Lucy Cobos graduated with high honors from the New England School of Photography and helped establish the first photography department at an NBC-TV affiliate station in Boston. A decade later, she opened her own studio and continued to pursue photography for another 25 years. But as Cobos says, “Time flew by in the click of a shutter,” and in 2015, she and her husband moved from Cambridge, Massachusetts to Asheville. Eager to try something new, Cobos transitioned away from photography to become a painter — despite having no previous experience.
How did you make the leap?
I had always wanted to paint, so I took a class from Asheville artist Bob Travers, a phenomenal realist wildlife painter, and his advice was, “Paint what you love and the rest will follow.” I love photography and have a library full of photos, so I started painting from those images, and it translated very well into his oil-painting classes. As I gained a better understanding of color values, I began using pastels. I took Bob’s classes for two years, then a wonderful encaustics class with Erin Keane. They are the two most influential artists who have impacted my journey here.
It sounds like your move was life changing.
In Asheville I can learn or try anything — this diverse and wonderful arts community is like a school of fine arts; it’s incredible. I’m a kid in a candy store, and I cannot start my day unless I do something creative. I feel like I haven’t had my cup of coffee unless I fire up the heat palette [for encaustic work] or break out the pastel pencils. I have a lot of growth ahead of me, but if you keep looking, you keep growing.
The word pastel usually conjures images of Easter egg colors, but you use them in black and white.
It’s my background in black-and-white photography. Black and white for me elicits a deep emotional response, and I wanted strong lines and contrast to draw the viewer in and keep them engaged, without the distraction of color — just down to a raw state. I used to have thousands of colors of pencils and sticks. Now I only have a handful.
I’m not aware of others using pastels the way you do.
I think that galleries and museums are more and more accepting of pastel as a medium. I like watching people examine them. They are mesmerized. They’ll turn to me and say, “I thought it was a photograph.”
And your encaustics?
In between figuring out my next big pastel project, I’ll dive into encaustics. They are my playtime, my recess, and anything goes. It’s fun to play with a heat gun and torch and scrapers, and there are happy accidents. I am currently doing a series with trees. I love the shape of trees in winter when they aren’t all dolled up with leaves. I think they have more personality.
Are you still selling photographs?
One of my favorite projects was for an ad agency in Boston, photographing jazz musicians for the Berklee College of Music. They were elite Berklee professors and Grammy-winning artists — the “Who’s Who” of Boston musicians. I still have people contact me wanting to buy those.
Lucy Cobos, Asheville, lucycobos.com and on Instagram: @lc.photo. Cobos’ work is exhibited in the River Arts District at Pink Dog Creative (344 Depot St. Suite 101, pinkdog-creative.com) and at Marquee (36 Foundy St., marqueeasheville.com).