Frederick Cooper has worked as a conceptual artist/illustrator from 2008-2018. He currently works freelance creating portraits in both traditional and digital illustration. His works heavily feature horror icons of the silver screen. More examples of his work can be found at his ArtStation site.
What is it like living in Hickory, NC? How does it feel to see the community taking more of an interest in the arts?
I’ve seen a lot of small businesses take to local artists and give a space for people to enjoy their work. I’m happy for them, it gives life to this small town and gets us to enjoy the community around us more. I usually cloister myself away to work but over the years I have seen the town become more interconnected thanks to all the events coming about across town. It’s nice.
Where are you from originally? What are your most fond early memories?
I’d think it would be my brothers taking me to the movies in our hometown of Danville, Virginia. I was four years old or so but we still watched a lot of sci-fi and horror flicks. I’d say some of my fondest memories come from us doing that together.
Your work features a lot of the icons from the heyday of horror films. What is it about those particular pieces of work that led you to recreate their most iconic actors in your portraits?
That goes hand and hand with the last question. I have fond memories attached to those films.
What were some of your earliest influences in that genre?
Universal monsters mostly, Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolf Man etc. The older I got, the more diverse and eclectic my film-viewing became.
What quality do you think the earlier horror films had that seem to be lacking in the genre today?
Atmosphere. It doesn’t have to be gothic horror like Dracula or Crimson Peak but I see a strong focus today on cheap writing: Jump scares and strong violence. Now there is nothing wrong with those strategies in film but much of early horror was bereft of it and managed to have greater impact. This was because of the atmosphere they set.
I remember reading before about the difference between terror and horror. Terror is the dread of the terrible experience and horror is the revulsion that follows the experience. I think what would be best for the horror genre today, and what would give it more staying power with people, would be less of a focus on horror and more of a focus on terror. I’m sure I’m not the first to say that though.
When did you first know that you wanted to become an artist yourself? Who are some of your influences in the art world?
Since I was very small – around the same time I began watching those movies. My brother, Curtis taught me a few things about composition and rendering and I haven’t stopped since. My biggest inspirations would likely be Frank Frazetta, Basil Gogos, and Bernie Wrightson. I had the pleasure to meet all three actually, which fulfilled a childhood dream of mine. Outside the genre, my influences included N.C. Wyeth, J.C. Leyendecker and of course Norman Rockwell. There’s just so many influences though. That’s just a few.
Why do you think art has been a sort of comfort throughout the ages?
I’d say there is a human need for beautiful things in your life. That’s true for anyone. That might sound strange coming from someone doing primarily horror but what art does is take parts of life and make it captivating so I think it still holds firm.
Why do you prefer to work in portraits? What is it about the human form that makes it so well suited for such things?
I’d like to get to drawing scenes as well, actually, but portraits are fine means of capturing the spirit of a scene or of a character efficiently. I’ve done only a handful of scenes in the past months and they’ve taken considerably longer. That’s hard on you when you want to draw more.
What do you look for when deciding what subject you will use in a portrait?
It’s just a feeling. Mainly, I’m doing what I like to see in a portrait. It has to say something about the subject.
Do you have any particular pieces of work that you enjoyed creating more than others?
Not exactly. I enjoy the craft and so the subject matter doesn’t influence me much. The working conditions is what can be make or break on whether the quality of the work is good and whether I enjoy myself though.
How do traditional illustration and digital illustration differ most? Do you enjoy one more than the other?
Both are very enjoyable once the creation begins. There’s nothing like the feeling of traditional art however. I like being hands on.
What are some the challenges an artist faces when working freelance?
Keeping your calendar filled with projects.
What do you love most about the art of creation?
The process of creating something that didn’t exist. It’s just a joy in itself.
What do you hope the viewer takes away from your various works?
Well first I hope they like them. But moreover I want them to have a greater appreciation for the characters and movies I draw from and inspirations that influenced me and shine through in my style.
What projects are you looking forward to working on next?
Well I recently got back to painting for the first time in over twenty years. I’m looking forward to exploring that a lot more.
What do you think it takes to be a success as an artist, money aside?
Dedication. I think it was Bob Ross that said that a talent is a pursued interest. You need to be able to not just produce works but dedicate yourself in improving your form.
What do you think is key to a life well lived?
Family and happiness.
Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?
I’d just like to thank everyone for reading this interview and a special thanks to you Tina for your support and patronage. It means so very much.