Monday, March 16, 2015

Reunion after 33 years

New Foot Bridge, Old Power Plant, 1982

This piece was rescued from the local Good Will Store.  I last saw it in 1982 when it left for an exhibit.  The other day Dave DeCarlo saw it and snapped it up.  He located me via internet search, and offered to bring it by so I could see it after all these years.  I always considered it one of my best pieces and was excited and not a little emotional at the prospect of the reunion.  Never got a decent picture of it, but I do now. Thanks so much Dave, you've made me very happy.

The other power plant piece from a few posts back was the companion piece.  I had forgotten that.

Is that not a cool story?  

Barricade, 1982


Friday, March 21, 2014

Is this thing on?

"After the landings the Galactic Federation will give you the 
whole story with images regenerated from mother earths 
data banks. Everything what happened on earth can be 
retrieved through these databanks to show the true story."

Hilda from the Netherlands.

I couldn't resist posting this precious statement
along with a couple of my Guy Fawkes masks. 
Strangely, [in my mind] they go together.

I don't know why.

It's from this article.

Passing no judgments.
Just reporting the facts. 

God I love the internet.
Where's my helmet?


Saturday, March 8, 2014


Eleven Anonymous Masks With Torso

Us Guys Are Anonymous.
 We do not forgive.  We do not forget.
We are not without a sense of humor.
Expect us.

All except Natalie here.
She's a good sport.

You'll never find us.
OK you might.
Stop laughing at us.
Take us seriously!
We use voice disguisers.
Even though they're a little creepy.

You're going to be shaking in your boots

when we arrive.


Friday, February 7, 2014

Cement Poem

I don't know who I am. 
I can't hear any more.
Everything's blurry.
I don't recognize anyone.
I'm not here for anything.  
I killed the Buddha, all right.
Went in the closet and slammed the door.
Hi ya Barry--what's with the purple lips?  
I digress. 
Burning jet fuel does not melt steel.
I digress.
I digress.
OK, I'm still here. 
Where's that guy with the pitcher?
I'll see you over his house in the attic.

Waiting.  Waiting.  Waiting. 
I digress.
God it's junkie in here.
Way too much furniture.
I digress.  

Jesus with the Gandarva music.

                                            Arcombus the Magician


Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Barricades, 1982, copr. William Cook

I was cold that day venturing out onto that helicopter pad to see if there was anything worth shooting. 
 I turned around and saw this.  Everything about it told me to get away.  Barricades.  But I was bold, 
daring, willing to risk everything for the shot.  Aw shucks, it wasn't that big a deal.  I was still stunned by 
the visual.  

I'm out at the end of one of the main piers in the Baltimore Harbor.  That German looking building is the 
old Harbor Master's headquarters.  The building with the stacks is the old power plant, all abandoned 
and falling apart.  Now all this has been reinvented and is now posh inner harbor 'attraction'.  Never go 
there any more.  

This is the first camera shot taken with my new Nikon D3200.  The original size is good enough for Giclee
printing.  I'm thinking about getting a store ready to sell prints.  Any suggestions?  


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Greenwood Gardens

Greenwood Gardens, Milburn, NJ, base art, copr William Cook, 2013

The very first thing co-director Matt Gundy  and I discussed long before anything 
visual was developed was the ultimate purpose to be accomplished in this piece.  
The answer was legibility.  We established that a viewer of this piece would need 
to be able to wander around the grounds by eye and know exactly where everything 
was.  The word is wayfinding.  This necessitates very judicious sizing of anything 
that would obscure the pathways etc., in this case trees.  The tall trees are all there 
(for the most part) but are pictured a third of their actual height, almost as they might 
have been at a younger age--perfectly acceptable given the objective.  It's not 
noticeable to where it disturbs the piece.

Another concern was showing the topography, since the primary areas are terraces 
going down the side of a hill.  This needs to be clear not only for aesthetics, but for 
those who get down to the bottom of all this, being able to get back up.  There is a 
lot of height to deal with here, so anyone with walking constraints might want to know 
this. The topography actually shows up here.  I started with a contour map in 
perspective and actually cut out the terraces and arranged each a little higher than 
the next.  I am particularly pleased at how well this worked.

The size of the original is an important consideration.  The image is 16" across.  I 
selected that size to limit the detail so that I could accomplish the objective in a timely 
manner, and so that the piece could be reduced to a usable size and still look good.  
When one reduces a pen and ink piece, the width of the pen lines are also reduced.  
You can only go down so far before things fall apart.

This is the final art in its base state.  It is designed to work with colored pencil in its 
final state, hence the duotone pen and ink work--brown and black.   I tried coloring 
black ink drawings but found the technique awkward and boring in appearance.  
The addition of brown ink in an intermediate sense seemed more natural
and workable.  It took five days to get to this point, working with the reference
photos for each little passage drawn.  It will take another four days to color this
 piece, and several hours in the computer to complete.

Here is the final.  Greenwood just had it's grand opening last week after ten years of
restoration.  Truly a wonderful, magical place to visit.  Stop by for a stroll
[and some oxygen] if you're in the New York area.  

Greenwood Gardens, Milburn, NJ, copr William Cook, 2013


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Rowland Hall School And The Advice Of A Good Dentist.

Roland Hall School, Salt Lake City, Utah, McCarthy/Steiner Campus
copr William Cook, 2013

Roland Hall School, Salt Lake City, Utah, Lincoln Street Campus
copr William Cook, 2013

Now that I'm spending all my money at the dentist's, with me in the chair going over the 
fine points of campus illustration and all that comes out resembles whale sounds, Tom is
 staring down at me with these really geeky (but high-powered) loupes.  And it occurred to 
me that wow, I need those loupes. for these campuses.  The detail in this work is killing what 
eyesight I have left.  I use two pairs of cheaters wired together, and work three 
inches off the surface of the paper.  This is miniature drawing--and I cram as 
much detail into these as I can--or imply it anyway.  My eye-wear gets me 
into the action, all right, but the headaches--man.  Tom gave me the number.  

As for the project, another deadline met with two days to spare.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Pride Of Baltimore II

The Pride Of Baltimore II, copr  William Cook, 1988

Privateer vessel The Chasseur was one of the culprits that raised havoc with British shipping (and the British Fleet) in the early 1800's.  A Baltimore Clipper, she was the fastest thing afloat--and agile.  A relatively small ship, not very heavily armed, she outperformed and outfoxed the mighty British fleet, sunk more than her share of much bigger warships just on maneuverability under the cunning of her able captain, Thomas Boyle,  and a very seasoned crew.   At one point she even sailed up the Thames into London Harbor to further damage things.    News came back to Fells Point, where she acquired the nickname "The Pride Of Baltimore", to honor the unbelievable exploits of this vessel.  

Fast forward to the seventies.  In their wisdom, Baltimore had an exact replica of a Baltimore Clipper made, gathered a bunch of college kids and a captain together, and sent her forth on a good will mission all over the world to promote Baltimore and its maritime heritage.  And so, off they went, and everything went well until the squall.  Pride Of Baltimore I went over, and sunk like a stone.  Four lives were lost.  I am told that even seasoned crews were lost at sea like this 200 years ago. Nobody today had any business on a real Baltimore Clipper, since all the stuff that made her great--speed, maneuverability, agility etc. also made her dangerous.  Beam (width) was narrow, with nothing much of keel.  Of course it was a hell of a squall.  There was simply no time to do anything, and the Pride was no more.  It was a terrible tragedy.  

The Pride Of Baltimore II was built to modern safety standards, modern flotation, wider beam, suitable keel, and a ton of other precautions strictly in place.  She was built as a public event right in the Inner Harbor so that anyone could watch the construction start to finish.  Around the time they got the hull finished, they began to make preparation for the Commissioning Day ceremonies and festivities.  

I was invited to do this artwork, a visualization of the ship in the water with its masts, sails and rigging, underway for the first time. All I had to go from was the basic hull about ready to be dropped into the water by crane, and some snap shots of Pride I with similar rigging.  The piece was used on the Commissioning Day poster for promotion of those events.   I like to think she's just passing the Thomas Point Light off Annapolis, headed south beyond the Chesapeake Bay Bridge at about 4:00 in the afternoon.   I pitched her forward just a little and leaned her toward the viewer, because of the following winds.  I was right for the most part--saw a photo of her under sail a couple years later.  

It was my honor to do this piece because of the lives lost.    


Friday, April 19, 2013

The Big 'Tree On Walker Avenue

The Big Tree On Walker Avenue, copr. 1982 William Cook

I don't know if I captured  this venerable old soul or if it captured me.
I suspect the later.  Was it a monster, a teacher, a muse, a drinking buddy? 
Was it threatening and foreboding, or a splendid vision, majestic and stately?  
Surely, all the above.  One thing is clear though.  I never saw it as so many 
board feet of lumber.  Too much life in it.  


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Poe: A Dream Procession

A Celebration For The Existence Of The Divine Joke, 14.5 X 17", copr William Cook, 1982

This scene looks across a parking lot from the University Of Maryland Hospital, to the 
intersection of Fayette and Greene. The buildings are accurate enough to mention 
that the church in the upper right is Westminster Church, site of the grave of 
Edgar Allen Poe.  This view is no longer possible because they built a
building in the lot. Anyway, the significance of all this is that 
I must have snapped this shot while parked next to the 
Hospital, waiting for my wife to get off work.

I may have known about the Poe thing, hence the snapshot. And many moons later, 
I thought this would make a great backdrop for the procession idea I had for this piece.
I mean what a cool conjunction of weirdness.  Even without the Poe thing the buildings 
are creepy enough, but Edgar was icing on the cake. 

This was all reminiscent of a dream I once had of a procession of weirdos, celebrating
something I didn't understand, but I had better get away from.  But I couldn't leave--too 
wicked and wonderful.  They carried shields with this funny emblem, and had 
tassels with sixes embroidered, there were signs, banners, flags--and 
throngs of onlookers all worked up witnessing their holy "priesthood"
 marching along.  

They're celebrating a God who, among his other duties ultimately 
tells the Divine Joke.  The punchline is that there's no joke, he will 
roast you over the coals throughout all eternity if you make a mistake.
How I hoped this wasn't so.

Then I woke up.  


Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Door

The Door With Arch, 14.5 X 17, copr William Cook, 1982

I don't know what's in there.  It's probably creepy.  There's probably cobwebs.
Maybe this entrance only appears on this brick wall to some but not to most.
What's with the heads?  and 1206. What is that?  No body's been in there for
 a while--no footprints.  What decrepit hand last closed this old door?  Still,
I bet it's warmer in there than it is out here, especially after
the sun goes down.  Should I...

Just for the record, this has been one of my favorites over the years.  It
sets off my imagination like it should mean something symbolically, or
have some historical significance (which no doubt it does).
 I mean  Jacob Marley lives here right--forging the old chain
 link by link?

No, it's just an old abandoned doorway, nothing special--
great light though.

So is this too spooky for prime time?
What do you think?


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Black Madonna

The Black Madonna, 14 X 17, copr William Cook, 1982

So I'm innocently walking around the corner,and this spectacle catches my eye.
Couldn't whip out the camera quick enough.  How odd that that everything in
this doorway was spotless exceptfor the statue's face.  I actually thought it
was a little strange--the Queen Of Heaven in blackface.  Had the
thing been vandalized or was this an accident of nature?  I dubbed
her the Black Madonna, and did this piece--knew nothing of the legends.

Years later, to my surprise, I ran across references to the Black Madonna,
and that there has been a great deal of hoo ha made of Mary statues
with black faces for hundreds of years all over Europe.  Much of it consists
of local legend or superstition, some of it is mystical and 'dark',
some of it just sounds ridiculous--like the warning not to get her
upset or she'll throw your kid off a cliff.
I must have stumbled on some weird coven--a sort of Baltimore branch
office of ever greater reaches of strange.  Baltimore has its share
of kooky legends. I mean it is possible. We're prepared
for this here, and my imagination was doing handstands
--like this guy.  

Then I ran across a study from back in the thirties that concluded these
poor statues had probably just gotten filthy over the years,
and that started all the goofy legends.  Apparently, whoever
went to church here agreed. Today she's all
cleaned up, good as new.

So much for the legend of the Black Madonna.
But I still wouldn't get her upset.
What do you think? 


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Creeping Past Roger B Taney

Statue At Mount Vernon Place, Baltimore,  copr 1982 William Cook

This piece was done on April 5, 1982, and is the last of thirty pieces
 in the series.  Below is the first, from December 10, 1981.  Just thought
the progress was interesting enough to blog about, since the motivation
was to try to figure out how to use the pen for something other
than  pure scribble pieces that characterized the
period from 1977 to 1981.  

Each piece in the monuments series was a studio piece
based on that walk in the snow with the camera.  I really had no
idea who these monuments were in honor of, especially this one
of Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney.  There
was something dramatically huge about this angle [from behind]
and the striking light composition.  What do I 
care of content--I'm just snapping pictures.

Pine Tree At Lake Montebello, copr. William Cook, 1981

As I went into representational mode, the techniques included the
black pastel wash, as I came to call it.  It was applied as dust with a
rag and then worked into with an eraser to pop out highlights.  As the
drawing techniques developed, all this tonal stuff was abandoned.
 It crept back in later as the style took on color (another story).
This represents my first attempt at representational pen and ink
drawing that worked (IMHO).  Oh, there were many train-wrecks
way too painful to show.  


Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Lafayette Monument, Baltimore, copr William Cook, 1982

This is one of those pieces that never got out of the studio.  I think I may have tried it once on a portfolio site, but other than that it's been buried since 1982.   One problem with it is the paper it's on.  At the time I could care less what I drew on.--part of my ongoing attitude problem regarding certain puffy art approaches that require only the best materials, most expensive media and so forth.  I was teaching myself how to draw, and wasn't interested in the fact that anything I might produce might have warranted expensive paper.  This is the nineth piece in this series, and the last thing I ever did anything on junk paper.  It's the least I could do.  

I'm not all puffed up I tell you.  The ink pens I used were rolling writers.  Cheaper than dirt.  These marks are impossible with proper ink pens.  The style is way too rapid, and the frantic but controlled  result of the linework is what I was dealing with.  I'm still amazed at how this is possible.  Perhaps it's because the sensation was that I wasn't the creator.  It was more like watching TV.  Sure there were some structural formalities followed.
But when the ink came out I had to hold on for my own safety.

OK so I've gotten a little puffed.  Besides, when I went to the good paper, wow.  the rolling writers really showed their stuff--black gold, swimmin pools, movie stars.  Calm down Jethro.  I was buying the pens by the box.  The intense drawing created friction that would literally heat up the points, and their little balls would drop out.  I hated when that happened.  No holes ever appeared in the good paper, I'm happy to report.
Don't try this at home.       

As for Lafayette, remember the Frenchy in The Patriot?  That was Lafayette.  He was all over the place around these parts, leading whole armies through the forests and so forth.  He is quite a figure in American History; this monument to him located at the foot of the George Washington monument at the center (more or less) of Baltimore, The Big Banana 
(talk about puffed up).    


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sidney Lanier and the Black Drape

Sidney Lanier, 14.5 x 17", copr William Cook, 1982

I've decided to go back and revisit the Monuments Series from 1982.  And perhaps it might
be time to revisit the style and work like this for a while.  Thirty two years ago I came to
this style of drawing from the other direction.  I was working in abstraction with the
horizontal image I've been posting---and it's variations--and was eager to get some
representational imagery back into my work.  Much of the crazy scribbling and
scrubbing remains in these images--I was always invigorated by the
result--all that drama coming out of a simple pen point.

Many of the pieces from this era have never been seen--like this piece.  It's about  25 degrees
out with about two feet of snow.  I'm trudging down Charles Street next to the Johns
Hopkins Homewood campus, Baltimore.   I brought my trusty old SLR, and was scoping
out interesting imagery to work with.  This poor old soul trying to read a book while
getting covered up with snow set off all the alarms as artworthy.
 It had everything I'd hoped to find.

On another level, I hadn't a clue what I was looking at, other then this was Johns Hopkins
University, and someone thought enough of this guy to put this statue here.  This
 is Sidney Lanier, the poet, composer, musician, lawyer, educator Hopkins faculty
 and many etcetras.  What a guy.--of course he got a monument.  And he died at 39.
The sculptor is Hans Schuler.

I always felt like those nasty frat boys that lived in the dorm behind  showed great
disrespect by hanging that black drape out the window, and leaving the windows
open in such cold weather.  I always blamed them for spoiling my picture,
 so I never showed it.  My apologies.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Same Clowns Different Circus

The Gotelli Dwarf Conifer Collection, US National Arboretum, Washington DC,
copr William Cook, 2008

OK, something a bit different.  Same media--pen and ink, colored pencil, graphite.  Only difference is that there is nothing random.  This is an architectural piece.  Each off those squiggly blobs actually looks like the plant that's there.  Some licence has been used to keep the pathways visually open.  After all, primary usage was as a wayfinding map.  Still, it's not that different than the work I've been showing--dots and dashes.
Go ahead and enlarge it.  There's a lot there.     

"Originally located on the property of William Gotelli in New Jersey, the core of the collection was donated to the Arboretum in 1962. It is now one of the most comprehensive collections of dwarf conifers in the world. (USNA Website)


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Paper Process: Dots, Dashes and Mark Tobey

Composition With Confetti And Thread, c Wm Cook 2012, 12" X 18" 

Bits of thread, confetti and whatever else fell into the mix,
 sort of totaled itself up into this piece of paper.  The method of dots and dashes
to record field notes from life has been explored elsewhere on this sight.
Whole sheets of marks laid down at "random" have also been presented
here as visual meditations.  Those took many hours of repetitive
mark making to occupy the consciousness in an attempt to get at
subconsciousness levels while still awake.

So there is precedence in my work for this kind of composition.  What
sets this apart is that it happened quickly. I like the freshness of the presentation.
My usual patina--probably a function of the natural contamination
of the substrate that always fascinates me--is missing.

I actually paid no attention to the composition at all.  The paper was
freshly drawn from the water as an eighth in thick sop, still in the deckle/frame.
I was engaged in snipping off bits of thread and paper strips and letting
them flutter down into their own arrangement.  The final pressing and finishing
of the sheet is what sets the piece into its final state, and after two days of drying,
this is the result.

So, is it art or not.
You know, there's a way to create a beautiful garage floor that's similar.
On the other hand, Mark Tobey (1890-1976)  lives on.        

Mark Tobey, Universal City


Monday, February 25, 2013


Visual Harmonics I,  copr William Cook, 2013

Recently realized that the kind of sounds in this clip are what I hear in my head when I'm making art.  I first began to hear these sounds in 1977, and from then til now is what I've been trying to reflect--a visual expression of a series of sounds.

This piece is created on a heavily textured piece of paper that I made.  The severe wrinkling is a result of the drying process that I don't get how to prevent yet.  Maybe I'll catch on, but maybe not.  I like the fact that it's not a perfect sheet.

Those lines are ink.  I'm very happy to report that it's the sizing of the pulp that makes this possible--a fact that eluded me for 25 years as I searched for the perfect paper to draw on.

Warning:  the visual part of the clip is so inane that you might end up barking, or picking someones pockets--so don't watch, it's like they are controlling the horizontal [and the vertical] like in the "Outer Limits".


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Paper Making With A Vengence

Metamorphing Maryland with Sketch from a Photo Reject, 2013

Metamorphing Maryland With Kitchen Chair In Sunlight, 2013

Another long absence. I've been morphing and metamorphing into and out of many things.
One good thing is that talk radio is gone.  Youtube is way better.  And that's now on it's way
out too.  The world ended as we knew it.  Ecliptics were crossed.  Nibiru landed in Russia.
The Pope quit.  The banks are going up in smoke--and the Illuminati are crawling back under
 their rocks.  What a close call.  Time to draw.

These comprise a couple afternoons of drawing.  I did about twenty of these--just from the
snapshot collection.  I'm looking for simple reflex notes from natural visual input.  Reduction to
visual rhythms of marks made by a hand--and I don't care a hoot about accuracy.  That takes care
of itself like letting the dead bury the dead as they used to say.

The fun part is the paper.  In this case I took a perfectly good map of Maryland, the armpit of the
east, the not so free state--pulverized it with extreme prejudice and reduced it to pulp in a blender.
That felt great. Then I dumped it all into a deckle.  Out came the map rearranged into a beautiful
piece of drawing paper.  I feel so devious.  I feel like getting a Guy Fawkes mask.  I get that smile
on my own face when I look at that piece of paper.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

You Had To Be There

The Formality Of  Nonsense,  Mixed, cCook, 2011

Hi all.  This is one of those experimental pieces from last summer.  I never really thought it was going anywhere until just now when I heard this Tom Waits song (for the first time).  Suddenly it all made sense in a weird way.  I just had to chuckle.  He's definitely talking about me.   I'm also the one peeping at the strange  old man next door.  I suspect everyone else could say the same.  What do you think?

I'm doing a couple commissions at the moment, no time to blog--lots of very cool ideas brewing, though.