Pan Cooke is a 25-year-old freelance artist working and living in South Dublin. The City’s Laura Larkin nabbed five minutes with the busy painter to chat about how a strange twist of fate caused him to stumble onto his new career.
Can you introduce people, briefly, to your work?
At the moment I’m doing black and white portrait paintings which are my main thing at the minute. I also do street art stickers, but that’s more of a promotional tool rather than being my main job. My main outlet is Instagram – people contact me through that. Pretty much all of the paintings I do are commissions, except for the odd ones I do for myself which I’ll usually sell too.
Is Instagram something of a new frontier for artists?
It is. I don’ have to worry about setting up a shop or anything like that. I can pretty much do everything from my phone and I still get a steady stream of commissions. I don’t even have to do a website. It’s a brilliant tool for artists, for promotion and for selling.
You do have a show once a year?
Coming up to Christmas we do a show that is kind of like a pop-up shop. A friend of mine works closely with the Irish rep for Billabong clothing so we sell that clothing and do an art show. We did it for one night last year, but this time it ran for a week.
How did you get into art?
It grew organically for me. I did business in college but I was always messing around with art. I was doing the street art paste-ups and when the Robin Williams thing happened, it was a huge thing. I had the portrait done before he died and a good few people heard about me through that so that gave me a platform. I was then able to move into painting and use the audience from that. I just built from there I suppose.
The Robin Williams poster, which coincided with his death, was a real turning point for you, how did you find the attention?
It was kind of strange because the main thing about that was that I had a huge poster [of Robin Williams] and I had it ready to go that night. It was about midnight when I heard that he died and I went straight out to get it up. The image came up so quickly. I then recycled that image a bit, if people were going away during the summer I sent packets of stickers to them. I got a lot of pictures of them going up all over the world – in Asia and Australia.
What’s next for you and your business?
I don’t know how sustainable it will be, I’m hoping to grow it more and more. At the moment it’s kind of happening naturally without me having to plan it out. If it keeps going at the rate it is and I can build up, I’m hoping to move away from the portraits eventually and branch out into more ‘artsy’ stuff using the audience I’ve built so far. The goal is to move into experimental art but I think that’s a while down the road anyway.
Do you feel pressure to have a clear plan?
There’s a bit of pressure because you’re not working five days a week with set hours. There can be some weeks where I’m inundated with commissions and sometimes I don’t have any. It’s quite episodic, rather than a secure job but if you’re doing something you love you have to take that risk. Now is the best time for me to go for it anyway.
You can find Pan Cooke on Instagram at therealpan.