The Queen of Soul

The world lost a wonderful woman when Aretha Franklin passed away last week. She was a force to be reckoned with when she sang, and I don’t think anyone else can quite capture the emotion and soul she put into her music.

This painting reflects the hope and youth that was embodied by Aretha throughout her whole life. Her face also shows though the hardships and turmoil that she experienced in her years. From her mother passing away from a heart attack before Aretha turned 10, having children at the ages of 12 and 14, and being in a violent marriage, she truly went through a lot. I feel like her music truly reflects this because she sings with such power and sureness; it’s almost as if these hardships were not hardships at all. They were events that would in the end make her stronger and more powerful singer.

In addition, Aretha was admired by so many due to the fact that she never sang a song the same exact way twice. She would emphasize more on certain portions due to the emotion she felt and also the energy from the audience. She left the crowd speechless after her performance at the Kennedy Center Honors, and this was the case with many (if not all) of her performances.

I can say that Aretha will be dearly missed, but her impact will never be forgotten due to her music living on forever.

-Tori

 

 

The Unsung Hero from Up: Carl

Squirrel!

When you hear this quote, you instantly thing of Dug the talking dog from Up, but what quote makes you think of Carl Fredrickson? Not many come to mind, but he still remains a pivotal character within the plot. Up would not be the same movie without the tear-jerking opening scene of Carl and Ellie building a life together. Carl is then left alone to mourn his departed wife. Throughout the entire movie, I always viewed Carl as more of an elderly, grouchy character who saw Russell and Dug as a nuisance. Chris Cook paints Carl though not as an elderly man who has liver spots and gray hair but as the young boy that he once was looking through the eyes of the man he has become. Carl never lost his childlike innocence as he grew older, and this is why he has to see South America even if Ellie can’t be there with him. What better way to see the world than by tying thousands of balloons to your house. This non traditional approach to reach his goal proves that he is not as old as he seems because what elderly man would think to tie balloons to his house? Thus, I feel like this painting completely embodies Carl as the individual he is inside and out. The bright background reflects his childlike tendencies, and he has a little smile on his face. Most of the time in the movie, he looks cold and upset, yet there seems to be some happiness hidden deep within. Chris has hit the nail on the head by painting Carl in a different light that accurately reflects his personality and undying need for adventure.

By painting Carl in this manner, Chris has proven that not all people (and characters) are black and white. People have many different facets of their identity that they wish to expose and others that they want to remain hidden. This painting proves that you should never judge someone solely on how they are on the outside; you have to see past the exterior to truly see the actual character of the person. What kind of movie would Up be if Carl was just a coldhearted, stuck in his ways, old man who wanted nothing to do with adventure?

Remember, adventure is out there, and there is always something or somewhere worth exploring!

-Tori

When the Zeal is Real:

 

When I look at this painting, I am immediately drawn to the passion in his eyes and the wildness and spirit of his face. I am reminded of the way in which John the Baptizer is described in the scriptures as “wearing clothes of camel’s hair, with a leather belt…eating locusts and honey.” John called the religious leaders of his day “children of snakes… trees that don’t produce good fruit…and husks of wheat ready for the fire that can’t be put out”.

John the Baptizer was a man full of zeal and passion. He came along to prepare the hearts and lives of God’s people for Jesus’ arrival. He was tasked as a prophet to get God’s people to turn away from their wickedness and sins that hey might live on the path of God that would lead them to life eternal.

That zealous spirit was ultimately what led to John’s death. He spoke up to King Herod about his relationship with his sister-in-law. It didn’t take long for Herod to silence John by cutting off his head and placing it on a silver platter.

I believe that the zeal that John and people like him had is something that we should all desire to some point. His belief and faith in what God had called him to do and to be took him to a place that he was willing to live differently, and to press against the establishment of both religious and governmental leaders. There is something to be admired about living a life with such passion and zeal for a cause that you are willing to wager your very life for it. I believe that the world needs more of that…

There is no escaping the passion and life in the face of John in this painting. Chris does an excellent job of capturing the “wild man, camel hair, bug eating” spirit of John the Baptizer. I am captivated by the way that one can almost feel the passion behind the eyes of the man in this painting. To attempt to capture the face of someone using the way in which their personality traits are described is a difficult task I am sure. I believe that Chris does a great job of relaying what he sees as characteristics of John onto this painting.

 

Shalom, Y’all –

Jed

The Infamy of Equality:

Born Michael Luther King, Jr. in January of 1929, Doctor King is without a doubt one of the names of people that I thought of when I began to think about Chris’ exhibit about infamous people. Despite his revolutionary efforts on behalf of the Civil Rights Movement, and his commitment to nonviolent means of protests, Dr. King no doubt was an individual who lived a life that impacted the lived of all people (to the dismay of some, and the joy of others).

I believe that Dr. King’s infamy is rooted in part in what was then a radical and revolutionary thought that all people are image bearers of The Creator God, and should be treated and held equal as members of that creation.

In a time in which many African American citizens were fighting to be seen as something more than inferior, unworthy, and beneath their caucasian counterparts, Dr. King and others worked hard and marched, protested, picketed, and rallied to push for total inclusion and acceptance for all people. King became a hero to many, and a villain to others as a result of his efforts though the Civil Rights Movement.

I had the pleasure of walking through the National Civil Rights Museum alongside my classmates in the seminary program that I am a part of in February of 2017. Printed in large letters on the walls of the first room that one enters at the museum, amidst information and memorabilia about African slave trade and inhumane living and working conditions were the words

” We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal”

I couldn’t help but be struck by the irony of this statement, written in 1776, surrounding reminders of such a painful and shameful piece of our nation’s past.

I am grateful that Dr. King and others like him were willing to risk ridicule, violence, injustice, pain, and even death in the pursuit of what they felt was a right and noble cause. I am grateful that they believed so strongly, that they endured and triumphed in order that we might live in a society that was more diverse, accepting, free, and open to persons of all races, creeds, and backgrounds.

It is a shame that it took a bunch of infamous, “revolutionary”, and “visionary” thinkers to help our nation to realize the power of a more than 200-year-old statement that… “All men are created equal”.

I pray that we may all be willing to risk infamy and endure hardships in order that our brothers and sisters will know that they too bear the image of our Creator and that they too deserve the protection, freedom, and love that we are all entitled to.

The Infamy of Hope and Youth

I have to say that I was at a loss when I learned that Chris wanted me to write about the infamy of Anne Frank. When I think about infamy, my mind does not typically turn to people who had their lives ended too soon, or who were subjected to the horrors of Nazi Germany during World War II.

But then I began to think. “What is Anne Frank famous for?” And the inspiration for this post started to come to me.

Anne is famous because of the diary that she kept while she and her family, along with several others, were hiding from Nazi forces. A gift from her father, the notes and diary entries that Anne wrote were his attempt to give Anne a way to express herself and keep busy during what he knew would be a difficult time.

Anne Frank’s legacy wasn’t held within the years of her life, but rather in the life and wisdom that was contained in her 15 short years. Though she was young, Frank had a gift for telling stories, and her spirit that refused to give up, even in what was surely one of the darkest ages that our world has faced. Anne can be called infamous because, despite the pain, fear, and inhumanity that she faced from the Nazis, she never let that get her spirit and faith in the world down. Anne held on to the hope that evil would not win out, and that this season of her life would one day transform into spring of new life and growth.

I believe that the following quote from her diary sums up her spirit quite well:

“I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness; I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too. I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.”

I believe that many young people are seen as infamous because of their refusal to give into the negativity, hatred, and suffering that are so paramount in their world. Anne Frank held on to hope for a better tomorrow. As a youth pastor, I get to see the hope and excitement for a better tomorrow that is contained in the lives of the students that I get to work with each day. I am grateful for her legacy of hope, faith, and courage – and that I can see it live on in the faces of the youth of today.

Storytelling is painting pictures with words:

 

“I don’t care what anyone says about me, as long as it isn’t true.”  -Truman Capote

Chris told me that this exhibit is very much about the face of the subject. He scoured the web for the right images of each person that he showcases in this work before settling on the right one to infamy that person has to offer. I believe that he caught Truman Capote’s struggle perfectly with this expressive piece.

Born a meek, sensitive, and mild-mannered boy, young Truman was picked on for being a wimp. He was criticized for his creativity and his inventive ways. Little did his friends know that this creative little wimp would grow up to become a famous playwright.

Because of his struggles in school, and difficulties in his home life, Capote made poor grades and spent much of his high school years drinking and carousing with is friends at the clubs. Some of Capote’s associates at that time included the likes of Oona O’Neil, daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neil (Long Day’s Journey, The Iceman Cometh), and Gloria Vanderbilt.

A big part of Capote’s infamy came as a result of his struggles with alcohol, his social outcast nature as a child, his family struggles, his expression of his own struggles through the stories that he told in his writings, and the fact that Capote had a 35 year relationship with author Jack Dunphy in a time when homosexual relationships were much less the norm. Many of Capote’s writings were criticized heavily because of the emotional struggles and “homosexual themes” contained within them.

Perhaps one of Capote’s greatest successes was Breakfast at Tiffany’s, in which he explored the life of a New York Girl who depended on men to get by. The story was adapted into the 1961 film starring Audrey Hepburn. Capote also became famous for his work In Cold Blood, in which he followed the story of a gruesome murder trial. This work proved to be a highly emotionally taxing endeavor.

Capote’s brilliance in storytelling was the only thing that paralleled the controversy and intrigue surrounding his lifestyle. He spent many years in and out of rehab for drugs and alcohol, struggled with social settings and strained relationships, and working to “fit in” with the “typical” life of an American male author in his time. Regardless of his personal struggles and his infamy Capote’s ability to tell a story and to captivate an audience is undeniable.

Walking the Line in Infamy

When Chris asked me to begin writing blog posts again, I was excited and thrilled. I love his artwork and really enjoy stretching my creative writing muscles as I compose these pieces about his paintings. This particular upcoming show is one that I think will feature Chris’ ability to tell stories through images in a very dynamic and thrilling way.

The exhibit, “Face to Face – Portraits of the Infamous” will be shown at the Colonial at Main & Washington from Thursday, May 4 through Sunday, May 7. When I asked Chris about his inspiration for the subject matter, he told me he painted one just because, and that quickly turned into many, which seemed a natural fit for an exhibit.

infamous – adjective in·fa·mous \ˈin-fə-məs\

  1. 1:  having a reputation of the worst kind: an infamous traitor

  2. 2:  causing or bringing infamy: an infamous crime

  3. 3:  convicted of an offense bringing infamy

As I began to ponder the idea of infamy and look at this portrait of Johnny Cash, It started to click with me just what Chris was up to. Chris told me that this exhibit is much less about the individuals that he paints themselves, as it was the “face” of that person. Johnny Cash was a man with a tremendous gift to tell stories through song. His strong voice is definitely unmatched and completely unique. His hit “I Walk The Line” sat on Billboard’s record charts for 43 weeks and sold over 2 million copies. In 1980, he became the youngest living inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame. After being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he joined an elite club of performers that are in both organizations.

Cash’s infamy came in part from his “bad boy” appearance and the addiction to narcotics that he developed to keep up with his hectic, 300 shows a year schedule that he had in the 1960s. The “Man in Black” kept up his no-nonsense persona even after recovering from addiction. Despite his storied past and outwardly defiant appearance, Cash had a gift that could not go unnoticed. He was the man that, regardless of how you felt about his character, one could not deny the passion and talent that he showcased.

This piece will be sold in a silent auction in conjunction with the art exhibit as a fundraiser to benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Madison, Georgia.

Viewing Stages of a Painting, One

I have had questions over time about how I work (how an artist works really). I do sometimes take quick snap shots of different points I get to in a painting. I am doing a little series of posts that will show some of the stages a single painting goes through as I develop a work. I do have different starting points… sometimes pencil sketches on paper, or a small painting on paper first before going to a larger format. But, like with the example below of “Matthew Listening by Candlelight” I started with an overall wash of a dull color. After it dried, I took a smaller brush and dipped it in some left over brown and started drawing from a photo reference right on the canvas.

FullSizeRender

The next day, I went out to my studios and mixed brown and dark blue together to make a near black and with a pretty wide, flat brush laid in all the darkest parts away from the imaginary candle light source. (the photo reference was a man sitting outside in bright daylight). I used a mix of yellow oxide and gray to dab at the highlights.

FullSizeRender 2

After that, I used the three previous color mixes and filled in the rest of his face. Finally a sloppy wet mix of medium dark to tone the entire canvas down giving it the old candlelight look!

FullSizeRender 3

 

Enjoy.

Chris

 

Robyn

robyn

All artists have inspirations and muses. There is something that sparks creativity and inspires each artist to create their beautiful masterpieces. For many of Chris’ works, his Christian faith inspires him to create; for others, it’s his southern heritage, and be beauty of the landscapes that surround him. For this one, it’s obviously the woman that he loves so dearly, his wife, Robyn.

I really don’t know much to say about this painting other than to add that I have observed the way he talks to her, about her, and goes out of his way to provide for her and cherish her as his beloved. Chris’ faith in Jesus tells him to love her like Christ loved the church, and he without a doubt does.

It’s a beautiful thing to see a friend, an artist, and a mentor express the love that he has for his bride in a manifestation of a painting. I know that this painting couldn’t possibly express all that he feels for her, but I do feel that it helps to share a little bit of how much he cares for her.

Chris Cook is a premier southern artist and owner of Madison Studios, a web design, maintenance, and e-commerce and marketing company. For his artist biography, contact information, or to view more of his work, click HERE

Carter

13-carter

Carter is Chris’ son. He’s an avid soccer player, and an active member of the youth group at the local Methodist Church here in Madison.

Chris used acrylic paint on canvas to capture a glimpse of Carter for the family collection. I think that he did a great job of getting the essence of Carter’s personality in this portrait. I have greatly enjoyed getting to know Carter over the last 2.5 years that I have been back in town. One of the first things that anyone who spends more than a few minutes with him will begin to notice is his smile and his laughter. Simply put, Carter is a happy guy, and one that would do anything to help anyone.

I can think of no better way to have captured this memory of Carter than to have him in full smile, teeth showing and all! That’s the great thing about art – its all about capturing one moment, one memory, one point in time, one emotion. So many of Chris’ paintings do this so well, colors, expressions, styles, and placements draw the view into the painting and into that moment in time. This truth holds particular strength in a lot of Chris’ spiritual paintings like the one of the healed blind man.

Art is all about capturing a moment. Moments in time are fleeting, and it’s important that we find a way to make them last and impact our lives fully, before they are gone forever. Do you have a favorite moment in time or history that has been captured in a work of art?

Chris Cook is a premier southern artist and owner of Madison Studios, a web design, maintenance, and e-commerce and marketing company. For his artist biography, contact information, or to view more of his work, click HERE.

Facebook
Facebook
Twitter
Visit Us
Pinterest
Instagram