Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Relief Valve: Rivers And Tides--Know Thy Medium

The Phillips Collection, DC, copr. Cook, 2009. Click to enlarge

The Bonsai and Penjing Museum, US National Arboretum, DC, copr. Cook 2005.
Click to enlarge

Red Cockaded Woodpecker, for Georgia Pacific, copr Cook,1993.
With all the recent posts of scribble drawings, gesturals, and blessed mindless sheets of marks, I thought it might be interesting to put some of this into context. 

My illustrations are meticulous, and accurate in terms of content.  My wayfinding aerials are exceedingly clear because they need to be—they're used in visitor’s guides.  Often I work with surgical loops.  The work takes weeks and months to complete.  Many times I am under extreme deadline, and scrupulous direction as a team creative.  There are art directors, creative directors, copywriters, photographers, not to mention the end clients, all with their mitts in the pie and their reputations on the line, offering input—extremely valid input, too—everything must be considered.  Every step is scrutinized and approved before proceeding to the next.  All this, and to still be required to produce cutting edge art that communicates specific visual messages instantly—without being overworked—is my world—and we haven’t touched on all the marketing effort to get enough work to eke out a living.

My fine art is the relief valve for all this.    How wonderful it is to let it all out once in a while—go all over the place—go inside (visual meditation) —go outside (plein air) —hand eye sketching—paint smearing—mudpies—splatter—3 dimensional scribbling—pastel dust rubbing—its all so delicious.  Art academics, what I call "artspeak", goes out the window, followed by all the books and accoutrements of a well-stocked studio.  Free at last--thank God I'm free at last.  Fine art is like getting out of school for the day. 

Anything will do for art making.  Watch Rivers and Tides, a documentary about an artist, Andy Goldsworthy, who experiences art on the purest levels, using natural found materials, and then enjoys the momentary feeling of accomplishment before it all blows away.  Unbelievable!   I found myself admiring the stunning crazoid hodge-podge of utility company marks, paint splatter, oil stains, cracks, weeds etc. on a sidewalk.  What bliss!  I hate graffiti, the bastards.  But inside, I’m trackin with em, baby.  Sometimes what’s going on the floor in my studio looks better that the art. 

Calm down—get back in your box, Bill.  I have to now execute the final for the new aerial view of the US National Arboretum Dogwood Collection.  Failure is no option.  No more Mr. Nice guy.  Edgy blossoms.  Humph.

I love all you fine artists out there and am honored to be in your presence.



Anonymous said...

I saw your post pop up and immediately jumped over to check out your stunning work. And then as I read your post and understand more about your process in illustration and as an artist without restraint... I get it Bill. I get it now. Powerful stuff. All of it.

Jeff has his paint tarp outside today getting ready to do some touch ups on a bike, and I stood there looking at his tarp of paint splatters and smears and watched him dance around in anticipation of the job at hand, and I almost, almost went to get the camera. The tarp is art in my view because it is attached to the joy I witnessed.

Art on Bill, art on.

William Cook said...

Painting on a bike? Far out. Now you're painting pictures in my head! Save the tarp. Get the camera! Seriously, thanks for your wonderful comments! Wm

RH Carpenter said...

I, too, rushed over to see what you were doing today, William. I so admire your ability to do these architectural designs and wonder how you get the aerial view? Do you go up in a plane and take photos? Do you stand on a high hill overlooking the place? Interesting to think about :) And your woodpecker is done with no less dexterity and talent and skill and all that jazz - but more my speed as it's a "natural" thing. Today I saw TWO Pileated Woodpeckers outside feeding on my suet feeder! Amazing critters and I imagine you would render them in all their glory - with a touch of color for those crazy red mohawks :)

William Cook said...

Aren't pileateds rare? Two in the same day? I see one every 3 or 4 years. Not that I set out to find them.

We have a wren house on the deck, look forward to move in day every year. Had to take it apart last year and clear it. They couldn't jamm in any more flotsum and jetsum.

Those aerials are all deduced from snapshots and site plans. Everything you see from the basic perspective angle to the visual pruning of the tree cannopy has been optimized for greatest "legibility". An aerial camera shot forom the same point in space is next to useless, and all but impossible.

That said I did get a helicopter ride once. Hilarious from start to finish. I'll save that one for a future post.

Thanks for visiting, love your input, Rhonda. Crazy Mohawks--cool.

hw (hallie) farber said...

Envisioning Information by Tufte is one of my favorite books--you do it well. I thank you in advance for not getting lost at the Arboretum or The Phillips. Yours sounds like a fantastic, interesting job; then you mention the sign-offs. I think this job encourages the freedom in your other work. Spray paint some walls--I love grafitti.

William Cook said...

Oh that's rich. I can see the headlines now. "Geriatric fat man looses footing while spray painting a row of Rodin heads. Drops thirteen stories." Wm

Jane said...

William , I love your little wood pecker, so meticulously executed , brilliant work. And thank you very much for your comment on my last post, I am flattered by your words.

craigstephens said...

Wonderful words and images! Thanks for stopping by my blog so I could "discover" you!

William Cook said...

Hey Craig welcome! Thanks for the follow. I'll be over there poking around in your archives--love your stuff! Wm

Katherine van Schoonhoven said...

I love seeing this tight, precise, detailed work. I imagine you with your sharp pencils, drafting brush, kneaded eraser, rulers, and all of the stuff that goes with such exacting work.

And then, like a Jeckyll/Hyde switcheroo, you have these wildly symbolic, free, suggestive pieces. They seem to explode out of you, sweeping all of the tidy stuff off the table and out the door.

I absolutely love it! So glad you're blogging!

Ralph said...

Marvellous post William I will be looking back for more in the future.

William Cook said...

Thanks so much Ralph--and thanks for following. Til the future then! Wm

jane minter said...

hello william have admired your architectural illustrations (i know exactly how much work is involved ) and illustrations ... glad to have found your blog i liked your comment re mediation on maggie's blog ... i love land art incredible artist thankyou for the link ...you have a magic touch with drawing and ink ... "hi rebecca" serious look like etchings so beautiful .

John Brisson said...

Find it really neat that you are developing such a following. Keep up the good work!

William Cook said...

Hi Katherine--The switcheroo isn't that dramatic usually, but occasionally yes. One sort of feeds the other overall. Last December I had no idea what a blog was. Of course I'd heard the term, but I didn't realize what significance it had to artists--to me. Frankly, the writing part seemed like it would be boring. It all hity me like a ton of bricks after reading blogger/artist Hugh NcLeod. He opened up whole new vistas. I'm following his advice--just show what you do and tell your stories.

Hi Jane--Thanks for your wonderful comments. I wanted to show those to Rebecca Crowell immediately, but do want to talk about them individually at some point. Thanks for noticing them. Also Maggie's tops. What a sensitive talent, and so down to earth. Her discussion from 2/8 was so profound yet clear as a bell. Til the future.

Hi John--Thanks. I am just having a blast making all these new friends. What an incredible venue! You're all becoming like family sort of.