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Kathy Cooney: Abstract Watercolor
by Sydney Francis

Generally when I write an “Artist of the Month” article, I find myself interviewing the art and not the artist. This is not the case in this article about Kathy Cooney. Rather than talking about the fine points and details of her original watercolor paintings, we spoke of her family, her art business, and of her philosophy of how painting is her personal anchor.

Since 1987, Cooney has lived here in Moab. She has been married for 13 years to Chuck Schildt. Together they have one wonderful son, Charlie.

Kathy and Chuck previously owned Moab Mercantile, a retail business that was located on Main Street. The current Moab Mercantile is a wholesale business, where Cooney represents her own images. She currently has eight prints available and thirty note card images. You have probably seen Cooney’s prints all over town. She has her originals and prints in Earth Studio, The Hogan Trading Company, Desert Sun Gifts, Moabilia and Rain Dance. The Toh-Atin Gallery in Durango also represents her watercolor imagery to larger buyers, like Coldwater Creek where Cooney sells prints of her original watercolors in larger volume. To view a full range of Cooney’s products and images go to her website: The website is the best way to find information on where to locate and purchase her art.

Cooney is both an artist and an art wholesaler. She made it clear to me that these are two distinct modes operandi, as the artist personality is quite compelled just to paint and create art. Whereas, the wholesaler must be a savvy business type who is very knowledgeable of the marketplace, focuses on the sales, works with the buyer, and represents the images for licensure and reproduction. It is the wholesaler within Cooney that supports the time and freedom for her to be the artist. This last few years is her first attempt to experiment with art as her job, in the past she has always has another means of employment to support her art. Cooney originally trained herself in technical illustration using pencil. Realism, however, was not her desired direction, but it helped her establish credibility as an artist. In contract, she describes her watercolors as moderately abstract. Her current work reflects a range of images inspired by the local environment. She has a range of painterly landscapes, some southwestern kokopelli images, rock art type representations, and then her recent flower series. Her approach to landscape painting is summarized most clearly on her website” “the rocks, mountains, water and trees are not separate entities, but instead all connected to the same heart of the scene.”

Her most recent flower paintings are vibrant compositions of desert flowers, using a balance of warm and cool colors. Her images are joyous, vivacious, and extroverted, much like my impression of Cooney from the interview.

Cooney modestly tried to tell me she was not involved in the Moab community. But I came to find out she is very active with local students doing a variety of artistic projects. For the past six years, she has done art with Charlie’s school class. In addition, she has been working with students to decorate the Extended Care Facility for its patients, which has the effect of inspiring both the students and the patients. She was also recently instrumental in the “Got Water” project where the students contributed their original art to make a poster to educate the public on carrying enough water with them in the desert.

In conclusion, I would like to share with the reader one profound concept Cooney expressed to me. We were speaking of teaching art to children, and she told me that introducingkids to different modes of creativity is what gave them access to a gift that allows them to have something internal to rely upon in life. She used the metaphor of a “timmy-tommy cup,” which is a cup with a rounded bottom and a weight inside of it. No matter how hard you push the cup in every direction, it will not fall over. It is anchored by the weight in the bottom. Art making for Cooney is the weight in the bottom of the cup. Her work at the school with students is, in part, an opportunity for Cooney to help kids find their own inner anchor. She shows them this by example. And it need not be through art that a person finds this within him or herself.

Our interview was so fun and uplifting, I had no problem comprehending what she meant with the metaphor of the “timmy-tommy cup”. I left the interview with a sense of balance and excitement. And I found myself inspired to further develop my own inner “timmy-tommy” weight.

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