Artist Q&A

Elliot Cowan

Where are you from and where are you currently based?

I'm from Melbourne, Australia but I live in Queens, NY.

 

What is a typical day like for you?

Well, it depends. During the semester, I teach a lot of animation classes, so I'm usually teaching all day.

I collect my kids around 5 pm and get them all in bed by 9:30 and draw and paint from then until about 1 am.

 

What drew you to making art? Was it something you knew you would do from a young age?

I've always made art.

I can't remember a time I didn't.

Elliot Cowan, I Told You So, 2015, © Elliot Cowan. Image courtesy of the artist.

Can you describe a memory associated with art that could be considered a turning point, either that led you to pursue making art or that influenced your work?

When I was a kid, my mum would take me to the library once a week. I guess I was about seven or eight when I discovered the work of Gerald Scarfe, the British political cartoonist. I don't know what it was exactly but there was something about it that caught my eye and he became my biggest influence for a very long time. You can still see his influences in my stuff if you know what to look for.

 

You have many diverse skills given your background in film and animation. How has this aspect of your experience affected your personal artwork? 

I think the most obvious thing is that it gives my work a sense of humour. When you're a cartoonist you're always walking a line between trying to make art but knowing how self centred and narcissistic that is. That kind of thing leads to funny stuff.

 

Who are some of your biggest artistic influences?

Oh. Gerald Scarfe. Tove Jansson. Joan Miro. Chuck Jones. Quentin Blake. Jim Henson. Music is the biggest influences on my work, really.

Left image: Elliot Cowan, Dragons, 2017, © Elliot Cowan. Right image: Elliot Cowan, Linoleum Wonderland, 2017, © Elliot Cowan. Images courtesy of the artist.

What concepts or themes are you continually drawn to?

As a cartoonist I'm drawn to archetypes - cowboys, farmers, drovers, swagmen, pirates, barnyard animals. Mostly I'm trying to filter the music onto the page and have it look something like the work of the artists I admire but also making sure it looks enough like mine that nobody notices.

 

Are there any recent developments you’ve gone through in your artistic process?

Nothing I can think of!

 

What is the most difficult aspect of your process?

Finding the time to make things is the most difficult thing of all.

Left image: Elliot Cowan, Aretha Triangles, 2018, © Elliot Cowan. Right image: Elliot Cowan, Squared Ants, 2017, © Elliot Cowan. Images courtesy of the artist.

Has there been a recent exhibition that you’ve seen that had a lasting impact?

I'm more influenced by film and music than other art. Ken Burns’ recent documentary series about country music has given me a lot to think about that will affect my work. The music certainly has already.

As an artist, there's so much to process about that show that I'm not even sure how to break it all down in my head. The most influential art show I've ever experienced was Wayne White's Wayne-O-Rama, which I never saw finished but even in its early stages was a life changer for me.

 

What are you currently working on? 

I had a big solo show last year and that sucked the life out of me for quite some time so I'm tinkering mostly with ink and watercolour. Walking along and seeing what happens with that. They're pretty small at the moment but I like to work large so in time I'll expand them.

Discover more of Elliot's works in our shop or come visit our gallery space on October 24th to check out his work in person. Elliot's work will be featured in our Autumn Exhibition along with three other artists.