Jennifer Coggin was looking at the down intently at the floor, pulling out her phone to snap a picture. Why exactly? Well, first off, it wasn’t just any floor. It was that of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. But she also knew she’d want to draw it later.
“Walking into these big churches catches your breath,” her friend had said as they walked in another cathedral in Galway.
“Then it did its job,” Jennifer told her. “You’re supposed to walk in and look up and be overwhelmed, that’s the purpose of Gothic architecture.”
That’s what Jennifer kept thinking on the Vestavia Hills High School band trip to Ireland this spring. Construction on St. Patrick’s began in the 1100s and was completed in the 1400s. “The history of it is overwhelming to me,” Jennifer says. “How many people have walked through this cathedral and had the same reaction I just had? It’s fascinating to me that a building, a skeleton, can do that.”
This feeling of awe is what Jennifer aspires to recreate in her sketches. It comes back when she is flipping through photos she took for inspiration for her artwork. “I remember again how amazed I was standing in this one spot and what you can see from this one spot that maybe no one else saw,” she explains.
Sketching isn’t the only medium of art Jennifer plays around with either. She tends to jump back and forth between sketching and abstract painting, with each requiring a different kind of mindset: “I will sketch all of the things on my list from Ireland, and then I will need a break from sketching and I will want to paint for a while. Then I’ll start feeling a pull back to drawing.”
The sketching process is much more intense: “[When I’m sketching] I have to have something that makes me look away from the paper to relax my eyes. Otherwise I’ll give myself a terrible headache so I just put the BBC on and I just watch stuff.”
By contrast, painting is “much more fluid.” Jennifer just turns on music and goes to work with her paint brush. It’s this medium that she finds more natural and a better fit for her personality, but she still always finds herself being pulled back to the pen and paper, itching to sketch more buildings after spending time painting abstracts.
Jennifer has drawn since she was a child. She studied interior design at the University of Alabama and took art classes, including drawing as part of her major. After school, she continued art as a hobby.
But when she got married and had kids, the drawing fell to the side a bit. She and her family moved to Atlanta, following a work opportunity for her husband, Mike, a homebuilder.
When the housing market hit a downturn, the couple moved back to Birmingham in 2009 with their two daughters. They’d always known they’d come back to sweet home Alabama, just not when. And that was when Jennifer picked the pen and paintbrush back up. “I really just felt this need to get back to it, and I decided that I wanted to try to sell it,” she recalls. “I had friends who would say they wanted a painting [of mine] and they would take it, but I had never tried to sell anything.”
Before that she’d been “sprinkling” art in where she could while staying home with their daughters. As her children have gotten older, though, her time has increased. “I’m not far away from being an empty-nester, so I know that one day I want to do lots of shows around the Southeast,” she says. But not quite yet.
Until then, Jennifer and her work can be found at small markets around Birmingham and she hopes to soon be able to sell her art in local art galleries. To keep up with her work, find her on Facebook at facebook.com/JCogginArt.