Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Hello, I'm Dr. Lisa Belisle and you are listening to, or watching, Radio Maine. Today,  I have with me in the studio artist Cooper Dragonette. Thanks for coming In today


 

Cooper Dragonette:

My pleasure. Great to be here.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Cooper, you took a few detours before you decided to spend time as a full-time artist.


 

Cooper Dragonette:

I did. Yes. It was a long circuitous  route to get here with lots of different occupations and a lot of trial by error in getting to this point.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Your undergraduate degree was actually in education.


 

Cooper Dragonette:

Yes, I think I always was nervous that pursuing a life in art and painting was going to be more difficult than I was willing to buy into. So getting a degree in education and teaching fine art, that seemed like a pretty steady way to keep my hand in making art, but you know, creating a sort of secure lifestyle as well.  But teaching did really afford me the time to keep pursuing painting and being an artist.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

You're not originally from Maine. You grew up in Connecticut. How did you end up here?


 

Cooper Dragonette:

That's a good question. Yeah.  I ended up in school in Arizona and while I was in Arizona, I really missed new England.  I missed seasons, I missed snow. I missed the ocean. I was always looking over the horizon when I was in Arizona, looking for the ocean. It was a strange place to be for a guy from the coast. And by chance I happened to be enrolled in a course with a girl from bar Harbor. And I don't think I'd ever known anybody from Maine or bar Harbor growing up. I didn't know anybody in Arizona from Maine, but she and I became really good friends. And the more I chatted with her, the more I was intrigued by Maine. And I think it had to do a lot with the coastline, the romance of especially where she grew up.


 

Cooper Dragonette:

 and then kind of a new found interest in boats at the time. And her family came from bar Harbor, but it was also a hub for boat building and, and sort of through her and, and a couple other other influences.  I ended up working for the hurricane out of that were bound schools, sailing program, but I was, I was not a sailor. I was, I was maybe a hiker or a climber or a mountain biker. So when I showed up at the outward bound school, I didn't know the bow from the stern. Yeah. It was a bit of a learning curve. So,


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

But prior to going out there, you said you developed an interest in boats. Where did that come from?


 

Cooper Dragonette:

 I don't know. That's a good question, yeah, I don't quite remember where that came from, but I think it was talking to her.  I have to say there was, there was an issue of wooden boat magazine that fell into my hands really just as I was getting to the end of my undergraduate degree. And that, that one issue had an article about one of these legendary instructors at the outward bound school, Lance Lee, who went on to F to, to form the apprentice shop, which was a boat building school kind of an early an early rendition of the wooden boat school.  but his experience working at outward bound, reading about him in that magazine talking about education, you know, out on the water through boats. I think that really put the hook in me. So that's, that's probably where that came from


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

For those who aren't familiar with the outward bound school or a hurricane island, what is that, what is that program?


 

Cooper Dragonette:

It's an experiential education program.  mostly it's, it's about learning your limits or finding out maybe more about yourself through being outdoors whether it's sailing, hiking, backpacking Newing they have programs all over the world.  the programs here in Maine are really centered on hiking, sailing, canoeing in the winter. There's some dog sledding winter backpacking.  and as a, as a group of maybe 10 or 12 students of all ages you're on a, you're on a pretty different experience for most people, you know, for most people it's out of their comfort zone.  it's definitely an adventure and I think it invites self-reflection.  the other courses that I taught, we were all in the same boat, 12 people in a very small boat.  it's an open boat you're rowing and sailing the coast of Maine from here to the Canadian border. And you know, it's challenging and it's, the weather can be challenging. The group dynamics can be challenging.  the foods, the living conditions, all of it is a challenge.  and then at the end of the course, I think there's this feeling of like, oh, I did that. If I can do that, what else can I do? And, you know, for me as somebody who took an outward bound course as a high school student that, that definitely is some strength you can build on it's a confidence builder, for sure.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

So did having that strength as a that strength experience as a high school student that did that give you the confidence to become a teacher for outward bound, even though you didn't know that much about sailing?


 

Cooper Dragonette:

Yeah, I think so. I, I, I think I always knew I wanted to get backed out rebound.  I think that was another one where, you know, could I have a life as an outward bound instructor?  that was, that was a tough one to sort of figure out and you know, living in the field out of a backpack out of a duffel bag at some point, even, even though I loved it, I wanted something a little more secure. I, you know, I wanted a hot shower, I wanted a garage. I wanted just the creature comforts of home and they couldn't find that inside my duffel bag. So it was, it was it was a great lifestyle for, you know, a decade or more but and I wouldn't trade it for anything. I mean, the friends and, and colleagues that I've worked with there, or my lifelong friends. Yeah. That's that's experience. Can't be replicated. You also


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Developed a friend group when you taught art at bound era and Thompson. Yeah.


 

Cooper Dragonette:

Yeah.  w we were really lucky. We had a big art department. I don't know if most high schools, most school systems have an art department that large, and we had really four designated teachers for different disciplines. So we had, I taught mostly drawing and painting. We had a photography teacher, a ceramics teacher, a sculpture teacher.  you know, I think that's not a regular thing to be found in most schools.  and then just to be a department of four people was really great, especially as a new teacher, I was working with some very experienced teachers who were well-respected in the state of Maine in both in education and in the art world. So it was a great experience for me to fall into that group of people.  they continued to be friends, people. I keep in touch with people who keep cheerleading, my work as an artist.  they are all artists. And so it's fun to see what we're each doing now that we've all moved on since, since our days at Mt. Era.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Did you see significant differences between experiential learning with outward bound and working as a public school art teacher?


 

Cooper Dragonette:

Yeah, definitely.  I think when you're working in an outward bound course, the, a lot of the education comes from outside of, of your experience as a teacher.  again, you know, I always looked forward to like a rainy day or a foggy day or a big thunderstorm because it really took the load off of me. The, the weather did the work you know, or if it wasn't going to be windy and we were going to row a long way. That challenge was not something that I invented. It was something that just came in front of us that we had to meet. Whereas when you were teaching the challenges and lessons that you gave your students were created you know, from discussion from textbooks from experience.  so I was really responsible for, for what students were going to do and see, and of course it was a limited time you know, I think the longest classes that I had were maybe 45 minutes, maybe an hour each day.


 

Cooper Dragonette:

It was, yeah, it was a limited amount of time. I got to see students.  but at the same time, you know, making art is kind of experiential and students would surprise themselves, challenge themselves.  you know, there's no guarantees that it's gonna work out when you start. So there's a lot of trial and error.  a lot of starting over, I always told students that that making art was like writing. You're going to make a rough draft. You're going to make a first copy a second, copy a third copy. You're going to go back in and make corrections and erase and start over and rework. And that's, that's just the process of making art. It's rare that you knock it out of the park on the first try,


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

You went from the hour bound lifestyle to public school teacher lifestyle, because as you just said, you were looking for maybe it's a maturing way of approaching life and a little bit more security, perhaps. I mean, I don't, I mean, I think it's a normal way that many of us. So I'm going to give you some credit heritage. I think it's not a, not an exceptional thing that you did, but when you went for him, the living out of a duffle a little bit more on the edge to this secure life, do you feel like you gave anything up that you realized that you valued? 


 

Cooper Dragonette:

Maybe, you know, it felt like I was, I was trading in some of the wonderful, hard parts of living out in the field for some of the comforts of home.  you know, I would, when we were working without rebound, you'd be up long before sunrise. So I saw every sunrise. I saw every sunset. I, I knew what the tide was. I, I knew what the weather was going to be, and I don't have that same connection to the natural world anymore.  you know, I don't know what time the sun came up this morning and I probably miss last night's sunset.  so those things I miss, you know, and I try to get back to those now and again, with my family, with kids with vacations or just, you know, day to day, just try to get up early and, and remember what that felt like and why it's valuable and not to miss it.


 

Cooper Dragonette:

 but you know, doing that, working for outward bound meant that you weren't doing other things, you couldn't do other things, you couldn't see friends regularly, you couldn't maybe just go out to dinner, meet some friends out or, or make plans, you know, very far in the future. So it, yeah, it, everything comes with the trade off, I guess, but, you know, going into education and specifically teaching fine art, always with the back plan to keep painting, make time to make art.  the S the schedule was such that I felt like I had the energy really for two jobs I could teach and I could paint.  summers of course, was a big chunk of time to work school vacations, but, you know, I, my, my days ended late afternoon. And so it, wasn't a hardship to then switch gears and get back to the easel and make some paintings in the evening and, and practice and see if this could become something


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

You've maintained an interest in plein air painting, which is not typical for people explain to us what plein air painting is and why you're interested.


 

Cooper Dragonette:

That probably goes right back to the outward bound question because plain air painting is painting in the out of doors. And it wasn't until this is kind of a long answer, but it wasn't until I came back to Maine.  I should say, I decided to teach. I had to go back to school to get a couple more classes under my belt to get the credits or the, the accreditation that mane wanted to teach in me. And I ended up falling into a class at USM with this great painting instructor. And he was the guy who really introduced me to play in our painting. I hadn't really been interested in, in painting so much as I was more of just being an artist being creative. But once I saw that, oh, you can take this outdoors. I thought, this is where I belong. This is my link between making art and probably living in the outdoor lifestyle without rebound. And so now I was back outside and that felt right, that just felt like a natural fit to see that you could make paintings and they were never huge paintings, but to make paintings outdoors and that you could pick where you want it to go. That was just great. And so I was really intrigued by the idea that I could have this medium and explore Maine again. That was nice.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

I remember seeing Instagram posts by Matt rest. Who's Matt Ross. Who's another Portland art gallery artists. And he's, he's hiking up Morris mountain in Phippsburg and he's got like his canvases. He's got his, I dunno, it's his equipment, his paints, and he'll go a long distance to try to try to get a nice scene. And it's it's a little bit more work. Do you do the same thing? Yeah,


 

Cooper Dragonette:

It's definitely a little more work. And it's it's, it's a little bit like cooking, you know, that, that you, you have all the ingredients and you've seen the video, you've seen the, the photo. You've seen somebody make it and you think, oh, I can do that.  see, you know, you, you set up your kitchen out in the field and there's no guarantees that it's gonna turn out. Right.  and that's probably the hard part about working, playing there versus working in the studio. Is that in the studio? It's oh, this isn't going so well, I'll just another canvas over in the corner and start again on something different.  or I'll put it down and come back to it later, you know, playing air. You have to think about what time of the day is it?  can I come back to this again?


 

Cooper Dragonette:

Tomorrow? Is the tide going to go out while I'm standing here? Is that boat gonna leave the dock while I'm painting it?  is the sun going to set? Is it going to be raining tomorrow? So the, the, the conditions are never that stable, but the experience of being out there that's what really seems to be the thing that makes the difference in your paintings. You, you pick up more than, and it's hard to put into words, but you pick up more being out there, painting in the field, then you might painting in the studio. And it's not that different than say, like seeing some great landscape or some image and snapping that photo on your iPhone. And then when you get home or you see it, or you show it to friends later, there's something not there. And I think with painting, you try to get that thing.


 

Cooper Dragonette:

That's not there into the work.  and it's probably just the process of being there for a long time observing, and you just see more and you're noticing subtle changes in colors and lights and values, and maybe the temperature of the day, or, you know, heat of the day, that kind of thing. So working plain air is it's a wonderful experience. It's more challenging than the studio, for sure.  and so a lot of times the paintings that I make in the field either become a larger piece back in the studio, or they just become studies. And, and again, more practice, I suppose, I look at every painting as practice for the next painting. You're never really sure if that's going to be a Mona Lisa or not.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Well, I've heard from several artists that, that part of knowing when your art is done is, is kind of a feeling about, you know, you keep working on it, you keep working on it, you keep working on it. And then finally you're like, okay, that's it. Yeah, but it's not really, it's not like anybody puts a tape up and there's a finish line that you write.


 

Cooper Dragonette:

No, no, I usually am just sick of it. Yeah. Usually I am just tired of working on it. And then there's some element of it's, there's a conversation you're having with the painting. It needs this, this isn't right. You have to fix this. This is off. This could be better. And then those little, that little dialogue seems to get very, very quiet. And if you keep trying to push it, that's when I think a painting can kind of die in front of you.  I mean, my, my rule is to like, leave the small brushes at home. It always seems like when I get the small parcels out and try to put in every blade of grass, every leaf, every detail, it just kills it. So I do try to keep it loose, keep it simple. And that helps if you, if you have a limited amount of brushes, you can't get too bogged down in the stuff that helps.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

So it's a little bit like cooking outdoors when you're camping,


 

Cooper Dragonette:

Cooking outdoors. Yeah. Yeah. You don't have all the ingredients in the kitchen, right?


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Yeah. And sometimes it tastes good and sometimes it's a bit of a fail, but you know, in the end it's still the experience of it. Right. The experience of it. Yeah. Tell me about this piece. That's behind us right now in the studio.


 

Cooper Dragonette:

 I live in Cape Elizabeth. And so this is a painting from the shoreline and Cape Elizabeth.  if you're familiar with, with two lights and the lobster shack at two lights, this is on the shore between those two places. So between the state park and the lobster shack it's, it's a sort of hard to reach corner of capable Isabelle. There's no roads there, there might be one house along that stretch of the coast.  but just walking by, I suppose maybe somebody might not notice this, but I think what I, when I saw it, I thought, Ooh, there's an interesting collection of shapes patterns color shifts. And that probably is why I stopped and thought, oh, this would make a good painting.  I might not have known exactly what it's going to look like when I was done, but it, it often seems like you see something out of the corner of your eye and think, oh, that could work.  and there's something about that that draws me in, I suppose, with this piece, it's that big rock in the center. That was the key to, to saying yes to doing it. I think at that rock hadn't been there. You wouldn't have the sort of pattern that it has otherwise, you know, you have this series of lights and shadows and that rocks and sort of pulled it all together for me. And this sparkles on the water don't hurt either.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Was this a plane air?


 

Cooper Dragonette:

This the original one was the original study was probably eight by 10. I think this is 30 by 40 and often try to make the plain air pieces some ratio so that when it comes time to scale up, it scales up well. So you know, 30 by 40, I can't do the math in my head right now, what that would reduce down to, but hopefully the same shape in the small one works itself out to the big one.  and so it becomes a lot easier to scale things up when you do that.  but you know, the original small one probably took maybe two hours, maybe a little longer, and this one probably didn't take much longer than that, but all the thought process was done already. I didn't have to decide, well, what color is that? What shape is that? What value is that? When I made this one, I really just had to copy it and make sure that I got everything kind of in the right place.  when it gets bigger, you see things more clearly. So there's definitely differences between the original and this one.  but it, it's almost easier to make the big one after having made the small one, it's just fast and kind of brainless,


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

You've mentioned the sparkles on the water, which is one of my favorite parts of this piece. But you also mentioned that, you know, you were there for two, two hours. So how do you get the sparkles doing the same amount of sparkling over the course of two hours?


 

Cooper Dragonette:

Some of it is, you know, you walk by and you think, oh, that would work. And then you sort of have to take quick note of like, well, what is it about this it's working? You know? And because all those things might not be there in two hours. So the tide is going to shift, the sparkles might leave.  somebody might set up their picnic right there. And so a lot of times I will make a quick pencil sketch.  I use a viewfinder and have a sketchbook, and I try to have that sketch really be the design for the final composition. That's so important to get the, to get the design of the piece, right. It's like building a foundation for a house and if that's not right, it's just going to fall down.  so having the simple sketch, basically the blueprint for the drawing that helps sometimes using the iPhone to compose going, okay, what's the far left border going to be, what's the far right border going to be, but then to capture things like, okay, well, what, what do those sparkles look like? They might leave in a bit, or where is the tide right now? Is it going out, is coming in.  and having that phone photo as a reference is really helpful. It's a great tool.  I have a really nice camera, but I don't lug it out into the field a lot. I just have my phone in my back pocket, like we all do. And so it's a great, easy, quick tool to, to have to help make the painting work, you know, to find all those little notes to get to the finish line.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

One of the other things I like about this painting is the purple on the shadow of the rock, which for me is really interesting because it, I don't think of rocks as being purple necessarily.


 

Cooper Dragonette:

I don't think they are, but I do think there's some element of artistic license that I tried to work into pieces and I think that comes from not wanting to make a complete representation of it and, and a totally realistic representation of what I'm seeing.  but I think it's fun to be able to introduce colors that you might not see. And I think especially with our phones and our cameras, the camera doesn't pick those up.  you know, I really love reflected light when, when light bounces into a shadow, how it changes the tone of the shadow. So sometimes, you know, a purple or a pink work in those places.  and, and I suppose it probably keeps it from being kind of monotone it's, you know, instead of just being one color, it's like, let me mix this up and see if this works, you know, let me see if purple and Brink's work in this shadow space. And sometimes it does sometimes oranges work as a, as a highlight color.  again, I think I'm trying to capture both what I see, but what it feels like in the moment have the temperature of the day, you know, is this a summer day? Is this a winter day trying to get some of that? And sometimes colors can really help to, to capture those feelings more than more than probably what I'm capable of skill skillset wise. So I, you know, sneaking some colors that will help do that for me


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

When you're talking about doing a study to create a larger piece. It's an interesting thing for me to think about as a non fine artist, because I've been told I can't call myself a non-artist because we're all artists in some respect, but I, I, I clearly have no training in art. So I would never claim to be a fine artist of any sort, putting that out there for anybody who's listening. But when I was talking with Ann trainer domain recently, she was saying that her husband was always surprised by the amount of time she would spend sitting in front of the television at night sketching things out for pieces that she wanted to put together in upcoming days. I believe it. Yeah. And, and that is something that I think happens in writing. It happens in a lot of different fields, but maybe those of us who aren't trained in art, we don't realize how much advanced effort goes into putting a piece together.


 

Cooper Dragonette:

It definitely helps.  it's funny that she's doing that watching TV. So during COVID I was home a lot with my two kids and not unlike this table right now, one kid was on one side, the other kid was on the other. I was in the middle just making sure that they were doing the schoolwork they were supposed to be doing and not watching YouTube videos or playing games. And I got a lot of work done by sketching ideas, out sketching compositions just over and over in my sketchbook reworking ideas for future paintings. And it was really helpful. I mean, it was a good place to just sit and be because it was quiet.  I think they thought I was paying attention to them.  it was, it was a great way to be with them during the sort of in-home home school days during COVID.


 

Cooper Dragonette:

 and it was a good learning experience as well. You know, I was able to ultimately make, I don't know, 15 or 20 sketches that I really liked and then whittle those down to say 10 or 12, that then became the show that I just had open at the Portland art gallery. So that was a lot of work there went into just deciding what's going to work. And it's just, you know, almost like pre-visualization, it's seeing it before it happens. And it's so much easier to see it in a pencil sketch and go, yes, that'll work or no, that's not going to work compared to when it's up on a big canvas and then go, oh, this is never gonna work.  so it's nice to work out all the mistakes in pencil make changes. It's very easy so that when you get to the paint brush into the easel, it, it can go a little quicker.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

What has it been like for you to have primary responsibility for your children? Okay.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Sorry if you're listening kids


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Primary responsibility for your children, and also try to be an actively working artists.


 

Cooper Dragonette:

It was hard.  it was hard for everybody but it was, it was it was hard to, especially when they were home with school you know, for awhile we did nothing but remote school days, but then we finally got back to sort of part-time. So they did two days home, two days in school which still left another day of the week where we had no school, but all joking aside they were pretty studious. They were pretty good. You know, I would, I would always look over their shoulders to see if they were working and more times than not, they were, I think they were both interested in getting their work done so they could get back outside and play and do what they wanted to do. And it was hard for them that was not fun to do school by iPad.


 

Cooper Dragonette:

 but you know, they, they got into the routine. I think they like to do in school, in their pajamas.  so I, I was okay eventually walking away and leaving them in the dining room to go down to the studio and work, and I could work for maybe an hour or an hour and a half. That was a long stretch an hour and a half would have been a long stretch, but I could go downstairs and work and get in the groove and then come back upstairs and check on them. And again, more times than not they were working or at least when they heard me coming back upstairs, they were working.  and I think they did pretty well.  but probably like everybody's experience, you know, we got on each other's nerves, it was a lot of time together.  and so I looked forward to going down to the studio to get a little break.  I'm sure they looked forward to me not being at the dining room table with them.  but, but they were great. They, they pushed through all the challenges of, of, of in-home learning of remote school. And weirdly we had a successful year, you know, it was, it was a success by all measure. So I was able to work. They were great students. It was okay in the end. Yeah, it's hard, but it was okay.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Did it help that you actually had a background in education?


 

Cooper Dragonette:

 maybe I think, cause I understood. It was almost like looking at lesson plans every day. Right. Every day they would essentially get sent their assignments from either one teacher or several teachers. And so you sort of knew what the expectation was from their teachers.  sometimes they would have to zoom in to calls that was helpful because I knew basically they were plugged into something while they were on that zoom call.  but it did help to say if they were struggling, like, well, let this go move on to the next thing. We'll come back to that.  yeah, I mean, it did feel a little bit like I was back in the classroom, but they were two pretty good students who oftentimes got suspended. Well, couldn't stay for detention anymore. Oh


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Yeah. Well, in this case, I think having them stay for detention and would be kind of working against you. So yes. They probably had an understanding of that actually. Yeah. And through it all, I think it's interesting because you and their mom and that they have all acknowledged that you are a working artist and what you do is work on creating art, but you just happened to have a studio in your home. 


 

Cooper Dragonette:

Yeah. I mean, that's, that's been really fortunate. We moved to this house in Cape Elizabeth, maybe five or six years ago. And the studio in the basement was kind of a surprise. It was not where I thought I was going to end up.  it was a funny little space that flooded one February and after the flood we had to renovate and we looked at it again and went, oh, this would make a great studio space. And it's been a really nice space to go to and work in all the time.  and it is work. I do try to see it as a job. And so in a normal school year, you know, everybody gets out of the house probably by eight 30 and I just head down and get to work. And there's a lot to do. There's, there's always a lot to do.


 

Cooper Dragonette:

 and it's with the boys in school, it's a short day.  somebody is walking back into the house at about three o'clock and it's hard to want to keep painting and pretend like they haven't walked in. So yeah, once three o'clock rolls around, I'm usually putting my paintbrushes down and then attending to whatever needs they have by, you know, late afternoon, we're heading off to a sports thing or driving to this thing or that thing. And then before, you know, it it's dinnertime and I'm not really good working after dinner. That's, I'm sort of toast after that. So having that big chunk of time in the morning for most of the day, that's great just to fall into the groove of painting. I often lose track of time and I have an alarm on my phone now that goes off at about quarter to three to let me know it's time to wrap it up. So it's nice when I have those big days to, to work. But it, it does take a lot of time, surprisingly.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Well, I know in our household I work outside of the house, but my husband works inside of the house and he really does work. I mean, he is, he leaves, I mean, I know, you know, cause you know, Kevin Thomas he's in charge of the gallery, he owns the gallery. So you will work with him. So I mean, but he, he gets up when I get up, he starts working. He helps take care of our small dogs, maintains the household. He continues to work and you know, all I'm doing is I get in my car, drive an hour and 10 minutes north work drive an hour and 10 minutes south, and then I'm done. Right. But the being the person who is trying to work and also maintain the household, I mean that, that's challenging.


 

Cooper Dragonette:

Yeah. It is challenging. It's a weird challenge because you know, you're, you're home. And so all the things that everybody has to do at home are there in your workplace whether it's the answering the door you know, tending to the dirty dishes or whatever, but you know, it is, it's a bit of an effort to try to separate the two. This is work time. This is home time.  it's, you know, it's tempting to just switch off and go do the, maybe the fun things that you can do around the house or do the jobs that need doing.  but I really do think it's important to set up that structure so that you define when it's time to work and when it's time to do the other things. And, and I suppose in some senses, I'm lucky that the kids are in school because that defines what time things happen.


 

Cooper Dragonette:

And, and when my free time is my work time.  but yeah, it's a weird little challenge working at home. I'm sure that's probably the case for a lot of people. Now, it's this weird, you got one foot in one world and one foot in the other it's yeah, it's an odd place to be. But I, I like it. I, I, there was a time when I wished I had a studio in Portland. I had dreams of like walking the streets with a cup of coffee, heading to my cool studio. Like I was some hip urban hipster.  and now that just seems like a hassle, like finding parking and getting out of the house and locking the door and going into town. And this is pretty, pretty nice. And then when it's time to walk the dog late in the morning, it's a nice place to walk the dog or you know, take a quick walk on the beach at lunchtime just to get some fresh air or something. That's, that's pretty nice, hard to beat.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Have you seen your art evolve over the course of the last 18 months over the course of time where you've been impacted really by the pandemic?


 

Cooper Dragonette:

Yeah, that's, it has been interesting.  this last batch of work really looks different to me than previous pieces.  I suppose that's true. Every time there's a batch of a new batch of work, you hope that you're progressing in some direction.  and then other influences impact the work as well. I think recently I've been really moved by the work of T Alan Lawson. He's a Wyoming guy, but I think he has a summer place here in Maine.  so I think he's well known in both the Southwest art world and the new England art world, but he really he's known as a total list and he's kind of a, a master landscape painters. He paints pretty realistic pieces, but, but then at the same time, they're pretty loose and nonspecific and they usually just capture a sort of fleeting moment. And so I think that's one of the things that impacted my work.


 

Cooper Dragonette:

This last go was trying to get some of that in my work, trying to make pieces that were maybe from a part of the day that we don't always get to see like a sunset like a sunrise.  and then sometimes it's almost like the lack of color that was, I was interested in the lack of contrasts, the lack of value changes. Maybe this time around everything was a little more monotone with a shot of color. That was, that was what I was interested at this time around. And it feels like it was more successful.  it's interesting. I've, I've gotten to know my eye doctor a bit. And and we've talked about that as an artist and an eye doctor, and he said, well, you don't see red and green that well. And I think that's showing up in my artwork and, and probably the less, I try to use a wide range of colors. Maybe the more successful that is. I'm not sure if that's true.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

I mean, that's actually a fascinating thing to think about is just this idea that what, what I'm looking at right now is probably not what you saw when you were painting it.


 

Cooper Dragonette:

Right? Yeah. Well, I wonder about maybe that's why your rocks are purple. I don't know where the rocks are purple,


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

But I still like it. So I think it's okay. Yeah. As long as you like and other people do too well.


 

Cooper Dragonette:

And that's the thing about being a, I think an artist you know, I walk into a my studio or a gallery show and I just see all the mistakes. I just see all the things that are not working for that particular piece, but that's because I made it and I know it intimately. And I think at some point I just have to live with what, where I've gotten to in my skillset, in my abilities and go, well, that's, as far as I could go with that piece, that's as far as I was able to, you know, get it to look like at what it looks like. So that's a lot of times what I see, but at the same time, I still like paintings that I've made.  I have favorites and, and, and pieces that I think are really successful. And that's always fun to feel that way when you're done thinking, oh, that's a home run. Yeah.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Well, clearly I'm not the only one who likes this space, because my understanding is that after this, you're going to be driving it across our Causeway and bringing it to somebody else who really likes this piece over on cousins island. Who's thinking of purchasing it.


 

Cooper Dragonette:

Yeah. That's what I've heard too. So that's where I'm off to next. Yeah.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

So I love the full service artist idea that not only you're going to show up with your art, but you're going to show up with yourself. So they get to know you as well.


 

Cooper Dragonette:

Yeah. Local delivery. That's right. Yeah.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

And I know that's something that the Portland art gallery likes to do anyway, is just kind of connect people with the art and the artist at the same time


 

Cooper Dragonette:

To be so local, you know, to the gallery in proximity to the gallery.  it's great. It just, it's nice to feel like I'm a part of that community. And I can be,


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

I know that last night was the opening for our most recent show. And you were part of that opening and it was very successful, very well attended.  people really seem to enjoy the art and being together again. Yeah. That must have felt good. It did.


 

Cooper Dragonette:

Yeah. You know, the last time I had it at the gallery, you weren't there. Nobody was there.  it was just a video camera and me, and it was the first day of lockdown and it was bizarre.  I think we all felt that. So this was such a nice change of pace from that. It's such a contrast to, to see the gallery full again to see a lot of people, I hadn't seen the long time to feel like we had turned a corner in a lot of ways, even though maybe we haven't.  but it was just fun.  and it was fun to show my work to a whole crowd of people.  but that Portland art gallery is one of those places in town that makes not just the old port, but Portland really special.  you know, there are a lot of places in town that are maybe more commercial.  maybe they're more of a chain variety of stores. So Portland art gallery is just its own local thing. And you know, if you're walking through town, that is a real, I feel like it's a real hub of the center of that community. So it's, it was great to be there last night. It was great to see all those folks out.  yeah, just felt like some real life was, was in there last night.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Well, I've really enjoyed the chance to talk to you today and it's it's actually a beautiful day outside. It's heating up here in the studio. So I know that you probably will want to get out and do some plein air painting. Maybe you'll do it along the way back home.


 

Cooper Dragonette:

Yeah. There's a couple of spots, little


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

John island, cousins island. That's, that's pretty neat. Actually, we live in a beautiful spot. Yeah. We're lucky. I've been speaking with artists, Cooper Dragnet. You can see his work at the Portland art gallery and also the Portland art gallery website. I encourage you to come to one of the openings upcoming and actually meet him in person. He's really a delightful individual, as you can tell, even though, you know, he's a little down on his kids, but I think he's just kidding. So let it that out. Yeah. We'll edit that part out. Right.  I hope that you take the time to get to know Cooper and his art. And you've been listening to radio Maine. Thank you, Cooper. 


 

Cooper Dragonette:

Thanks Lisa.