I’m ecstatic to unveil my latest "Art of Conversation" interview with Austin-based contemporary artist Coco Zentner. I’ve known Coco since I first started painting; we connected at a barre class and decided to grab breakfast and get to know one another better. We’ve been pals ever since.
Coco’s art is absolutely breathtaking - her colorful florals are stunning to say the least, but Coco can literally paint ANYTHING and make it look incredible. With over 20 years of experience, including studying art at the University of Texas, Coco is a true artist at heart, and I admire her work so much (not to mention she’s just the NICEST human!).
Coco grew up in Monroe, Louisiana and brings her southern sensibility to everything she paints - I’m so excited for you to learn more about Coco and her amazing talent.
1. I have admired your work for so long, and have loved watching your career totally take off. Art can be a lonely career, so it’s been so fun to know another female artist based in Austin who is going through similar things as me. Tell me where you went to college, and a little bit about your upbringing. I went to The University of Texas at Austin, where I received my BFA with a focus on painting and drawing and a minor in business. I grew up in Monroe, Louisiana - a very lively, southern city. We have a close-knit family where my brothers and I were fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with both sets of our grandparents that lived right around the corner. My mom is really creative and instilled in us the importance of using our imaginations from an early age - I was always outside playing with neighbors or putting on performances. My upbringing has played a significant role in my artwork and aesthetic.
2. When (and why) did you decide to launch your professional art career? an artist? After college, I was hesitant to pursue art as a full-time career for fear of becoming a “starving artist.” I worked at Oracle for almost five years (while painting commissions on the side), and after I bought my first house and had enough saved for an emergency fund, I decided to take the plunge. I haven’t looked back since!
3. How would you describe your style of art? My artwork is constantly evolving - but the common thread throughout is the colorful, layered textures. I like to think of my work as traditional with a twist!
4. When did you know you were on to something with your artwork? Since middle school, I’ve been creating custom work (I started a stationery business where I would draw people’s homes as the face of the notecards, and it took off). That and the artwork I was creating catapulted my “name” in the city in which I grew up, which gave me the confidence to pursue my BFA with a focus on painting in college.
5. Where do you find your inspiration? My mind is constantly buzzing with ideas - my surroundings and nature play a huge influence on what I’m creating. It may be a recent trip, a hike with my family, or even a song on the radio. I'm always keeping an eye and ear open!
6. How has your art style evolved over the years? I grew up painting very realistically, and over the years, I developed a more impressionistic approach. I believe you can’t get too comfortable with a style, or the art becomes stagnant - so I’m constantly trying new mediums, techniques, and subjects.
7. Tell me about one exciting project you’ve worked on in recent years? I’ve been working on a 3-year long project that is finally coming to fruition. My artwork is being made into wallpaper based in a storefront in Houston. I’m so excited to see my artwork in a larger format.
8. Describe your process - where do you paint and what does a typical day in the studio look like? I paint out of our backyard art studio that we recently just designed and built. As you know, every day as an entrepreneur looks different. One day I may be meeting a client in person or shipping out artwork; however, an ideal day in the studio looks like this: Before entering the studio, I typically always go on a walk and listen to a business podcast to get my creative juices flowing (coffee in hand), and then immediately get to painting. To not break the creative flow, I reserve the latter part of the day for responding to emails, creating invoices, and making sure all of my ducks are in a row!
9. What do you do to get out of a rut and push yourself past a block? Because nature has served as such an influence for my work - going on walks or taking my camera out and going on a drive and just stopping and pulling over at whatever strikes me really helps. I also have a collection of art books and am constantly flipping through them for inspiration.
10. What is a goal you’d like to accomplish in the next year? 5 years? I’m working on a really fun project that is slated to be completed by the end of 2023, and I hope to work alongside more interior designers within this next year. Long-term goals: I’d love to teach art lessons to children in some form or fashion.
11. I know you’re also a new mom (congrats!!) - has that changed the way you approach your artwork? 100%. It’s crazy how the second you become a mom, you learn the art of maximizing every free second! This “new” title of being a mom hasn’t quite influenced my approach to my work or style, but it has altered how I want to be viewed in my daughter’s eyes in years to come. Every piece of artwork I create and put out into the world, I hope makes her proud and inspired.
12. What do you like to do when you’re not painting? I love to cook and entertain. We just built a covered patio with a long dining table outside of my studio, and I can’t wait to have friends over for an alfresco dinner party this spring!
13. Favorite place to travel? Aix-en-Provence. While working at Oracle, I took all of my remaining PTO to paint with Jill Steenhuis (an incredible artist based in the region). We painted for 10 days all over the South of France in the same spots as Cézanne. Traveling and painting there transformed me as a person and artist, & I knew it was time to make art my full-time career.
14. Where can people find your work? My work can primarily be found directly on my website, www.cocozentner.com, or IG at @cocozentner_art. I’d be remiss not to say that it’s best to sign up to be on my email list so that you’re aware of upcoming collection releases and exclusive discounts.
15. Finally, what is one piece of advice you’d like to give other artists who are just getting their start? There will always be ebbs and flows when it comes to creating artwork. Keep pushing through when you feel you’ve hit a creative rut - because most of the time, it seems the best work comes afterward.