When Balloons, Rug Canvas, and Creativity Converge to Create Art

Steve Cookson's mixed media art of a horse's head created with yellow and orange balloons and 5-mesh rug canvas.
Yellow Horse

Have you ever wondered what else you can create with rug canvas? This customer story is a great example of exploring the use of a unique medium on 5-mesh rug canvas—using colorful ‘balloon lips’ in this case. It all began about ten years ago when Steve Cookson was relaxing at home after a big party and began fiddling around with mesh canvas and balloons. An astronomy buff friend inspired him with some colorful downloads, so he ended up creating an astonishing image of the Ring Nebula from the constellation Lyra. Today his collection consists of stunning imagery including portraits of friends, celebrities, and colorful abstracts. There’s a beautiful octopus and a horse that are my favorites. I just had to learn more so I scheduled a fun chat with Steve…

In the Beginning

An octopus created with blue, grey, and white balloons on 5-mesh rug canvas by Steve Cookson.
White Octo

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you started creating this unique and beautiful art on mesh canvas?

My wife had a needlepoint business and always had needlepoint fabric about. One day after a party, I pulled some leftover balloons out and grabbed a piece of needlepoint canvas (turns out it was 5-Mesh rug canvas) and began to create something. I would say that’s where I got started.

Then our friend Jean, who was an astronomy buff was always grabbing Hubble photos. I took one of her photos and reproduced it. That was my first piece. Once I was done, I just threw it in the closet. When my wife found it, she said what’s this doing here Steve? You have to have it framed! So, she took it to her framer, got it framed and we hung it in the kitchen. The framer asked which part is the front? At that time, I actually said I don’t know so the framer framed it so it could be viewed from either side. A visiting friend wanted to buy it and I said you can have it, but my wife stepped in and sold it. Then a friend asked for a portrait of his wife. So I would say that’s how it all began.

A portrait of Lucy in monochrome colors and a rendering of a Koi fish in the water in gold, black, bright blue, and turquoise balloons on 5-mesh rug canvas by Steve Cookson.
Portrait of Lucy — Koi

Digital Pixelated Images

Your art seems very modern and minimalistic. How would you describe your designs and how do you develop them? What inspires you?

I’m mostly excited about portraits. I’m currently working on a portrait of a young surfer. I really love the Venus I created. It’s about 6 feet tall and has about 28,000 balloons. Took a year to finish. We live in Hawaii four months a year and I would really like to do Hawaiian themed pieces.

A rendering of a Venus sculpture in black, ivory, grey, and taupe balloons on 5-mesh rug canvas by Steve Cookson.

Once you’re ready to get started, is the process of creation a lengthy one? Can you share how you set up to create?

I digitize the image on a computer and blow it up (expand the resolution) to get pixelated detail. This give me the information more or less on placement. I also just do freehand and my own creative edits. For portraits, I really just need a photo to go by and a digital, pixelated representation.

What kind of materials / balloons do you use? Can it be any kind? Have you tried using other materials?

Latex 5″ balloons are the perfect size for what I create. Sometimes it’s difficult to find the colors I need. I have some sources, but I also need to buy what I’ll need in advance because the color lots can change and I need to have enough of the colors I need to finish my projects.

Do you have artwork that’s currently available for sale?

Most pieces on my website are for sale. Customers can inquire about prices. I normally sell them framed, but they can also be purchased without.

A Seahorse, Clint Eastwood, & Taylor Swift

I understand you also take commissions. What is the most unique commission you’ve undertaken?

A portrait of a lady and her horse is probably the most unique. It’s been very challenging and I will need to keep working on it. I also did an old sailor’s portrait that was really challenging, but in the end, it turned out well. I currently have a request for a portrait of Taylor Swift. That’s going to be a tough one.

An image of a seahorse rendered with black yellow, aqua, pale blue and grey balloons on 5-mesh rug canvas by Steve Cookson.
Steve’s Seahorse

What is the largest and/or most challenging piece you’ve created?

Other than the big Venus, it’s about 6 feet tall and has about 28,000 balloons, the sailor’s portrait was the most challenging. Getting the contrast right and depicting the features was especially challenging.

What is your absolute favorite piece and why? Can you share the story behind the making of this piece?

I love the Clint Eastwood portrait, but I think the Venus is my favorite piece. It took a long time to finish, but when it was done, I just loved it.

What are you currently working on, and what’s next on your creative calendar?

I just finished a seahorse and it’s currently being framed. Haven’t decided what I’ll do next. Have several ideas but haven’t tackled them yet. I still need to start work on that Taylor Swift portrait.

I look forward to seeing that portrait, Steve! Thanks so much for sharing about your work and process.

Steve is a lifelong art lover and collector. You can view Steve’s body of work and get contact info at www.stevecookson.com.

Portrait of Clint Eastwood in grey ivory, brown, black, and taupe balloons on 5-mesh rug canvas by Steve Cookson.
Clint Eastwood
American Flag in red, white, and blue balloons on 5-mesh rug canvas by Steve Cookson.
U.S. Flag

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