For today’s MakerStory, we’re excited to be featuring one of our newest featured creators, Larry Cooney Jr, a digital artist with over 40 years of experience creating in various forms. Starting his career in fine art he’s since fully embraced digital as his primary form, focusing on digital portraiture and creating on his iPad Pro. Let’s go!
How did your story start as an artist?
Comic books. A friend of the family had a deli in Newark, NJ where I was born, and every time we visited he let me pick a comic to keep. Before I learned how to read I was looking at comic books, studying them I’ve been told. My natural inclination was to try and recreate them as soon as possible.
Were you always interested in art growing up?
Building off the previous question, much to the dismay of all of my teachers throughout the years I taught myself how to hold a pencil when I was around 3. I truly just had an urge to draw. To this day 40 years later I still hold a pencil in a very weird, funky way. Definitely not the “proper” way. My pinky on my right hand is permanently curved as a result of how I grip a pencil.
When did you decide to follow your path as an artist?
1st grade. There was a creative writing contest in the county I lived in for elementary school kids and I won first place. Not only did I write the story, I also illustrated it. This caught the attention of my teachers. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a pretty large city in New Jersey called Elizabeth. They had a Gifted & Talented program so from 2nd grade on I went to magnet schools specifically for Visual Arts.
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
My process is the culmination of almost 40 years of doing art. When I say I have tried most every style, medium, technique and process, I’m not exaggerating. About the only thing I haven’t tried is glass blowing. Going to school specifically for art from 2nd grade on means I learned and played with almost every technique out there. Many times unsuccessfully I should add. The old saying you learn from your mistakes is very apt for art itself.
Do you have a favorite artist which you draw inspiration from?
I actually don’t have one single artist. As cliche as this is going to sound I do genuinely believe that all artists are inspirational as they are open to expressing whatever it may be through their art. I know first hand it’s not an easy thing to do so I respect anyone who does it.
What are some challenges you’ve faced in creating art, and how do you deal with them?
I’ve faced so many challenges over the years it’s hard to pick just one. After college I had such massive expectations placed on me since I’d been doing art for so long already. In many ways I placed those expectations on myself. The way I dealt with that is I decided I was going to pursue music instead. I actually started that process during college. I basically ran away from things and I can say that looking back. I was scared to let people down, but most of all myself. More recently I’ve questioned why even bother, truth be told. I have a true love/hate relationship with art, and in an effort to keep this lighter and more easy-going, I’ll just say, fortunately now I’m more or less in a kind-of-like-it stage.
I still use the same techniques and abilities I’ve used to create “traditional” art, I just now use them digitally.
How do you see the art market and the art world changing?
I’ve lived a little over half of my life without the internet and almost 20 years with it. It goes without saying that the internet, particularly social media, has impacted the art world profoundly. Some positive and some negative. What I’ll officially state for the record is it seems like referring to oneself as an artist has a much broader and undefined meaning than it did just 20 years ago. Again, this is both positive and negative.
How has technology and an increasingly digital world impacted your work?
It’s allowed me to illustrate again as it has simplified several steps in the process. There is absolutely no hyperbole in that statement, I work a 9-to-5 job. While it’s design related it’s not me doing illustrations. The quickness in which I am able to now execute a finished illustration is the reason I’m currently doing them again.
How do you think blockchain and the ability to own digital art will affect the industry?
I believe it will bring a legitimacy to digital art that is currently severely lacking right now.
Why are you excited about MakersPlace?
Ultimately I feel it has the ability for digital artists to get fair compensation for their time. Speaking just for myself, I still use the same techniques and abilities I’ve used to create “traditional” art, I just now use them digitally. Just because I now have tools that help me expedite the process, that does not all of a sudden erase the fact that it still takes time. I still also utilize the years and years of practice to hone my craft that got me to this point.
Follow Larry Cooney Jr
You can find and follow more of Larry’s work on: Instagram, Twitter and his personal website.
Larry Cooney Jr is one of our newest featured creators on MakersPlace. You can buy his original and limited edition digital portraits and illustrations on MakersPlace.
Follow more MakerStories here on Medium as we share more stories from the creators. Next up we’ll be talking with 3D digital artist Veronika Vajdova (aka Weroni) as she shares her journey from traditional to digital art.