First Friday: The eclectic art of Caia Koopman

Comments by Kelli Lynn Hargrove/

Growing up rooted in So Cal’s gritty 90s skate scene, Caia Koopman has cultivated her presence within the action sports industry, finding her niche and earning a cult following with her fiery paintings of badass women. Fresh out of school, Koopman got her start working with NHS skateboards and Wave Rave Snowboards, Koopman most recently worked with Rossignol to create an incredibly unique snowboard graphic for a board in their 2013 line, and her resume boasts a signature goggle and sunglass from Oakley.

With a strong sense of eco-sensibility ingrained into her work, Koopman’s art often focuses on the relationship between humans and the environment, but it also emphasizes the image of living large and pushing boundaries; many of her paintings feature women jumping out of cannons, skating, snowboarding, riding motorcycles and the like.

It should be noted, however, that though her signature character is a woman, Koopman makes it clear that “she” doesn’t simply represent the ladies, but humans on the whole.

Koopman’s craft manages to put an elegantly eclectic spin on the daredevil soul of skate and snowboard culture. Read on, her work speaks for itself.

CannonGirlCropSM “Cannon Girl”

How were you first introduced to painting?
I’ve painted since my earliest memories, I’ve always loved art and my parents always kept me supplied with the tools of the trade. I think I get it from my great grandmother who was an artist.

What would say is the main source of inspiration for your work?
I like to paint the things that are interesting to me at the time, the relationship between humans and nature is often on my mind but just as often I find myself interested in things like pink Cadillacs and shiny motorcycle helmets.

SkaterSM “Skater Girl”

Describe your favorite piece you’ve ever created.
I don’t really have a favorite, it’s a little like asking a mom to pick her favorite kid but I really enjoyed painting Epic Battle, the story of the underdog. A “my little pony” inspired unicorn defeating the majestic fierce tattoo inspired dragon, rainbows and hearts shooting out of the wound! It was fun to paint and fun to look at. It’s also one of the few paintings I’ve ever kept, it’s usually up on the wall in our living room but right now it’s on loan at Rachael and Steve Caballero’s Gallery.

Is there a message behind your work? Any idea you have in mind as you work?
I have included an environmental message in much of my work, Chemical Girl is one of my least subtle on this topic, with the names of common carcinogens littered throughout the painting. I used to obsess about how humans have this ridiculous sense of superiority and that’s why I would often paint the birds squawking at my characters. The birds in my older paintings were trying to tell us something, make us listen. I still wish that the plants and animals could yell at us humans in real life for being so stupid!
But on the other hand, I also like to have a little more fun with my work and paint strong, independent ladies looking cute and doing whatever, jumping out of cannons for example.

rossignol diva magtek snowboard- 2013 The 2013 Rossignol Magtek Snowboard, featuring Koopman’s artwork

What are some of the projects you have been a part of?
I’ve been part of Scion’s Installation 4 Art Tour and Rossingnol’s Seven Artistic Sins project. I also have my own signature goggle by Oakley as well as some cool signature shades. Most recently I was part of PangeaSeed’s anti-shark finning and Protect Our Sealife campaign as well as KAB, Keep A Breast’s most recent show.

At what point did you realize that this was a viable career path for you?
I began college (UCSC) as a math major and switched to art halfway through, hoping that it would be a viable career path and at least knowing it would be way more fun. I got my first t-shirt graphic freelance job with NHS (Santa Cruz skate boards) which was like a carrot on a string for me; my second freelance t-shirt gig was for Wave Rave snowboard apparel and that pretty much cemented it for me. That and waitressing kept me afloat for years until I could finally dump waitressing.

A lot of your work has action sport references— did you grow up in the action sports scene?
I grew up identifying with the punk rock skater scene in Northern California. Hair bleached white, tons of eyeliner, learned to skate ditches, pools and Derby Park; the good old days were a lot of fun. These days I’m skateboarding with my boyfriend’s 9 year old, but snowboarding more because landing in snow is much friendlier than cement. I’ve always enjoyed my ties to the action sports scene and like to keep my foot in the door professionally. This year my art made it on Rossignol’s Diva and it received a “Good Wood” award, yay!

Do you ever paint subjects besides women?
I do sometimes but my fans have made it clear they like my ladies.

DivingBuddySM “Diving Buddy”

Why the focus on this particular character? What does it (she) mean to you?
My one character is really just meant to represent humans in general, she’s not supposed to be any one person but everybody.

What types of products have you provided artwork for?
I’ve done artwork for skateboards, snowboards, wakeboard, skis, a Jeep, sunglasses, goggles, GelaSkins gadget covers, Classic Hardware boxes, and more…

What would be a dream collab for you?
I’d love to work with someone in 3D, huge!

Any exciting projects currently in the works?
Yes, I’ve got a painting in the Bad Dads show at Spoke Gallery in SF opening this weekend and I’m busy painting a few more for the Love Gallery in Denver opening in March!

For more on Caia, check out her website: http://www.caiakoopman.com or Facebook Fan Page