Chris Cook Artist

Southern Art – Georgia Artist – Landscape Paintings, Christian Art, Southern Expressionist Art

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Choosing what is better

 

I love this representation that Chris painted of the story of Mary and Martha in this painting. As I have contemplated the mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and other prominent women figures in my life, I have noticed when each of them demonstrated the tendency to be more of a “Mary” or a “Martha” at times.

 

As I look at this painting, I find it almost comical. The style in which Chris painted is to me very reminiscent of Norman Rockwell’s work. Martha is seen draped over the open refrigerator door, red-faced and trying to collect herself from the business of hosting the party. You can almost see her internal dialogue going off. “Ok, devilled eggs, tea sandwiches, the olive tray is full, the vegetables will be done in 4 minutes,  the meat is resting…do we have enough ice? Mary, I could really use a hand here!”

Mary is intently studying, reflecting, and taking notes on everything that Jesus is saying. Her smile suggests that she is absolutely captivated by Jesus’ words and could care less about making sure that the food and the details are all taken care of. The company is her only concern.

I believe that it takes both types of people at different times to keep events going and to make sure that things get done. I know that Martha gets a bad reputation, but without the Marthas of this world, none of us would have tea sandwiches, olive trays, or the vegetables with our dinner. Mary’s exist to remind us to stop and enjoy fellowship, to sit at Jesus’ feet and to keep our eyes and mind on the things that truly matter in the grand scheme of life.

 

This picture speaks to me on many levels. Are you more inclined to feel like a Mary or a Martha? Why…

 

Shalom, Y’all –

Jed

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Peter Denies Jesus

 

Loneliness and shame are two very powerful emotions. I would imagine that in the hours after Jesus was taken and arrested, all of the disciples ran the gamut of emotions. The Gospels focus particularly on Peter during these hours. Known to be outspoken about his faith and devotion to Christ, Peter resorts to hiding on the fringes and denying even knowing Jesus three times just as the Master had predicted that he would.

It would seem that this Peter, who knew what it felt like to walk on the waves alongside Jesus, might have fallen the hardest. How could he have allowed himself to sink from walking on the waves into the depths of the darkest corners? What took a man who was so bold and impetuous to draw a sword against the Roman soldiers down to where he did not even want to be associated with this Jesus who he had followed for so long?

I believe that Chris does a great job of capturing the loneliness and shame that must have been going through Peter’s mind and heart that morning. When one looks at this painting, it feels as if we are pulled out to the fringes, away from the warmth and light of the fire and into the darkness. The darkness is no doubt both literal and metaphorical in this image. Being separated from the true source of light that darkness will not overcome was a feeling that I am sure Peter longed for as he wondered what would come next.

 

I am grateful to God that grace allows us all the opportunity to come out of darkness and back into the light of Christ. No longer do we have to be bound to our guilt, shame, and loneliness. The gift of Grace is that God offers us a chance to step out in faith to be restored through grace, and to say “Lord, you know I love you” as we set out to be one who might feed God’s sheep.”

 

Shalom, Y’all –

Jed

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If only by the hem…

 

In this painting, Chris captures the moment in Scripture where a woman who has been suffering from a condition for quite some time reaches out in a crowd to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment and received healing.

This account provides a lot of comfort and insight into the nature and character of Jesus to me. The suffering woman probably feels lost and rejected by the mass of the crowd that she is in. A woman, nevermind a sick woman, she is in desperate need for something that will make her fell restored and whole again. In what seems like a desperate effort, she reaches out and touches the hem of Jesus’ garment. One account mentions that she thought “if I can only touch His robe, I will be healed” (Matthew 9:21).

I believe that there are times when we all feel like this woman probably did. Things in our life don’t seem to be going right for one reason or another, and we don’t feel like we’re as close to God as we could or should be. Our minds tell us that our best hope might be to stay off at a distance and hope to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment as He passes by.

The beauty of this account is that in that moment, Jesus noticed the tug on his robe, looked back, and assured the woman that she would receive healing because of her faith.

Jesus knows when one of God’s children reach out in faith to try and receive healing and power. Jesus notices our struggle, acknowledges our need, and assures us that healing and restoration are possible through faith and the healing power of God.

 

I for one am grateful for the assurance that though I may feel weak and marginalized at times, God sees me, knows me, and seeks to heal me and restore me.

 

I pray that we may all rest in that assurance each and every day.

 

Shalom, Y’all –

Jed

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Don’t you wag that finger at me!

“so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.

 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.  They do all their deeds to be seen by others.

 They do all their deeds to be seen by others.”

Pharisees were very quick to point out the faults and shortcomings in other people’s lives while making sure to keep up all appearances of perfection and adherence to the law for themselves. They dragged a woman caught in adultery out into the street and asked Jesus what He felt should be her punishment. Their religio-righteous anger and frustration can be felt when we read of their interactions with Jesus, “friend of sinners”. One might almost feel the need to watch their back as they think about the Pharisees, so as to avoid being struck by a stone, or impaled by the plank in their eye.

You see, Pharisees were the people who appeared to have it all together and the people that looked down in self-righteous judgment on those who did not. They strained the gnat but swallowed the camel. They tithed their spices, but neglected justice, mercy, and faithfulness. There is a reason that Jesus called these types of people “whitewashed tombs…outwardly beautiful, but full of death and uncleanness”.

When one becomes so caught up in appearing to be clean, righteous, and “together” that he or she begins to neglect practices like compassion, justice, faithfulness, mercy, and brotherly love, then they have very well compromised their very selves in the process. Jesus warns not to model the behavior of people who live this way. Instead, we are asked to model Jesus himself, the one who called the so called religious leaders to drop their stones, who dined with sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes. We are called to give mercy, not a sacrifice. We are called to love our brothers and sisters with the same non-condemning and non-judgmental love that Christ showed to the people of his day.

Instead of shaking a finger in holy righteousness and judgment… instead of picking up stones of condemnation and causing pain…

May we be a people who use our hands to love, to heal, to build up God’s people and God’s kingdom.

Don’t wag that finger at me – instead… hold my hand, and walk beside me as we journey through this life together.

Shalom, Y’all –

Jed

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“Listen to Him”

 A voice from heaven said, “This is my Son whom I dearly love; I find happiness in him.”

Once Jesus came out of the waters of the Jordan river at his baptism, those who were present heard these words in what I assume was an audible voice from God.

THIS is my son, whom I love. That “This” is Jesus the Christ…God incarnate. It was at this moment that we begin to see and understand a glimpse of what we call the Trinity. God the Father speaks about Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit comes down and rests on Jesus as a dove. All three persons of the Trinity showcase the power, majesty, and glory that God possesses in one beautiful moment.

We see, or rather we read, that Jesus is being baptized to “fulfill all righteousness” and to set the example for the body of believers about how we should respond to a relationship with God. baptism meant a reminder of our washing of the old, sinful self and an emergence as a newly clean creation in the eyes of the Lord. When we participate in that same sacrament, we are claiming our belovedness as God’s chosen child. We lean into the promise that God loves us and finds happiness in us!

As I look at what Chris did in this particular painting, I am struck by several aspects and components.

  • Jesus is depicted as the silhouette of a man. I believe (though I haven’t spoken directly with Chris about this) that it shows me an expression of the humanity of Jesus, without harping on details like facial features, skin color, etc.. Simply put, it is an expression that Jesus was a man as he walked the earth as God incarnate.
  • The Holy Spirit is depicted as and aura-like presence, hovering over and descending into the very being of Jesus the man. God is joining God’s self in a beautiful exchange.
  • The reflection in the water of both Jesus and the luminous presence of The Spirit. To me, this suggests creation’s response to and interaction with what was surely a powerful moment to behold. The very presence of the river waters reflected God’s great radiance. There were sights, sounds, and feelings all together on that day when God the Father, Son, and Spirit united as one presence at the day of Jesus’ baptism.

What stands out to you? Where would you have like to have been on this day? Do you find it easy to daily remember that God calls you a beloved child that brings happiness and love to God simply through your presence?

“This is my Son whom I dearly love; I find happiness in him.”

Shalom, Y’all –

Jed

 

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At the Feet of Jesus:

 

The feet of Jesus… What a wonderful place to be.

While some were hustling around being busy in the kitchen, making sure that all of the seasonings were just right, that the food was hot, and that the silverware was shined up.

While some were more concerned with keeping their seat of stature and status at the table with Jesus; more of a political maneuver than anything else.

While people pointed and murmured because she let her hair down, a social taboo of promiscuity in her time.

While the host stayed seated and didn’t offer even to have a servant wash Jesus’ feet, the most basic of hospitable gestures.

 

We find her lying at Jesus’ feet, desperate to drink in every word that comes out of his mouth. She is captivated and entranced by the words of the master and fixed by the presence of the Lord of all in her midst. She washes Jesus feet with her tears and dries them with her hair. She anoints Jesus with expensive perfume; the fragrance of her worship fills the nostrils of everyone in the room.

People call into question her being there, they criticize her lavish worship. Shouldn’t this woman be in the kitchen? Why is she so locked on to being so close to Jesus? Doesn’t she respect social conventions and personal space?

 

In this moment, the one that Chris captured in this painting, we see that the only thing that mattered to her was to be near Jesus. It’s funny how when we are fully involved in the presence of the Almighty, everything else simply goes out the window. Social conventions, gender roles, political correctness, how others see us… all of it pales in comparison to simply being with Jesus.

Chris captures an image of a woman kissing the feet of her Lord. Feet that the host of the dinner didn’t have enough care to wash. A woman…who for all intents and purposes had no place at the feet of a rabbi in mixed company. A woman… letting her hair down in a sign of intimacy and reverence with God.

What he captures is something that I believe we should all hope for someday…to be perfectly content, comfortable, and happy in our intimate and worshipful relationship with Jesus our Lord.

 

Shalom, Y’all –

Jed

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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

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Viewing Stages of a Painting, Five

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The title of this painting is “Sad Mary”… this title is purposely vague to leave it up to the viewer as to which “Mary” this painting may refer to. In image 1 you can see that this painting started out as a work on paper – it is “clipped” to the easel on the left for reference for the larger painting.  The first pass of the larger painting was spontaneous and only took a few minutes.

I worked quickly with large brush strokes and even let the paint that ran off her chin remain as it became more complete.  In the earlier work Mary looked masculine and I gradually softened the lines and shapes to make her more feminine as I continued. The started the skin tones in black and white and added color as I went along.  In the final version Mary looks noticeably sadder than the previous three.  I increased the size of the inside of her hood as I went along. I ended up subduing the black shadow throughout the painting by the time I completed the final draft. I moved away from the orange color in the bottom left corner. Then, I shifted to a more yellow shade in the upper left corner in the final draft.

Funny the processes used in painting – it just happens and I have learned “when to stop” – which is an art of it’s own!

 

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Viewing Stages of a Painting, Four

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Sometimes in the painting process I reach a point where I don’t know if I should continue painting or leave it as it is.  For this particular painting, John the Baptist, I reached a point where I was pleased with the progress and I left it dormant for a week or so. When I revisited the painting I decided to add some flesh color and I really think it breathed new life into the painting.  Which version do you prefer? Lighter or Darker skin tone?

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Enjoy.

Chris