About Dan Cooper

Having creative influences early in life allowed my imagination to sniff out ways to express itself like a beagle on a hot trail. Born in 1952 in Greensburg, Indiana, I grew up with art lessons disguised as fun by my grandmother, Joy Cooper, who was regionally well known for her oil paintings and especially her finely detailed brush work on ceramics. She kept me busy with crafts, painting, piano, violin, melodica, nature hikes, and just plain playing. After moving to Indianapolis in 1959, summers were still spent on my grandparents' farms. An older cousin, Linda Joyce Rogers, became an art teacher. Her lessons on the simplicity of lines and stylings for portraits will always be with me vividly. John Shilling, a pipe-smoking neighbor with a big mustache and a quick laugh, was a freelance commercial artist with a studio in his home. His drafting table was immense - a place for magic. His gifts of "special" papers were probably greater than he was imagining. Right next door was the budding photographer Malcom Fancher. He provided early clues to composition and tonal values. I started the path towards an art career while in high school by making posters and point of purchase signs for my first client, H.H. Gregg Appliances.

Regional art fair setup circa 1976
art fair set up

Arlington High School in the 60s was blessed with art teachers honored with national and state recognition. John Simpson, art department head, freelanced for L.S. Ayres & Co., the premier regional department store. Marjorie Hindman was a noted portrait painter, and Jane Messick’s watercolors, specializing in Mexican scenery where she spent her summers, were widely collected. Teachers who care about their students reaching their full potential do make a difference.

Getting to Indiana University at Bloomington on a full Evans Scholarship was pretty exciting. I left IU with goals of learning business models firsthand to prepare myself for a career as a self-employed artist. While continuing to paint, entering shows, and exhibiting at local art fairs, I worked as a commercial interior design consultant for the Shaw-Walker Co. Additional art classes at the University of Indianapolis under Earl Snellenberger gave me just the boost needed to forge ahead with confidence. Then there was the wonderful year of living in poverty while concentrating on painting and photography. Two years immersed as an art therapist specializing in behavior modification at a state mental hospital was rewarding. I continued being productive with painting and photography and began developing a recognizable, narrative style.

Ready for adventure, I moved to Tucson, Arizona in 1978 to study desert survival for a year. I flourished creatively, and paintings were sold as quickly as I could create them. After moving back to Indianapolis, life moved quickly. Marriage. Graphic design. Kids. Computers. Internet. Coaching sports.

I teach at the Indianapolis Art Center. Classes include creative digital art, drawing & composition, digital photography, and video production. Through the Art Center I teach under served youth through the ArtReach program. Volunteer activities include teaching an advanced art class at the Correctional Industrial Facility in Pendleton, board member of IDADA (Indianapolis Downtown Artists & Dealers Assoc.), chair the Ethics & Fair Practices Committee, co-chair the Communications Committee, and edit IDADA.org. At Castleton United Methodist Church I operate a 4-camera video system.

Art Influences include Pablo Picasso for his genius; Henri Matisse for composition; Marcel Duchamp for philosophy and lifestyle; Maxfield Parrish for color and technique; Caspar David Friedrich for natural symbolism; and Ellie Siskind for friendship and wisdom.

Dan Cooper
updated June 2013

Article by Molly Herbert (March 14, 2007)

   "I remember being in Bates, the only local art supply store back then while still a student, and seeing someone checking out brushes," Dan recalls, "I thought 'wow, that guy's a professional artist'. I still think of that whenever I'm in an art supply store, and feel a "wow, I'm a professional artist." Dan continues to exude that delight and awe both in conversations and in his paintings.

Dan shows his young son, Neil, one of his paintings in a Coalition of Indianapolis Artists show, "Schocking", in 1989
Dan & Neil

   Over the last 30 years Dan Cooper's paintings have found homes throughout the country and as far away as Japan and Borneo. He became a founding member of the Coalition of Indianapolis Artists and it's first President. Dan used that position to get involved in the political process that led to the formation of the Arts Council of Indianapolis. 2007 is the 20th Anniversary of the Council's formation, and that has served up some fond memories for Dan. He set up their logo search rules so artists were not asked to submit ideas for free. Instead, Dan and Vaughn Hickman viewed portfolios, paid finalists for concepts, and the winner was paid to revise and complete the logo currently in use.

   Dan has long championed ethical business practices regarding art shows. Most exhibitions profit from the entry fees of artists who are rejected from the show. However, to celebrate their new existence, the Arts Council of Indianapolis sponsored their first art show, and only artists accepted were charged entry fees. Helping get the ACI started on a high moral ground was a fulfilling time for Dan as he moved on to another important phase of his life.

   Two sons grew up playing in his graphic design studio on weekends before moving it back into his home ten years ago. Being a full time dad became Dan's number one priority. Instead of attending art show openings, Dan was coaching soccer, basketball, baseball, and tennis - well over 30 teams in Lawrence Township programs. Since announcing his "retirement" from coaching in the fall of 2006, Dan has completed his latest commission and is creating more of his uniquely styled paintings.

   Dan first became intrigued with the idea of computers as a creative tool back in the 1960s while watching episodes of Walter Cronkite's "21 Century" TV show. Back then, only large universities and NASA had computers powerful enough to process graphic images. So he waited. And he watched. And lo, one day there was Apple with the Macintosh! Within a few months of those heady days, Earl Snellenberger organized the first digital art show in Indiana at the University of Indianapolis and asked Dan to participate along with a few other local pioneers.

   Currently, Dan teaches an advanced art class for adults in Pendleton, and several classes at the Indianapolis Art Center. He attended Indiana University at Bloomington on an Evans Scholarship and took additional art classes at the University of Indianapolis.

- 30 -

* Dan's Note (06/12/13): Art Center Classes now include - Video Production (teens and adult classes), Photography in the City (adults), Sketch in the City (adults); and Acrylic Painting (adults)