Tuesday, July 3, 2018

British Oil Painter Coba Beukman Shares Her Story

Coba Beukman at work in her studio.
Carolyn Edlund's Artsy Shark eNewsletter features artists, their work and their philosophies. Her website also offers a range of services and information to help emerging artists move to the next level as entrepreneurs. I've been receiving the Artsy Shark in my inbox for ages it seems. Last week Coba Beukman's paintings moved me, so I reached out to share her work with readers here. As I read her story I found many parallels to my own relation to being an artist, from early interest to praise and encouragement from classmates and teachers. This is no doubt a path many artists have walked.

EN: When did you first begin to take an interest in art?

Coba Beukman: From as early on as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories are of me sitting alone in my room attempting to draw. My mother had a huge influence on me because she loved to do watercolors of wildlife in her spare time and she always had a lot of art supplies lying around. She'd encourage me in all forms of arts and crafts. I never had a shortage of art supplies. Later I discovered portraits when we were given art homework at school and told we had to cut out half a face from a magazine and try to complete the face by drawing the other half. I distinctly remember the teachers and other kids in class making a huge fuss saying it was so good and asking if someone helped me with it etc. I never thought I was any good until that day. I remember feeling very shocked at people’s reactions. I was probably about eight years old or something.

EN: What led you to take up painting?

CB: It was again due to some art class homework project. I remember it so vividly. I had to paint some dogs and I’m not sure if I was supposed to use oil paint specifically or not, but I remember my mom showing me how it worked and how I couldn’t mix it with water etc. I think she felt I was now old enough to use these supplies ‘safely’ so she suggested oil paints. I guess I was about 10. At class the next week, I had the same experience with people making a fuss over my paintings. Instead, this time they all insisted that my mom did it for me; even the teacher didn’t believe I did it myself. I remember feeling both irritated and flattered by it.

EN: You mention being self-taught. Did you use books to learn techniques? YouTube? A mentor (like a piano student would)? Or has it all been trial and error?

CB: I have learned through trial and error. I have as much art training as any other person who had art at public school. I also never attended university or further education. My mother was never a skilled oil painter either, she mainly just gave me the initial nudge in the right direction, almost without even realizing it. I’ve only recently discovered the YouTube and online teaching world, but I’m already too far set in my ways by now, haha! I’ve even tried one or two lessons recently to see what I’ve been missing and I just couldn’t get into it because suddenly there were all these rules to follow, and certain techniques had fancy names like Alla prima and whatnot. No, I just mix the colors on the canvas until it looks right and any other way just takes all the joy out of the process for me. In my final school years I remember the art teacher encouraging us to copy old masters. I think this was the one lesson that really stuck with me and where I learned a lot, just by observing and copying. Then trying my own thing. That’s it really. I don’t have any books on painting either. Though sometimes I wish I had a mentor because I think I would have grown much quicker and be a lot further by now.

EN: How long were you painting before you realized you are really good?

CB: I guess it must have been somewhere towards the end of high school, or in Britian as it’s called ‘sixth form’. It was in these final two years of school that I first really started taking portrait painting seriously. The art teacher I had during this time was the closest thing I had to an art mentor. I remember she was called Rose Scott and I really owe a lot to her for all her encouragement. Still I wouldn’t say I am really good. I’ve learnt that I can only get good by always looking for the faults and weaknesses in my work and trying to improve in it. So I never think of myself as really good, only as having the potential to be really good.

EN: How does your faith intersect with your art?

CB: My faith has been the greatest driving force behind my art in recent years. At first I didn’t pursue it after school, for many reasons that I won’t go into now, but I always saw myself as an artist. I could never shake it. I believe that God created us all as individuals with differing gifts; natural and spiritual gifts. So I felt that if painting was a natural gift God gave me, then wasn’t it wrong to neglect it? Shouldn’t I pursue it in faith? I worked at a communications company for seven years and I always just assumed I would somehow become a full time painter eventually. I didn’t know how, but it always just felt like a given, like it was bound to happen. So a few years ago my husband and I took this step in faith, moved to Germany where he was offered a job and I could pursue my painting.

Since then I’ve worked hard to improve my skill, because I want my work to glorify God through excellence in my work. I also strongly believe that skill and talent in the arts is really what separates us from animals. We are not animals. We are created in God’s image and in His likeness and that is why I paint portraits. To reflect His creation and His creative attributes.

EN: Do you have a gallery that represents you? Where can people see more of your work?

CB: I don’t have gallery representation. I’m open to it, but I haven’t approached any galleries yet. I’m currently open for private commissions and anyone is welcome to contact me through my website www.cobabeukman.com on my contact page.

Related Links
The Artsy Shark website 
My own work when I was featured in 2011 on Artsy Shark
Artsy Shark's List of Top Ten Most Read Art Business Articles of 2015

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Get into it. 

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