Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Synchronize 8" x 8" acrylic on canvas panel

I love that moment when you're riding a horse and there's this perfect communication between both of you. Like you understand each other perfectly.

The other day I had an A-ha! moment when I was painting this acrylic. I don't really know how it happened, but I was painting this and then something sort of clicked in my brain and I felt like I finally understood how I want to paint with these acrylics! Eureka!!

Don't you just love it when that happens?  :)

And last night my wonderful, amazing, super-hot husband got me a bunch of masonite boards and I can't wait to get started on them! It's good to be an artist, right? Even though sometimes it's hard, and frustrating, and maybe even down right depressing when we're blocked, or our work doesn't live up to our own expectations, it's still awesome to be an artist. It makes us happy. And it makes other people happy. And one can never be too happy.  :)

Also, I'm putting the finishing touches on a watercolor painting that I'm pretty excited about. It should be ready to post next week.

Until then everybody!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Value Study SOLD and Painting Stats

'Shiver' value study 7" x 9" gouache  SOLD
photo courtesy of Jenny Martinez Photography
my homage to Maggie Stiefvater's novel 'Shiver' one of my favorites :)

Number of acrylic paintings attempted within the last week: 5

Painting attempt number 1: marginally successful (still a work in progress)

Painting attempt numbers 2-4: epic fail (in other words, too hideous to post)

Painting attempt number 5: successful (early work in progress, too early too post, not sure you'd see anything in it that resembles art yet)

Artist state of mind after 5 acrylic attempts at artistic genius (or at least something that's pretty. Shallow much? Nah. Not me. ;) : borderline terminally frustrated

Number of possible solutions to this problem: four 3 (stated as follows)
1. Quit  Not an option
2. Try again. Think of a different strategy. Baby steps. No rushing allowed
3. Start a new watercolor painting with GORGEOUS-knock-your-socks-off-sunlight
4. Join in on the Daily Paintworks Challenge fun and start yet another painting for their value study challenge.

Solutions attempted: numbers 2-4

Artist state of mind after implemented solutions: tentatively optimistic

Until next week my friends! Huzzah!

What I'm listening to: October by Broken Bells (because it has rained for almost a solid week (week?! I mean month. . . or two) here in Utah which may or may not have contributed to my artistic state of mind in the beginning of these stats)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Reason to Pout and three pictures of pure AWESOMENESS

"A Reason to Pout" acrylic on gessobord, 8" x 10"
The Work of Childhood series #2

Lately I've been feeling very drawn to acrylics. I don't know why. It's not because it comes easily, because it doesn't. It's not familiar and comforting like my watercolors, or soothingly meditative like my colored pencils. It's unpredictable and challenging. Maybe that's the appeal. I love a good challenge.

I really like this painting. I like the colors in his face and I like seeing the brushstrokes. And those pouty lips. :)

But. . . I kind of feel like a traitor for liking these acrylic paintings so much. I feel like I should not enjoy painting with them as much as I do, because they're not watercolors and that's sort of what people expect from me.

But they are fun, different, new. And sometimes that's just what I need. And it's not like I'm giving up on watercolors. Not at all. It's just nice to try something else for a change you know?

Now, onto pictures of AWESOMENESS.

The other day the Utah Watercolor Society hosted a demonstration given by one of my favorite artists ever.

Can you guess who it is? (If you follow my Facebook fan page you probably already know)

That's right! Alvaro Castagnet!! Can you even believe how awesome that was? Seriously, I felt like I was meeting a rock star. I may have stuttered when I asked if I could have a picture with him. I was a little bit fangirl. . . ok, ok I was a lot bit fangirl.

It was incredible to watch him paint, he's so confident and passionate that it was infectious. It made me want to run for my brushes. And hearing him speak about painting with passion, and being bold, holding nothing back, going for major impact was so cool. 

He was funny, and warm, and just plain AWESOME. 

I wish you could have been there. :)

And then last week I got to meet one of my favorite authors of all time!

Sarah Dessen! I have loved her books for years, read all of them, own most of them, and she is a major source of inspiration for my writing. I just love her. Her book "The Truth About Forever" is coming with me if ever I get stranded on a desert island. It's one of my top five favorite books of all time. (Which is saying a lot considering my list of favorite books is about five miles long)

And she was so nice and humble and just truly genuine. I think she and I could be friends if we were neighbors. :)

And yes, once again I was a fan girl of epic proportions. I just couldn't help it. I mean this is the Dessen we're talking about! She is incredibly AWESOME!

It was so cool. :D

It's inspiring to be around creative people who want to share and help other creative people. It's just one of my favorite things in the whole world.

See you next week everybody!

Dear Alvaro,

I hope you will forgive me for posting this photo of you with your eyes closed, but I simply had to. For the sake of AWESOMENESS. I hope you understand. :)

your most devoted fan girl,

Crystal Cook


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Finding Dreams

Finding Dreams
15" x 20" watercolor, The Work of Childhood Series #1

This is the first in a new series of paintings I'm going to be working on called, The Work of Childhood. I want to focus on all the things kids do that make up their life, when they're finding out what and who they want to be. Things that might seem of little importance, but really they're not. Those small things that are really big things. 

Do you remember when you were a kid and you had these great fantasies about what you would do or be when you grew up?  How it seemed impossible to not achieve everything you were drearming about?

I do.

I don't know about you, but my 'dream career' changed a LOT when I was a kid. I wanted to be a marine biologist, a horse trainer, a writer, an animator for Disney, an artist (of course), an equestrian in the 2000 Summer Olympics, and a lawyer.

Don't ask me how that last one slipped in there because I'm still not sure. I think it may have had something to do with my desire to win an argument with my older sister. (totally kidding) Love you sis!!! :):)

Now I get to see my kids have their own dreams and hopes for their future. And while some of them may seem a little fanciful (really? because an olympic equestrian was totally realistic right?) I will never say to them choose something else, or anything that might come across as unsupportive or doubting in any way.

Because I don't think those dreams you make in childhood ever really go away. You change them as you grow up but you always remeber how fiercely you felt about every single one of them. And how hard you may have fought for it. Those dreams make you into the kind of person you grow up to be.

Dreams are a fragile thing, and who am I to be the one crushing them before they've even had a chance to grow yet? My oldest son loves archery. He's passionate about it, he studies all the different kinds of bows, arrows, targets, sights, and everything else that goes with it.

I loved seeing that. Seeing him so interested in something that it occupied every thought he had. Sometimes I'd check on him at night after he went to bed and he'd still be awake, reading archery magazines by flashlight. It reminded me of some other kid I used to know who did the same thing with horse magazines and art supply catalogues. :)

What about you guys? What did you want to be when you grew up?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day, and the reason

'You are the trip I did not take

You are the pearls I cannot buy,

 You are my blue Italian lake,

You are my piece of foreign sky.'
 — Anne Campbell

Me and my boys, on this day for mothers. :)

I wasn't going to do a post for Mother's Day, I was going to stick to my once a week schedule because I didn't have anything new to post and I know that if you follow my blog you've seen these paintings PLENTY of times, but I changed my mind.

I didn't think it would be right to let this day pass without paying tribute to the three sweet reasons why I paint. If I had not become a mother I don't think I ever would have had an interest in painting portraits. I, like most parents, had the strongest desire to remember my children in every stage of their life, to acurately and tenderly capture them. I  just choose to do it in paint.

They say that if you want to do your best work, you should paint the things you love. And I love nothing as much as I love these three. *

They are my reason. My three little muses. There really wouldn't be a Crystal Cook Art blog without them. :)

Happy Mother's Day to all you mother's out there, past, present and future. I hope you had a good one.  

*and handsome hubby of course.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ten Things I've Learned From Painting A Self Portrait

'A-Punk, self portrait'
8" x 10" watercolor

1. You're not as bad looking as you thought you were.

2. It's nearly impossible to pose for your own self portrait with anything other than a big smile, a goofy expression, or something else that you hope looks introspective and mysterious, but is neither because really it's just you raising your head a little too much so you can see through your crooked glasses.

3. While strong sunlight from the side, is your favorite way to paint portraits of other people, on you it is just plain un-flattering. 

4. It's somewhat unsettling to look at yourself for so long. To really see all the good and bad parts of your face that are you. (I kind of feel like it's been ages since I actually looked at myself)

5. Just in case you ever start to take yourself too seriously, just paint another self portrait. That'll humble you.  It's HARD. :) 

6. Your hair looks good. Wild, but good.

7. A portrait, of anyone (including you), is about likeness it's true, but it's even more about expression. And truth. Who is this person really? It's your goal, as a portrait artist, to find that out and paint it.

8. You are now COMPLETELY sympathetic with all those people you have asked, or will ask to model for you. Poor unsuspecting souls.

9. You probably need to paint another one of these, with that strong un-flattering sunlight. Just for fun. You know how much you love sunlight!

10. You can never have too highly developed drawing skills. They are a MUST for a self portrait.

So, I decided that it was finally time I jumped in and tried a painting challenge from the Daily Paintworks site. I'd been thinking about doing a self portrait for a while and figured now was as good a time as any. I think you all should do one too. :):):)

What I'm listening to: A-Punk by Vampire Weekend
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