Scratching At The Muse



As a little girl growing up in London's East End, Angela Cockle liked to draw sunshine, palm trees, the ocean and a beach.

"I got the sunshine right," she said, gesturing expansively at her home in the Arizona sun of East Verde Estates, then laughed.


Under the precise hand of Angela Cockle the eyes of an owl emerge from a board inked in black. Cockle uses knife-like tools that must be kept very sharp. The technique blends the precision of drawing, the detail of engraving and she may add paint to the "scratchboard."

"I wanted to be an artist when I was three and my mum said, that's not a good idea, you need to work in an office when you grow up," Cockle said.

Throughout school she was encouraged by her teachers to keep drawing, but nobody went into art those days, Cockle said. There was no money in the profession.

When she left school at age 15 (the normal age to leave school then) she got a "boring office job" in London's wealthy West End.

Angela married her around-the-corner sweetheart Mick in 1966. The couple had two sons, Paul and Darren.

When her son Paul was seven, the family moved to New Zealand.

The halfway stop was Los Angeles and the couple thought the United States were nice, but too expensive.

Cockle learned a new trade, upholstery, and continued raising her family.

Meanwhile, her sister moved to Phoenix and became an U.S. citizen.

In 1974, the Cockles decided they wanted to immigrate to the U.S.

The process took three years.

"Getting into this country is very difficult if you do it legally," Cockle said.

Mick went to work for Shamrock Foods and Angela was snapped up by Sea Ray, a custom boat manufacturer.

When she retired from Sea Ray at age 40, she decided to go back to school for art.

"My husband didn't even know I could draw," she said.

She finished the Art Institute of Minnesota's two year correspondence course in 18 months.

She tried watercolors, but found she liked pen and ink -- the reverse of the scratchboard she does now.

Diploma in hand, she had a decision to make.

"I've been practicing yoga since I was 20 so I was considering being a yoga teacher," she said. "It is so good for your health and focusing your mind."

Even after selling a couple of watercolors she still did not consider herself and artist, "but I really was," she said.

When her sister left Phoenix for a Rim Country cabin Angela and Mick visited at Christmastime 1996.

"Driving up I said to my husband why would anyone want to live in a place like this?

"They'd have to be out of their head," Cockle said.

The next day it snowed and the Cockles decided to take a walk.

They stopped at an older empty cabin. It was flooded, so Mick went in and turned the water off.

Mick came back and asked his wife, "How would you feel about owning a cabin up here?"

"I think I'd like it," she said.

They bought the cabin where Mick had turned off the water and moved from the Valley several months later.

Next, Cockle took a couple of workshops with Rock Newcomb and scratchboard grabbed her interest.

"I thought, this is what I want to do because in England hundreds of years ago some artists would take a piece of metal, paint it black and scrape off a picture," she said. "I loved the idea."

Commissioned pet portraits soon followed.

Presently, she is looking forward to Mick's retirement because then he can help her with the business end of her artwork: Cat Scratches.


name: Angela T. Cockle

studio: Cat Scratches

birthplace: London, England

artistic medium: Scratchboard,

watercolors, pen and ink

speciality: Animal portraits

awards most proud of: Mixed media third place at the Phippen Museum's art show in 2004 and the Zane Grey Award for "Wolf in the Snow" from the 2006 Northern Gila County Fair

hobbies: collecting cat figurines and a miniature Victorian doll house

points of contact: (928) 474-4553 or

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