One of the great things about living at the beaches, whether it’s Jacksonville Beach, Ponte Vedra Beach, Atlantic Beach or Neptune is the culture and community spirit! There’s something just incredibly fulfilling that you won’t find anywhere else. If you’ve been around the beach long enough you’ve no doubt come across a cute and colorful art creation in a palm tree, landscape area or roadside median, smiled and thought to yourself “That is so cute! I wonder who put that there.” The important part to its creator was the smile because as you will soon find out, for him, that’s really what it’s all about. There’s actually no telling where you will see one of these randomly placed critters either. When I first moved to Atlantic Beach last year, I was on a walk going west over the Atlantic Blvd bridge at the Mayport overpass and noticed a sailfish in the marshy area. Later in the year I saw a deer along the same walk. Not gonna lie, I got excited thinking the deer was real and that was an odd spot for him to be! Most I have chatted with about these cool, fun and bright critters all have the same reaction: (1) I love seeing them, they always make me smile, and (2) I wonder who hangs them and why? To answer the who hangs them part — his name is Scotie Cousin. He’s a local of Atlantic Beach, a lover of life and all he wants is to spread some joy. Life is hard enough and he’s truly just a guy who wants to make it a little better, one smile at a time, for anyone and everyone. I recently reached out to Scotie to ask him some questions about his art and get the inside scoop about not just the art you see around the beaches but all his mediums. Here’s a chat with Scotie as he tells us all about what he loves to do, how it all came about and how you can get some of his whimsical art too.
Tell us about yourself
I’m a 59 year old artist, creative lover of life who believes in giving back and doing what you love. Since I was a kid, I’ve always been a free thinker and believer, always pushing my creative side in different mediums, not just the visual. Since 1976 in some way I’ve been at it with sculpture, painting and music. I like to invent ways to do things not just what is taught. I love this life and love being able to get up each day and make creations to make people smile. It’s better than money and I’m a true believer in giving back to the community and that’s what you see around town in the new invented medium of corrugated polypropylene. I love life and love creating with unlimited boundaries.
Tell us about your art
My art encompasses so many different things including sculpture, drawing, pencil, acrylic, oil, functional art, dance, music. I could just never pick one thing, one lifetime is not enough. I do all the outdoor whimsical creatures and that was kind of an invention of necessity when there was so much negativity a couple years ago and all through the pandemic. I was in Publix and all around me the lines were full and everyone around me was just being awful to one another and I was driving home and thought “what am I gonna do to get people out of this funk?” As I was driving by some cabbage palms in the middle of the median, I had the perfect idea and knew exactly what I was going to do. The first chameleon was born on that day and I put it one of those trees and it’s been crazy ever since. The amount of smiles and texts I get from people just makes me want to work even harder. If you go into my house, it’s nothing but modern art that I’ve done throughout the years and some that have taken years and still not complete and have been working on for up to 20 years. There’s so many different mediums on where I like to go as far as creating that you just don’t know what I’m going to come up with. It’s hard to tell you about my art but I have lots of pics on Instagram of my portfolio of what I’ve done and YouTube site with all my videos including art videos and music. I also like to do rake drawing on the beach and it takes 3-4 hours. Dive deeper in the world I live in, it’s all there.
What materials are your projects made from?
The whimsical creatures I create are made of corrugated polypropylene, recycled first, in 4×8 sheets, with UV oil spray so it doesn’t fade and most all is held on by two wires drilled in to where it’s being placed to keep it there for a long time. In the Atlantic Beach Arts Market at 1805 Mayport Road in Atlantic Beach, I have over 100 pieces in there of all different mediums not just the whimsical creatures around town. I use wood, metal, acrylic, cardboard, mirrors. It’s a big spectrum.
Do you have a studio you work out of?
I do! It’s my two car garage in my 2,200 sf house and when the weather is not permitting I have a space inside. My garage has a great view of the marsh and I’ve made it my own space and it’s cool to only go a certain amount of space to go to work, I don’t lose motiviation and I’ve made it my own. It’s an extension of the interior of our house. I’ve had studios in Chicago and Atlanta and this one is by far the best one on the estuary and having the sunset in Hidden Paradise in Atlantic Beach.
Is this a “hobby” you share with the community?
I love doing art and have been living at it for over 16 years. A hobby is something for me you do every once in a while. For me, I’ve had about 100 ideas that I haven’t been able to get to but I don’t have enough time in one lifetime to do all I want to do so I decided to make a living out of it and do this full time and it’s been great ever since. All the stuff you see that I do around the community in all these different spots, I have a 75/25 rule. 75% of the work I do, I do for profit, 25% I dedicate to a community project, donate something or make something for someone to surpise them. That for me is not a hobby, it’s a relationship I have with the community to help make it a little bit happier. It humbles me the reaction I get from total strangers and texts saying “I needed to see that.” I take it more as just a hobby. It’s really a labor of love.
Where do you get your character inspiration from?
From this crazy, crazy brain of mine. I don’t even know what I am going to do until I sit down and when I do it just comes out. I start a shape and just keep on going. I really don’t know what I’m going to do until I get the materials out there. I don’t work with blue prints and try not to overthink things. I don’t have a plan, I just get in there and do it. It just flows out of me right from the heart.
How long have you been doing this art?
The whimsical art with corrugated polypropylene has been about 3 to 3.5 years but I only put it in public 2.5 years ago and I just had a brainstorm seeing all this plastic going into the landfill.
What inspired you to begin placing art around the city?
As I said, the Publix story and people hurting and I think sometimes what people need is to have a surprise. It’s unsolicited, it’s just something on the side of the road that makes you smile and doesn’t want anything from you. I think that is what really resonated with people and it’s in places where it looks like it belongs and it’s pretty cool and it’s great to hear how much people love it.
What is your favorite piece to create?
I really like making the bird weather vanes on an L-bracket and they sit and turn in the wind and they look so animated. I love the kinetic pieces. When you’re using wind and not just putting art up and forces around the art are moving it, I think it just adds so much more dimension and it’s just my favorite. But they’re ALL my favorite, can I say that too? Everything is really my favorite.
Where can people purchase your art pieces?
Atlantic Beach Arts Market or come to my studio. For the whimsical art I would rather come to my studio so I can see what it is you want, know where you are installing it, show you how to install it and can make you the right hardware.
How do you come up with the different characters?
It really all just comes out of my head. I just never know what I’m going to come up with. There’s a children’s book coming up soon hopefully and t-shirts coming too!
How does it make you feel that the community sees your art around town?
It humbles me because you hear the stories of what it’s doing. It’s just making people happy. The first thing people always say when they come to my studio, they get a little overwhelmed, the smile comes and they say “Gosh this stuff just makes me happy” and that makes me incredibly happy because it’s cool to appeal to all ages and everyone just can’t get enough. It’s just very, very humbling. I feel like God has a hand in it really and hopefully it makes the world a better place and helps people not feel alone and treat people better. Hopefully it helps people not just go from Point-A to Point-B without looking around. Tomorrow is not promised. Enjoying that minute, tomorrow is not promised, it’s about the miracle of the second and seeing the creative uppercut that kinda stops you and resets your day.
What response do you receive from people?
It’s hard for me not to well up. Cancer patients, people struggling, they just light up. It’s just great and the response has been incredible. I can’t make it fast enough. They just love it. I can’t even say how fulfilled I am by doing what I do.
Is there a “favorite feel good story” that comes from your art?
I think I get hundreds of them really. I get random texts all the time from people I don’t know who just tell me that they needed to see that random placed character in their path and just needed to see it. I get really emotional talking about it because I just can’t believe a simple piece of art can do that to people. It’s the combination of the art and the placement and the composition in nature and the randomness of all of it is the power of the love that comes across when they see it. So many stories I can’t even tell you. Helping kids out and special cancer patients is my weakness and it’s great to see that people get a little relief from it.
What do you hope your art brings to others and the community?
I hope that it creates a humanness again, a kindness, a level of community where we have to make this a place we want instead of making it someone else’s problem. If we step up and show people life can be fun again and wonderous. It doesn’t have to be what we see on TV, it can be what we want it to be and I’m making art as a segway to make the community just have fun and not have to think of all the hard stuff. When you see my whimsical art out there it doesn’t want anything from you but a smile and hopefully that mentality will keep on going and snowball into a place where when we were kids we didn’t worry about anything. And I want you to do that as an adult and feel that way, but responsibly, but feel like you’re always on an adventure everyday. That’s what I hope it brings the community.
Any “not so good” stories about your art?
I don’t know of any except for one recently and it’s still ok. Some of the public work has been stolen. I did have an incident recently where people came up from the Keys to buy some art and stole my big fish across from the Police Station in Atlantic Beach. They then placed the fish along the way and documented the trip back to the Keys by taking pictures and posting. I wasn’t even mad at them for it. When I put the public art out there I wash my hands of it, it’s out there and doesn’t matter what happens to it. I prefer it not be stolen but if they needed a lift out of life, I’m glad they got it. They just needed a break and it made them smile. It’s a good compliment that people came from the Keys for my art.
Jenn Heller is the Operations Manager for The Volen Group, Keller Williams Luxury International, with over 18 years experience in Real Estate. She is a Jacksonville resident via Long Island, NY since 1991, a crafter, chalk painter and an avid fitness enthusiast.