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An upward trajectory

Punk rock musician Jennie Cotterill looks for equilibrium as her music career eclipses her time for art.

CSULB+alumni+Jennie+Cotterill+performs+on+stage+at+the+Vans+Warped+Tour+with+her+Gibson+model+guitar.
CSULB alumni Jennie Cotterill performs on stage at the Vans Warped Tour with her Gibson model guitar.

CSULB alumni Jennie Cotterill performs on stage at the Vans Warped Tour with her Gibson model guitar.

Eden Kittiver

Eden Kittiver

CSULB alumni Jennie Cotterill performs on stage at the Vans Warped Tour with her Gibson model guitar.

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Ask Jennie Cotterill if she needed to go to college to become a successful artist, and she’d shake her head and give a wry smile.

“It’s not about school, it’s about effort and creativity,” Cotterill said.

An evident irony she noted, given the years she’s spent traversing the Cal State Long Beach fine arts department as an undergrad, graduate and then intermittent sub-professor.

“I really, really love school,” Cotterill said. “I still do.”

In the past decade of Cotterill’s predominantly freelance career, she’s amassed a lengthy portfolio. She’s curated and coordinated over a dozen art and non-art related events, exhibited her work at over 35 galleries, and painted murals for corporate bigwigs such as Nike and Hurley.

The artist has been employed as a background designer and muralist for the twisted Adult Swim animated series “Metalocalypse, and the lighthearted comedy show “Parks and Recreation.” She even fashioned puppets for the Los Angeles production company Crazy Cow Productions. She’s a painter, illustrator, muralist, designer, sculptor and prop-maker. Oh, and she’s also the frontwoman of an all-girl punk band.

Discovered in 2015 at a show in a gay bar in San Francisco, her female punk rock quartet, Bad Cop Bad Cop was signed to Fat Wreck Chords, a punk-oriented independent record label.

Since then she’s traded in her paint-stained apron, brushes and art galleries for a Gibson guitar, microphone and moshing crowds.

Cotterill has had an especially demanding year, touring in and out of the states and on the Vans Warped Tour, or “the circus,” as she affectionately calls it. Stacey Dee, one of Cotterill’s dearest friends and other frontwoman for Bad Cop Bad Cop, related the Vans Warped Tour to Murphy’s Law.

“Anything and everything that could happen, does,” Dee said. “Every morning you wake up in a new place, you pop-up everything you’ve got.”

After the flurry of nearly half a year of traveling on the road from venue to venue, plus the added stress from the tour’s grueling schedule, Cotterill had much less time to do some of the things she enjoyed.

“I had a hard year because I wasn’t really able to do art,” Cotterill said.

Cotterill’s enthusiasm — a combination of her inherently vivacious personality and her father’s enabling of bizarre art projects — is a quality she’s been brimming with since she could hold a pencil.

She’s tried to pass this enthusiasm onto her students through the handful of drawing and illustration classes she’s substituted at the university, all the while noting the occasional eye rolls or bemoaned sighs on behalf of her students.

Rick Reese, an illustration professor at Long Beach, remembers Cotterill’s distinctly whimsical art style and thick skin as his student.

“She was always open to criticism,” Reese said. “She wouldn’t cry, she’d listen and then go and fix it.”

But despite her undying exuberance for all art-related conventions, she finds herself struggling with the newfound success of Bad Cop Bad Cop, having spent the last year on an upward trajectory with no slowing in sight.

“I just felt like I was wearing someone else’s shoes all year,” Cotterill said. “I really don’t feel like I’m a very good musician but I feel like a very good artist.”

There are few art projects the eternal optimist won’t try. In fact, it’s her calling-card.

“I’m actually able to make money by being the person that people know they can call and say, ‘I need trophies that look like melted grilled cheese,’” she said. “And I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, I can definitely see how we could do that.’”

Stacey Dee believes Cotterill should take a little more pride in her music.

“I think that her lyrics are just as involved and in-depth as her art is,” Dee said. “She really digs in with guitar and whatever she comes up with. She stands by it and believes in it.”

Refusing to leave behind her small crate of art supplies, Cotterill resorted to sewing patches on her friend’s vests and painting the pop-up tent they used on tour.

“She did our banner for the back of our tent which was this big giant painted donut. It was beautiful and people tried to buy it off us all the time,” said Dee. “On prior tours we’d make bracelets. She’s always making something or drawing all of us in the van, making it look like we were in a spaceship.”

But with tours lasting as long as two months, her creative outlets have been significantly squashed.

Still, there is an undeniable joy Cotterill feels from the adrenaline of cheering crowds and the delight of conversations with adoring fans. She’s finding her balance, slowly but surely.

“I feel like I need both [art and music] and I do both even if no one is paying me to do either one, because that’s how it all started,” Cotterill said.

 

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