Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Feature Crystal Cook

Crystal Cook, "A-Punk self-portrait" 8 x 10
When I first started my blogging adventure I came across Crystal Cook's blog.  I of course was mesmerized with her amazing watercolors and then thrilled to know that she was a Mommy/Artist in the trenches as well, with a brood of little boys.  She gave me hope and determination.  On days when I was saying to myself "Why am I doing this again", I would think of Crystal and it was a great feeling of camaraderie.  I am so grateful for Crystal and our friendship.

Oh and her work is beyond incredible.  I think of her as a modern day Mary Cassatt.  So here is an interview with Crystal.

To see more of Crystal's works check out her website or blog
How did you get your start?  What’s your artist journey so far?

Well, I’ve always loved to draw. When I was little and my friends would come over to my house and we were trying to figure out what to ‘play’ I always suggested drawing. It took me a while to figure out that not everyone had the same compulsion to draw that I did.

When I was about twelve years old my brother (who is an AMAZING artist) bought me a watercolor kit. That was the first time I knew that watercolors came in tubes, I always thought it was just those little pans they give you in school. The kit came with a watercolor book that had a bunch of different artist’s work showcased and I saw this portrait of a red headed girl in the sunlight painted by Jan Kunz and I knew that I wanted to paint like that one day. I took all the art classes my high school offered and drew and painted as much as I could. Then when it was time for me to go to college I put art aside for a while. I met, fell in love, and married my husband and focused on getting him through school while I worked.

After we’d been married for a few months I pulled out a pad of drawing paper and some old charcoal pencils I’d had for years and started drawing again. The results were not pretty. I was a little out of practice. But the love to create was still there. My husband noticed this and signed me up for a local watercolor class as a surprise Christmas gift.
Then after our first child was born I had the strongest desire to paint their portraits. I read every art book and magazine I could get my hands on and practiced late into the night, trying to paint the love that I felt as a new mom. It took about two years of concentrated practice to finally paint a portrait that I was proud of. After that I started entering shows and gallery exhibits and won some awards and started selling some paintings. I’m still on that journey, still showing in galleries and competitions and still painting portraits of my kids.

"Just Right" 8 x 10
Where were you born?

Born and raised and still living here. Good old Utah. J Ogden (Northern Utah) to be specific.

If you could live anywhere where would you live?
I’m really happy here in Utah. My family’s here, all of my growing up memories are here and I love the snow. But I’d also love to live somewhere warm and sunny year round. And I’ve always really wanted to live in England. Probably because of my love for famously dead (and those who are not so dead) authors that used to write or live there. And let’s face it, their accent is just plain cool.
"Eyes So blue" 10 x 14
 What’s your favorite thing to paint and why? People. But especially children and babies. There is something that is so unguarded and accessible about a baby’s expression that just gets to me. I love how they don’t try to hide their emotions, if they’re happy, or sad, or just amazed at something you know it straight away. From a purely artistic point of view I also love the glowing colors of skin in the sunshine. And I LOVE painting eyes. It’s my favorite thing ever. I’ve also done some paintings lately with glass and shiny objects that have been a lot of fun. I’m working on incorporating more of that into my portraits in some way. 

"Wizard In Training" 10 x 14
Which of your paintings was the most enjoyable to paint? Which was the most difficult? The most enjoyable? Probably my “Young Wizard in Training” I loved the colors in that one and all the reflections from the shiny material of his costume. And I love Halloween. J The most difficult? I painted a portrait of my Grandpa shortly after he died that was really emotionally difficult for me, even though it was healing for me at the same time. And skill wise it would be my acrylic painting “Emerge” without a doubt. I’d never painted with acrylics before and I had no idea what I was doing. It took several tries to get it to where I was happy with it.

 Do you have a favorite artist?  Who has been your biggest inspiration? Well my favorite famously dead artist is John Singer Sargent. I love his understated use of color, dramatic values, and economical brushstrokes. Jan Kunz (I basically taught myself how to paint with watercolors by reading her books), Ali Cavanaugh, and Mary Whyte are modern day favorites, all of whom are fantastic watercolor figure and portrait artists. And my biggest inspiration has been my husband. I would never have started painting again or had the courage to enter shows without his belief in me and constant encouragement. I think he actually entered a few competitions for me when I was too afraid of getting rejected to do it myself.

What are some of your favorite things or things that are essential to your well being/success as an artist? Arches 140 pound watercolor paper. I’ve tried basically everything else and have never found a better paper for my style of painting. My ipod for music, audio books, and podcasts to listen to while painting. An old towel to use as a paint rag, since controlling the amount of water in my brush is essential for how I paint. My camera and computer for reference photos. Art books and magazines for much needed inspiration when I’m running low. 

Do you have go-to paints/colors, what are your favorites? Permanent rose, raw sienna, and cobalt blue are my favorite colors. I also love aureolin, brown madder, and opera rose. Basically I’m a sucker for yellows and pinks. I have a ton of them. My brand of choice is Winsor and Newton Artist’s Water Colours.
"Draw" 10 x 14
 Do you ever get artist’s block? And what do you do to overcome it? Heck yes I do. What do I do to overcome it? Eat way too much sugar.  Seriously though, I just keep painting but will try to look at painting in a different way. I might switch mediums, from watercolors to colored pencil or acrylic. Or I’ll try a new subject matter that I haven’t tried before but have always wanted to. I listen to podcast interviews with other artists obsessively and read every book or magazine article written by Harley Brown that I can get my hands on.

And if that doesn’t work then I take a break and read one of my favorite books, which is always therapeutic for me.

What are five things you would like to happen in your life in the next five years? Dream big here:)
Hmmm. . . Tough question.

I’d love to write a book that merges motivation and encouragement for artist’s and portrait painting techniques.

Write, illustrate, and publish a children’s book.

See my work published in an art magazine. An awesomely well read one, not an itty bitty one (although that would be cool too).

Attain signature status with the National Watercolor Society or American Watercolor Society.

Painting every day, all day. (My kids will all be in school by then)

What is your advice for other artists who are just getting started in their career? Paint because you love to, and paint what you love, not what’s popular or what you think will sell. Believe in yourself and be proud of your art, but never stop seeking for ways to improve it. And don’t give up, if you want to be an artist there will always be setbacks, but never let them keep you back from doing what you love.

What is the best advice that you have received as an artist? Paint what you love. And don’t go for the obvious composition.
"Joy Unrestrained" 10 x 14


Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate

Sunny beach or rustic mountain retreat? Rustic Mountain Retreat

Book or movie? Book. Huzzah for books!

Favorite author? This is an impossible question! Well. . . the obvious answer is J.K. Rowling tied with Jane Austen, but who ever said I went for the obvious? I’m going to say Laini Taylor, an incredibly gifted writer. She’s an artist with words.

Favorite movie? Pride and Prejudice

Romance or comedy? Romance! I’m all about the SA-woon. J

Favorite ice cream flavor? Creme brulee

Night owl or morning person?   Morning person

Cake or Cupcakes?  Cupcakes. Cuteness and portion control in one package. Can’t be beat.

Hope you enjoyed this as much as I did:)  See you all Monday!


  1. Thanks SO much for the feature Carrie!!! I'm so honored! :)) I'm so glad we're friends. :D

  2. What a treat in getting to know Crystal. I adore her work...and more people ought to know about her. Awesome! Thanks Carrie!

  3. Carrie, I loved this interview with Crystal!! I love her work.! I really liked her advice for other artists..Paint what you love!! I'm taking that advice by painting more portraits.

  4. Fun interview. Love Crystal's blog and her work.

  5. Wonderful feature on a truly talented and wonderful lady! Good going, Crystal!

  6. Thanks Carrie for leading us a little further into Crystal's life, I am also a big fan of her work!

  7. Wonderful interview and post, Carrie. Have a great weekend.

  8. Love the interview with Crystal and yours with her. Crystal is such an inspiration and I so enjoy her humour and insights, not to mention her talent.

  9. Great interview! Crystal has such a vivacious personality that comes through in her interview. I love her blog and her paintings, and I loved getting to know more about her. Thanks!

  10. Fantastic interview post Carrie! I particularly enjoyed your statement about painting what you love and not going for what is popular. That is so true. When you paint what you love that love comes out in the painting. You are an amazing artist and the speed that you are moving ahead, I can see only success in where you want you be in five years! I'll look forward to seeing you in American Artist, or International Artist, or the cover of Splash!

  11. So fun to get to know Crystal through your blog- what a great idea and way to share. Don't you just love this blog world!

  12. Crystal's work is exceptional - thanks for the intro and great interview, Carrie. xx

  13. Really really enjoyed reading it. And your interview on Crystals blog too. :)

  14. Carrie, I loved the interview on Crystal's blog, and I love Crystal's on yours! Crystal - your answers made me laugh. Never thought of cupcakes like that but you're so right! ; ) It was great getting to know a little more about your background and future goals. You're both awesome : ))

  15. I love her work, it's so heartfelt. The colors and perspectives are brilliant.