July 2017

When I started making paintings I had a lot to paint about. My life had led me to drug addiction, dereliction, and homelessness. Those experiences  shaped the man I became and somewhere along the line I started my journey as a full time artist. Eventually, I would make many good paintings. The context of my paintings is usually positive, but they come from a place of extreme negative. I have been through darkness. Coming out of that is what inspired me to paint. I made it out. I truly had something to say!


Fast forward six years, I am having success as a painter. I have climbed a few rungs of the “art world ladder”. My resume is growing. I am on my way. Okay so…. what do I paint now? A lot has happened in my life in 6 and a half years. I have had plenty of new experiences. I got to visit many countries and do many new things but they were all fun things. My life is good now. Where do I find my darkness? When I close my eyes and remember that day I laid in an alley way, drunk, looking up at the sky asking God “how did I get here?" I open my eyes to my new house, with my beautiful wife, surrounded by my cool stuff… homeless junkie is just not reality. My life is not torture anymore. To be honest, that feels like another lifetime. I don’t feel like the same person who was sleeping in that alley way. It is a part of my story and helped shape the man I became, but who I am today...is a painter and I'm sitting here asking what’s next?!

On July 10th I will fly to Athens, Greece. I will live in Athens for a month working with Circusaid - a nonprofit organization doing occupational therapy with refugees in refugee camps. My mission is to build rapport with people who are in a dark time in their lives. I aim to help them find joy in moments, and also to document my own personal experience with joy and moments. My goal is to be present, ultimately to feel. If i can try to understand these people i can help them find joy, even if only for a moment. When i help i feel. When i feel i make good work. The body of work i make will be shown in NYC in October. The goal is to bring these feelings back to the states - to document what we do with art. I am very excited!

Storms in April

This painting started with a poem about anxiety. The poem has a realization that today can be magical if i enjoy the moments. It ends with the word tomorrow which is the looming anxiety of "what if". 


The next stage of the painting was chaotic. Completely free form. Essentially i made mess trying to cover the poem. Metaphorically, the messy chaotic process is anxiety, trying to disturb the peace i found by living in the moment. 

My next step is to mute out this mess with white enamel; But after laying on a heavy layer of white still the chaos seeps through. Working on raw canvas has given me this element of not knowing how inks and paints will react. My goal was to mute the chaos, and find serenity in the painting... but the painting had a mind of its own.


As the chaos bled through a layer of white enamel i saw the shape of a flower. This is when the flower emerged. I pulled it out with spray paint on top of other wet mediums and left the studio for the day. When i came back to the studio the next day a beautifully drippy flower had dried in the most perfect way. At this point I knew I was close to completing this painting.


I continued muting out parts of the poem with more layers of enamel until nothing was legible except of course the word "Tomorrow". As i completed the painting I felt as if the word tomorrow had taken a new meaning. When removed from the poem about anxiety and paired with the flower it changed from looming to hopeful. I decided to titled this work "Storms in April" 

For a catalog of available works click here


ISU tv Interview

So they did this interview right before my talk, and my nerves were really kind of through the roof. Ironically i seem very calm and almost lethargic but i think it was to counteract my thumping heart beat. This was my first public speaking venture of this magnitude and it was a little scary! 


Overall i think it went well, and after i was done i become overwhelmed with gratitude during our little in formal "meet and greet". You can listen to a pod cast of the whole talk in the previous blog post.


I got clean from drugs while living here. I learned how to be a man here. I learned that people can be nice, just because they're nice. I learned how to work hard. I learned how to work on myself. I learned manners. I moved back to NY with a new perspective on life, and a solid foundation of my own. Thank you Tallahassee, I will always love you.

You Are Not Late

'You Are Not Late' Paul Cooley 2017 || 48x60" || Acrylic, Spray Paint, Ink, Enamel, on canvas

'You Are Not Late' Paul Cooley 2017 || 48x60" || Acrylic, Spray Paint, Ink, Enamel, on canvas

'Umbrella Solution'

The beginning of this painting was completely organic. I started with the nose from the thanks face as I often do, and made some crazy marks over it. I then went in with scraps of a flesh colored spray paint moving in a downward direction. When the spray happened, the two shapes I made looked like legs.

The legs are what made me think of the Mortons salt girl. So I took a moment to reference that image and embrace my new direction. At that point all I knew was that I was painting the Mortons salt girl.

After pushing and pulling with the abstraction to translate more into a dress, I outlined the umbrella, and painted it in a solid slate purple. I instantly envisioned the Gucci print inside the umbrella. I don't know why.

It made me think "why did I envision that?" Asking that question opened up my inner debate about branding and how money enslaves us etc.

That's where the metaphor was born for this painting. The girl is a chaotic mess. All the crazy marks, the abstraction; she's all mixed up. But it's a beautiful mess. She's unique. Still, I'm sure some of that mess could be fixed with some soul searching. 

The umbrella symbolizes what the girl allows the world to see. She's dressing up the outside instead of working on the inside. Covering up the mess instead of searching for inner happiness. Kind of displaying this "prestige" on the outside when inside everything is chaos.

'The Umbrella Solution' || Paul Cooley 2017 || 48x60" acrylic and spray paint on canvas

'The Umbrella Solution' || Paul Cooley 2017 || 48x60" acrylic and spray paint on canvas

After creating this painting I realized it can be taken in other ways, like the girl's chaos is art. She's dressed in designer like every other rich girl but inside she is actually a work of abstract art. I wonder how others will percieve it.


Yesterday I had a meeting in Brooklyn that left me smiling from ear to ear. I met with a woman who is asking me to do a two month residency in Italy. Traveling with her team who brings social services to Syrian refugees living in camps. Her vision for me is that I use that time to create a body of work inspired by my experience. After the trip we will have an opening in NYC displaying the work I create. This show will be a window into something happening in the world right now that can't be documented. The refugees must remain anonymous for obvious reasons. The goal is not to get involved in any of the politics but to help these humans having to start over - and to share the experience through my art. 


The very same woman pitching me had just wandered into my show during Art Basel last month. She didn't know who any of us were, she hadn't seen the show flyer; she was just walking by. She came back the next day to see the show again. The second day she and I had a long conversation about what she was doing overseas. This is when  the spark happened. 


Go with the flow. Ignite the sparks. Who knows what tomorrow will bring