Artist Spotlight: Crystal Cook

Several months ago when I decided to start working with watercolor, I started researching watercolor artists and came across an incredible blog that belonged to accomplished Utah artist, Crystal Cook.  I was immediately drawn to her work - the use of light, the intense feeling that comes from each portrait, and the way each picture tells a story.  I started following Crystal's blog and quickly found that her blog is very special.  She is funny, intelligent, and extremely talented!

I quickly formed an online friendship with Crystal and she has graciously offered to allow me to interview her.  Here is your chance to get to know her, through her answers and online presence:
Etsy Store
Daily Paintworks
Bring Me to Life by Crystal Cook

Tell us a little bit about your background as an artist. 

I've pretty much always been painting or drawing. I was the kid in school who always turned in my homework with horses, or princesses drawn around the margins.

But I really got serious about honing my skills after my first son was born, ten years ago. The powerful emotions of motherhood took me by surprise, I didn't even know I was capable of loving someone like that. My days were spent holding my son and studying his sweet baby face, and I had this all-consuming love for him that I had never felt for anyone else. Painting my son, and working to improve at capturing a real likeness of him, was a way I felt I could express those emotions.
Fascination by Crystal Cook

What inspires you to paint most? 

Light. I am almost always left awestruck when I see some beautiful sunlight, feeling this compelling urge to run for my camera, pencils, or brushes. Sometimes when I see something in the right light it hits me so strongly that I almost feel like weeping. It can really be any subject as long as the light is captivating. Of course other things factor in after that, I'm very drawn to faces and expression, color, reflections, and body language.

Solemn by Crystal Cook

Why do you favor painting portraits over other types?

 I love expression, and I love seeing it up close. People (or animal's for that matter) loose a little bit of their natural inhibitions when you're looking at them close up, eye to eye. I also just love seeing people live their life. I love wondering about someone's story, what they might be thinking, whether it's something so mundane as what they're having for dinner to something a little more compelling like if that guy they're into is going to kiss them on their next date. And I think that some of that, those feelings, can be captured in a portrait and that's what keeps me painting. Striving to capture that.  

Self-portrait by Crystal Cook

In all the years that you've painted, are there any techniques that you've learned that significantly improved your work or helped your find your style? 

The thing that helped me the most was a statement by Cindy Agan, a realistic watercolor artist who I really admire, she said that a lot of artist's she knew could finish a painting in a matter of hours and hers would take her days and days. So she tried painting looser because she felt a need to fit in, but it just never felt like it fit her. Then a friend told her to forget worrying about it, that's how she paints. So she did, and painted realism very happily after that.

That stuck with me because a lot of what painting realism is, is taking time to observe what's in front of you and translating that to your painting. It isn't a quick process, and we shouldn't expect it to be. Once I realized that, I decided to try a slow, gradual build up of color and value with light washes and that's when my style really became my own. Once I slowed down to really think about how watercolor worked I realized that I was in control of how I painted and I could choose to be as loose or tight in a given area as I wanted. 

Windows by Crystal Cook

What are your long term goals as an artist? 

I just want to always love to paint and to always have the means to do so. Sales and acclaim are wonderful and I'm so thankful for all that I've had so far, but ultimately for me painting is a love affair and I want to always have that excitement, and enthusiasm for putting brush to paper that I have now.

Safe Keeping by Crystal Cook

Which tools (for inspiration, learning, selling your work, etc.) have helped you most as an artist? 

Reading other artist's blogs is a great source of information for me. I soak up so much from studying paintings I love. I also love art magazines and collect them like a crazy lady. I love going through them and studying artwork. Practicing every day is also vital to my own art education, I always seem to learn something new when I sit down to paint. And as far as selling goes I think Etsy and Daily Paintworks have helped me the most. It gave me a platform to get my art seen and those sites also encouraged me to continue producing work.

What are some of your favorite materials? 

I love synthetic sable brushes, this surprises a lot of people because they're seen as inferior for some reason, but I love them. My favorite brand is Robert Simmons white sable in a size 8, 12 and 4. I also realy love the colors quinacridone rose, cobalt blue, and hansa yellow light by Daniel Smith. And brown madder by Winsor and Newton. Most of the time it's those three colors (excluding the brown madder) that I use to paint with. Especially skin tones.

Penumbra by Crystal Cook

I want to thank Crystal for her inspiration and support.  She has be a wonderful artistic mentor and friend in the time that I've known her.  In her own words "Huzzah!"

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