Lara Cooper- Artist, Illustrator, Storyteller

For Lara Cooper, art is more than just a hobby or a career. It’s something she craves and it’s her voice. When Lara contacted me to do an interview with her, I knew that there was more to her than just her art.

Lara's Background

Although she grew up loving art at school, her career as an artist didn’t begin until 14 years ago at the age of 29. She first started painting under the guidance of Charles Sluga, a renowned watercolour artist. “I’d just had my third child and I was keen for something new. Charles giving lessons at the community centre, and I was surprised to find someone of such calibre teaching in such a small town.” she says. He encouraged her to continue painting and became a private mentor for her. She would paint and then send a picture of the painting through an email for him to critique over a period of 12 to 18 months.

Lara soon developed a deeper passion for art, and it became something she craved, especially once she discovered that it gave her a voice. “It’s not always easy to find a platform to speak, and so, I feel painting connects with my soul in a deep way and provides that channel from inner me to the world,” she says. She notes that with art, the audience in an uncontrollable factor. She can’t control how an individual may react to or interpret an artwork, but she gets great joy out of knowing that people will see a painting and it tells a meaningful story for them. “That’s a lovely element of painting, interacting with the viewer”.

Lara has won several accolades and awards at various art shows, but the one of most significance to her was the 2013 Kerneweck Lowender Art Prize. A real highlight for her came into 2017, when as part of her degree in Intercultural Studies, she travelled to Bali to run painting workshops in the notorious Kerobokan Prison.


For Lara, when it comes to inspiration, she looks for things that catch her eye. “It might be the light hitting something, a very ordinary object. It might be the lovely pose someone has taken or the inherent story in someone’s face,” she says. Lara further adds that inspiration and subjects can be found anywhere, so she often finds herself with more ideas for artwork than she can possibly paint. “I love personal stories. When I’m moved by a moment, which is the result of the alignment of the elements I mentioned, what you have is a story. If I see it, and am moved by it, others will be too.”

With the expansion of oil painting to her repertoire, Lara has a diverse portfolio of work.  “I don’t want to be a one-trick pony, master one thing and paint thousands of that because it would bore me”. She participated in a workshop with world-renowned artist Colley Whisson, who she says help her gain confidence with oil painting.  “I take what I learn and implement it into my own style,” she says.

Oil painting is different from watercolour. Lara says that when painting with watercolour, there’s no room for error and you have to know exactly where you are going to paint before you do it. “With oil painting though, if you make a mistake, you can always paint over the top of it”.

Lara loves jumping from one method to the other because she feels that it gives her a bit of a rest plus it exercises a different art of the brain depending on which method she uses. “If I get bored with watercolour, I’ll switch, and it feels like a bit of a holiday to have a break from it. Then I’ll do the same when I get sick of oil paints”.

Lara's 2019

For her latest exhibition and first since her move to Queensland from South Australia, titled ‘Mindful of Beauty’, Lara drew inspiration or ‘snapshots’ from real life. Each painting represented and drew attention to something beautiful in the most ordinary moments of daily life and highlight the things we often take for granted. “There’s just something so beautiful about capturing someone in a moment of their life and telling their story. It doesn’t tell you their whole story, but it’s a little taste”.

Over the last two years, Lara has been working with authors Rosanne Hawke and
Lenore Penner, illustrating their children’s book. Rosanne saw my work and I sent her a portfolio which she put forward to the publishers,” she says. Having had no experience illustrating books, she wasn’t sure if the publishers would go for it, however they did and work began.

Titled Chandani and the Ghost of the Forest, the story follows a slave girl and a black leopard living in the Himalayan mountains. Lara’s Intercultural Studies Degree and cross-cultural experiences only added to her interest in the book.

Lara is always working on many different ideas and pieces of art. At the moment, she is creating a mini-series with a theme of 'books and reading' in anticipation for the release of her children's book, set for release in May.

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