Symbols Are Universal

I do more research and thought – letting them gel over time – more than preparatory sketches commonly seen in an artists working style. In the case of this painting called “Disciples Flee” I was, at the time, researching symbols in Christian art. I was also preparing for “Every Time I Feel The Spirit” – a solo exhibit at the Madison-Morgan African-American Museum in Madison, GA – and was searching the Bible for mentions of Africa and Africans.

All this came together wonderfully, no mystery there as I have found with my spiritual works. I had been thinking about how scary it would have been right after the public execution of their teacher, master, friend. These men were in shock, dealing with grief, guilt for abandonment, and had no clue what to do. I tried to capture, quickly, a moment of panic for these three men, looking over their shoulders, avoiding eyes, darting between buildings in a courtyard. I roughed in the main “bulk” of the figures but with no reference yet of “the environment/background” I left it for several months and would occasionally put it back on my easel and work on the main figures. The initial roughed in outlines were thick and bold and I decided I liked it and started coloring in around the initial lines. Still no background, just a few lines to show the horizon line and indication of a building.

Then, I found a website that had these wonderful West African – Adinkra Symbols, see below.

Wow, these four symbols and there meanings represent what these three men really needed at that time; (GYE NYAME) God is Supreme and in charge fully at all times, (NSOROMMA) they are a child of Heaven – guardianship, (NYAME BIRIBI WO SORO) God is in heaven giving us hope and lastly (NKONSONKONSON) that they are united as the human chain and in Christ.

Once seeing these, reading about these symbols and there meanings, I dropped the idea entirely on a realistic background and started painting in the symbols, treated the environment in a more graphic style, applied more of that same style to the three men – and that is how this painting came to being!

I sincerely hope that you enjoy a little glimpse into the internal, conceptual thought processes and then the steps, transformation methods of the physical work of art.

Chris Cook

 

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Vietnam War Paintings

This painting is something different for Chris since it is watercolor versus his normal acrylic paintings. However, I feel like the use of watercolor is appropriate for this subject matter. If Chris had used acrylic, the painting would be brighter and almost more cheerful. The use of watercolor makes the art more blended and subdued, almost mimicking the emotions that the soldiers felt while they were in Vietnam (missing family, tiredness, loneliness, fear, etc.). I also feel like that this use of medium makes it almost look historical and not a freshly created work of art due to the brown wash/tint on it.

The look in the main soldier’s eye is why I chose to write about this painting. He almost has a look of hope that he will get to go back home to his loved ones. His face also shows that he is tired and worn out from his time in Vietnam. Chris truly represented what a solider’s face would have looked like during this time period. I would like to see Chris paint more pieces similar to this but in different time periods, wars, etc. For example, it would be interesting to compare this soldier with one during WWII or the Cold War. They would all have similar emotions yet their surroundings and uniforms would differ.

Chris did paint two other watercolor paintings related to this one. They look like they belong to a set, but they are all so different due to the various tasks that the men are doing. I feel like these paintings showcase the numerous jobs that a solider has to do while “on the job”. It also shows the emotions that run through their heads due to the expressions on their faces. I’m glad Chris painted these because it is something different and new than his previous works, and it serves as a nice contrast.

-Tori

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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

Viewing Stages of a Painting, Two

Here is one of my favorite paintings… really love the concept of taking a Picasso painting of a Spanish tragedy and using the painting look and style to tell the story of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald on Television on the 60s.

This is the third and largest version of the painting I have made. It is 6 foot wide and 4 foot tall.

First I used the 9 grid system to transfer the underlying composition/drawing. Here I have started roughing in the painting… getting the figure and ground separated.

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This next image you can see that I am defining the characters faces and bodies and making the background more solid.

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Below I have added more details. The background is more formed. Notice some of the earlier details were whited out to start over.

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Below is the finished painting.

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This painting is not for sale – I may be dreaming, but… my idea is to donate this to the Georgia Museum in Athens, Georgia or the Morris Museum in Augusta, Georgia.

Enjoy,

Chris Cook

 

 

 

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

 

Just Trying Something New

I have painted many different subjects, in many different styles and even experimented with different media. In looking at my website, I noticed that I do not often paint Still Life paintings. After working so hard to make the deadline for the Farm Show at the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center, I had to take some time off to rest.

In visiting my art studio after 2-3 weeks after that rest, I took a stab at still life. I wanted to work on my “brush work” and keep them loose… so I painted all of this series (so far) with an oversized brush to force the looseness.

Take a quick look at the early results – what do you think?

 

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Carter

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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.