

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Many of her egg tempura on gesso board still life food paintings look so realistic you might easily mistake them for photographs. Originally from New Zealand, Joël now lives and works in the UK — Liverpool, England, to be exact.

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She portrays her subjects on clean, neutral backgrounds to allow the viewer to bring his/her own context to the paintings. Food is by far her favorite subject, but she also enjoys graphically representing everyday objects inspired by British life.

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Inks

Naturally I especially love her sweets, but I’m equally enamored of her food packaging subjects,

SAUCES

single-serve-jam

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spam

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sunmaid-raisons

twinings-tea

mustard

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and her 100 teacups collection!

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Recently, she was commissioned to paint 125 food items for Colman Andrews’s THE TASTE OF AMERICA (Phaidon Press, 2013). It’s wonderful to see familiar foods like hot dogs, avocados, bagels, and cherry tomatoes along with regional favorites like Old Bay Seasoning, Café du Monde Beignet Mix, Goo Goo Clusters, and Vermont Common Crackers. I also learned about quite a few brands I’d never seen before (Rancho Gordo Prepared Hominy, Graeter’s Ice Cream, Kim’s Pork Cracklings).

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hotdog

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beignets

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bacon

Peppermint-stick-ice-cream

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Since she likes to paint from real life models, these foods were sent to her across the pond. She said it felt like Christmas whenever a new shipment arrived. 🙂

For the literary minded, check out Joël’s collection of Fictional Food (yes, there’s Paddington’s favorite marmalade sandwiches!):

Holly Golightly's Breakfast
Holly Golightly’s Breakfast
Paddington's Marmalade Sandwiches
Paddington’s Marmalade Sandwiches
Snow White's Poison Apple
Snow White’s Poison Apple
Edmund's Turkish Delight
Edmund’s Turkish Delight

Indulge yourself even more by visiting Joël Penkman’s Official Website and Etsy Shop, where she sells both originals and giclée prints.

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It’s easy to see why I’m such a big fan of Joël’s work. But there’s also this: when asked in an interview what she would take if her house was burning down, she said her cats, their 2 teddy bears and her laptop. You should have heard the cheers in the Alphabet Soup kitchen! We love an artist who’s got her priorities straight. 🙂

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Copyright © 2015 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.