Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bundled Up

Bundled Up
7" x 9" watercolor

Last year my local hospital bought my painting "Timeless Remedy" to become a part of their permanent collection. I still have very mixed feelings about this because it is one of my favorite paintings and I was very sad to see it go.

I often wonder about the people who might see it when they're walking through that hospital and what circumstances of their life brings them there. Are they there for a happy reason, like a birth, or for some other much sadder reason.

In any case, I hope that whoever sees it feels something when they look at it. I hope they are reminded of what it feels like to hold your new baby for the first time, or maybe they're anticipating what that might feel like one day, or maybe they're just looking at it and it makes them smile when they're passing through a very dark spot in their life.

Then the other day I received an email from someone I've never met before who had seen my painting. She said, "this week walking through one the halls of the McKay Dee Hospital, I saw one of your paintings that is called Timeless Remedy and I want you to know that I was moved to tears. It's so cute and it reminded me of my little boy when he was a baby."

I know that my work has value for my family and for myself. And if that's all that the world ever sees of it I'm completely okay with that. I want it to be a legacy left to my children, so that they will always know how much they were loved.

But hearing things like this from complete strangers reminds me that what I'm doing, living this artist's life, painting this body of work I feel so compelled to create, might have a greater reach than I think it does.

Thank you Vivian, so much, for the email.

Have a great week everyone. :)

Just in case you're wondering what painting I'm talking about, here it is:

Timeless Remedy

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Choosing to See SOLD

Sunlight SOLD
5" x 7" watercolor

This stallion's name is 'Golden Sunlight of Hermits' owned by Sandra Butterfield of Hermits Cobs. I saw a photo of him on Facebook and fell in love with him. He has such a kind eye and expression. And just look at his coloring, and gorgeous feathered feet! *sigh* I HAD to paint him. Sandra says he is as friendly and kind as he is gorgeous. :)

One of the great things about being an artist is that your eyes are opened to everything around you.

You see things that most people miss, like the intense purplish blue mixed in with all the sparkling green on a dragonfly's body, or the way a baby's soft cheek turns a rosy orange when he's sitting in the sun stacking towers of rainbow colored blocks with chubby hands.

Life as an artist is good.

And yet. . . Sometimes I find myself just going through the motions. Living my life, but not really seeing it.

So this morning I tried to change that. When I went running I breathed in deep when I passed a field of fresh cut alfalfa hay, I listened to the rushing sound of my breath burning in and out of my lungs, felt the tension of my muscles pushing for just a little more speed.

When I came home I watched my husband's face when he was getting ready for work, taking in every handsome curve and angle (for those of you that don't know, that's him in the banner above), that I know so well, like it was the first time I'd ever seen him.

I marveled at the relative silence in the car when I took my two older boys to school. No arguing, no teasing, just the sound of the audiobook "A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book The Ninth" playing in the background.

I opened the lid on my watercolor palette and watched the sun glint off of each color well, shining and sparkling and calling my name.

I heard my son, just three years old, tell me "you're my best friend Mom," saw the way his hair that's always just a little too long curled over his ears. The downward cast of soft lashes against soft cheeks.

And I knew then that seeing, really seeing, the way an artist sees is a gift.

But it's also a choice.

I choose to see, as often as I can.

Your turn. :) What unexpected beauty have you seen lately?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Passing Interest

Passing Interest
7" x 9" watercolor

Some of you will remember that last year around this time I had a contest where I gave away one watercolor portrait. And here is the finished painting. :)

The winner of the contest lives in Utah so we were able to get together so I could take the kind of reference photos I like to work from.

I took my model to a place that looked like a harmless office building with lots of grassy areas lit with gorgeous light from the sun that had just started to set. And no people or pets within sight, which is what I saw at every single park I looked at before I found this perfectly deserted spot.

I start taking pictures, giving very vague and not-too-helpful hints for my poor model to look "that way" while I point somewhere to the north-south-westish, "somewhat mysteriously", "like you're an international woman of intrigue",  and repeatedly "stop laughing at me!" (I need some work on my model directing skills.)

When all of a sudden a security guard (complete with darkened sunglasses) walks out. Thus begins my tale of how I narrowly escaped Serious Trouble With The Government:

Security Guard: "DON'T take pictures of the building."

Me: *blinks* "Ooooh-kay."
Because obviously that's what I was doing. This woman posing for me was all a ruse so I could take pictures of this fantastically secret, but very well protected building. MWA HA HA!

Model:  *barely contained laughter*

Me: *gives model a pleading look that says "Dude, do NOT mock the security guard!"*

Security Guard: *crosses arms over chest while giving me the evil eye*

Me: *smiling innocently* "I wasn't taking pictures of the building, just her," I say, pointing to the model who's trying to supress yet more laughter.

Security Guard: *more evil eye directed at me*

Me:  *gives security guard feigned look of shock after looking down at my camera (I should totally be an actress)*
"And would you look at that! I got all the photos I needed so we'll, um, *swallow* just be going now," I say. 

Me and Model: *start backing away from the security guard in a calm, non-guilty way for about five seconds before turning around and speed walking to my car*

Luckily we both escaped with our lives, our freedom, and my camera. :) The moral of this story? Don't take your model to a building, or area, that you think is just an office building but might be an undisclosed government location.

Unless you like getting hit with the evil eye by burly security guards.  Or worse.

That's all I'm gonna say.

Hopefully government officials are not reading this blog. . .

*It should also be noted that this model is beautiful and she was a joy to work with. She took my direction to look "somewhat mysterious to the north-south-westish" very well. :))))

Upcoming Events: I will be teaching a one day watercolor portrait class on October 15 for the Syracuse Arts Guild in Syracuse, Utah. click here for details or email me with questions at crystal@crystalcookart.com

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Daily Escape SOLD

'Daily Escape' SOLD
6" x 6" watercolor

Almost two years ago I read a book that changed the way I thought about a lot of things. It was "Shiver" by Maggie Stiefvater (the book in my painting above). I fell in love with the story of Sam and Grace and couldn't stop thinking about it.

A few days later I was looking Maggie up online. I love to read about the lives of authors I admire, how they started writing, their inspiration and influences, their path towards publication, and it was then that I found out that Maggie and I are the same age.

This kind of stunned me for a couple of reasons: 1. Her writing was so beautiful and poetic it amazed me that someone so young (ahem, that's right, I said young, 28 is young right?) had written something so powerful. And 2.  She had written a book that I LOVED and was published at MY age! If she could do it, maybe I could too.

After a little more online stalkage research I found out that Maggie also was a mother to two young children, and an amazing colored pencil artist to boot! This seemed strangely coincidental to me.

Now I'm not one who believes in 'signs' but I do believe that things happen for a reason, and that at certain times in our life God puts people or ideas there that we need at that exact time. 

I started taking my writing more seriously after that, giving myself permission to believe that I could be a writer.

I've since written two novels and am now working on my third. I'm not published yet, but I believe that if I work hard enough one day I will be.

This painting was inspired by one Maggie had done (click here to see it). That's one of my own wolf sketches that I painted to look like a sketch, and that's apple cider in my mug instead of tea because I love cinnamon, apples, and sugar. :) Lots and lots of sugar.

Until next week my friends! Huzzah!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ten Hard Earned Truths Every Artist Must Learn

"Chica" chihuahua sketchbook study

portrait study after Craig Nelson

The Return of Sketchbook Tuesday and Motivational Monday. . . on a Tuesday. :)

There are some things I've learned on this path towards being an artist that have been on my mind a lot lately. Thought I'd share a few of them with you.

1. Not everyone will love your work. Not everyone will like your work either. In fact, you could say that there is a distinct possibility that somewhere out there someone really kind of. . . hates it. Some people might even be downright mean and hurtful about it. Let the haters hate. But don't you hate. Accept this and move on.

2. But. . . Some people (probably many people) will fall hopelessly, SA-woon, head-over-heels in love with your work. Your work will move them to tears, you work will change their life. Your work will bring beauty and light to others who wouldn't otherwise have a chance to see it or feel it. This is what being an artist is all about. Accept this and move on. But don't let it go to your head.

3. There will be days ahead when you will feel like every particle of talent you may have ever had has left you for good. Gone. Adios. Disapparated faster than Hermione Granger. Some days you will struggle, some paintings simply won't work out. That's okay. It's supposed to be like that. Without some kind of failure we wouldn't constantly be striving for that next great painting, novel, photograph, beaded earrings. Whatever. Accept this and move on.

4. But. . . There will be days ahead when you will create something so breathtakingly beautiful and emotionally moving you will not believe it came from your hand. But it did. Because you have been blessed with talent, dedication, and perseverance. Because you didn't give up when things got hard. 

5. When you first start out you will suck. A lot. Accept this and move on.

6. But. . . This is not a bad thing. Suckage is only the evidence of growth. You are growing, learning, improving day by day. It will get better. You will get better.

7. Artistic success is not about money, or number of sales, or fans, or who you know. No matter what anyone else says. Accept this and move on.

8. Artistis success is about following your heart, creating what matters to you, not whatever is popular, or what others like. If you follow this trail, creating to please others, you will not be happy. Creating will become a chore, a must-do, not a passionate love affair.

9. Being an artist means a lot of time spent by yourself. A lot of time spent in the studio, alone, opening a vein and letting it bleed on the canvas (figuratively speaking of course). Accept this and move on.

10. But this does not mean that you are alone. You have your friends, spouse, kids, parents, siblings, dog, cheering you on and wishing for your success just as much as you do. It means you have friends and connections you've built with like minded souls spread throughout the world who've got your back when you need them. It means that you pray to your Heavenly Father knowing that He is just as concerned about the desires of your heart as you are. He will help you. You are not alone. Not ever. Don't ever forget that. 

That is all. . . for now. :)

Come on, you know you want to, say it with me everyone! HUZZAH!! Go forth and conquer!

Thursday, September 8, 2011


7" x 9" watercolor

A few weeks ago it was my baby's birthday. He turned three years old. On that day he and I stayed home, just the two of us (now that the older boys are in school all day), and played with all his new toys. And it was the sweetest day I've had in a long time. 

We made a Play-doh lunch and had a Play-doh picnic with his stuffed animals in his new little indoor tent (which was a rather tight fit for me).

We played Spiderman vs. the Green Goblin and Iron Man vs. Dr. Doom (for some reason I was always the villain. He he he). 

We played a real, live version of angry birds, stacking towers of blocks and pigs so we could launch little birds at them and knock 'em down. 

We made birthday cupcakes and licked the beaters. 

We had fun in small and simple things. :)

And later that night, before I tucked him into bed, I held him close and closed my eyes and remembered that three years ago at this exact time I was doing the same thing with a much smaller little boy.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dragon vs. Heffalump SOLD

Dragon vs. Heffalump
6" x 6" watercolor

I had to paint the Heffalump again*. He's starting to act a little diva-ish, demanding that I paint him. Even when I told him I was going to put him in a face off with this fierce dragon, he still wanted to pose.

I don't think he realized what he was in for. I mean look at that face! So clueless, so trusting. Poor little guy.

But I must admit that I underestimated this little Heffalump. In a classic case of the victorious underdog, he defeated the dragon. Killed him with kindness I guess you could say. Well not really killed since the dragon did live to see another day, but a defeat just the same!

They seemed to reach an agreement without having to exchange blows (phew! I did not want to explain to my son why his Heffalump was suddenly sporting a black eye. . . or worse). Heffalump said he would not give Dragon that cute look anymore as long as Dragon promised to end his evil-attempted-maiden-eating days and use his mighty powers for good instead.

 Dragon agreed. . . somewhat reluctantly. :)

* A few side notes about this painting:

1. I am a sucker for dragons (expect to see a little more of this guy).

2. I am also a sucker for a good vs. evil story. Especially when the evil one decides to fight his dragonish (vampir-ish, Severus Snape-ish, zombie-ish, etc.) ways and chooses to be good.

3. I've been struggling with feelings of inadequacy with my paintings lately. It seems like everything I touch just doesn't measure up! *Sigh* Frustrating and demoralizing is what it is. I thought a fun little painting might help with that. :) I know this will pass, it always does. Nevah give up! Huzzah!  

Have a great loooong weekend everyone. :D 

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