Natalie Cooper, an up-and-coming Memphis artist, is gaining popularity for her custom acrylic pet portraits and pop art Memphis collages. Cooper strives to bring happiness through her paintings and create personal connections with customers.
Born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Bowers later moved to Germantown, Tennessee and attended Houston High School, where she took an advanced placement art class her senior year with teacher Amanda McKnight, who encouraged her to attend the governor’s school at Middle Tennessee State University between her junior and senior year.
The Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts is a summer program designed to provide a deeper education for talented students. McKnight also encouraged Cooper to keep painting even if she did not prefer the classroom setting.
“Taking AP art turned me away from the more traditional side of art classes and training,” Cooper said. “I realized that I hated art in a curriculum setting.”
She said she is thankful McKnight encouraged her not to give up on art. Her mom also inspired her love for art. Cooper grew up in a loving household with a family who pushed her to use her gifts and be creative. Her mom had an art degree, and Cooper remembers she always helped with school projects and sewing.
After high school, Cooper attended the University of Memphis and earned a degree in public relations and a minor in social media marketing. Those classes taught her how to market her brand. She said each class taught principles of business and marketing that are essential to her success.
“Everything that surrounds school is what I love,” she said. “Certainly getting a different degree and being surrounded by people that inspired me grew me to rekindle my love for art.”
Her first commissioned painting, a canvas of a church, was created in May 2017 for one of her friends. After that piece, she remembered her old art Instagram account and began posting again. Soon many friends asked Cooper to paint canvases.
“I remember posting that first pet portrait, and things just exploded for me after,” she said.
Since 2017, Cooper’s business has grown. She only does custom work for specific clients. Her inspiration comes from the client’s ideas. She wants to know about their pet and its relationship with the owner.
One of Cooper’s closest friends, Caroline Yobak, said Cooper brings life to her pieces.
“Whether it’s a trademark facial expression on a pup, a spot on an ear, or a personalized collar, she asks her clients for all kinds of photos and features that she can use to truly bring expression to the piece,” Yobak said. “Even with her murals of cities and sports teams, she goes above and beyond to add flair and little hidden gems that somehow all fit together into an eye-catching and colorful piece.”
Cooper said she will never say no to a client’s ideas. She wants people to remember how much she cared about their painting and the happiness it brings.
“The three words I would use to describe Natalie are ambitious, empathic, and innovative,” said Yobak. “Natalie doesn’t do things without intention, and she can turn any idea into reality. She also doesn’t always follow the book. She does what is true to her and her brand. The most special thing about her is, whether it’s for work or for her relationships, every piece that she creates has a personal touch.”
Cooper uses brush strokes with texture and vibrant colors. She said Leonardo Da Vinci is an inspiration.
“My favorite thing about my work is the emotional attachment and emotional connection that is seeing your pet on a canvas and knowing that will always be with you,” she said. “I feel like I need to have bright colors to feel inspired and happy. That is what brings the animals to life to me.”
Cooper plans to continue in her professional career as an artist. She recently started a nostalgia collection of pop art collages of areas such as Germantown, Collierville, and possibly North Carolina. She plans to share memories of those areas with new customers and hopes to one day have a collage print for every city.