The Art of Sandra Busby...
Painter of Playful Light in Glass and Still Life


Tuesday, 22 November 2011

An Interview with Crystal Cook...

This is the first interview ever on my blog and who better for me to begin with than Crystal Cook?

And here she is...

Crystal was one of the first to follow my blog and still I remember when her face appeared and off I went to check out her own blog. What I found was one of the most amazingly gifted artists I had come across and I couldn't understand what on earth she saw in my own work! 

Anyway, that was a long time ago and since then, Crystal has become a wonderful friend, always burting with encouragement and willing to offer advice how ever busy she is.
She also invented a brand new word... HUZZAH!!!!!!!!

Crystal has the rare ability to paint  the very soul of her subject, but you really need to see it for yourself to understand what I mean, so I would recommend you visiting  Crystals blog because it really is a treat :0) 

So, here we go - I will be speaking in purple and Crystal will be speaking in blue and throughout the interview I will be showcasing some of Crystals work for you to see... 

First of all, when did you first realise that you could draw?

I have always loved to draw but never felt competent at it. When I was in high school there were so many other kids who could draw better than me and I kind of took it as a challenge to try and improve. So after more years of practice, one day when I was drawing in my sketchbook I looked back over the last few pages of drawings I had done and was surprised to see that they were pretty good. I had spent so much time working and studying and hoping to be good at drawing that it really came as a surprise that I had gotten close to my goal. That’s the long answer to your question. The short answer is, about ten years ago. :0)

Did you have any formal training?

Nope. I took one watercolour class that was a gift from my husband when we were first married (which was about eleven years ago), but that was it. I pretty much taught myself through lots of practice, LOTS of mistakes, and lots of study of paintings I loved. And I’m still learning! Always learning. :0)

As a wife and Mother myself, I often find it hard to juggle painting with other things. What about you, as a wife and mother of three, how do you manage to juggle every day things including entertaining the three little Cooks and yet still manage to find the time to write and paint? Take me through an average day in the life of Crystal Cook…

I find it to be a real struggle too. I’m always trying to find a good balance. It’s hard. I don’t work outside the home so I usually set my schedule by whatever my boys need at the time. I try to make sure that when my boys and husband are home I am giving them all of me so I don’t paint or write from the time my boys get home from school until they go to bed. But I have to paint, every day if I can, it’s a huge part of who I am and when I don’t paint I’m not happy and then I know I’m not giving my family my best self. During the day my youngest son (who’s three) will sometimes take a nap so when that happens I stop whatever I’m doing and paint! I get up early sometimes and paint or write then when my family is still asleep. And I have this little envelope of photos and ideas for future paintings that I keep in my purse and whenever I have free time, if I’m stuck in line somewhere or waiting in the car for my kids to get out of school, I pull those photos out and study them, and I paint it in my head. I think about what colors I would use, I study shapes and shadow patterns, and I plan the entire painting so I know exactly what to do when I do have time to paint so that time isn’t wasted (What a great idea!). At night, once my boys are asleep, I usually paint then too. 

I am a very messy painter! Luckily, my Husband converted the summer house at the end of the garden in to an art studio. Where do you paint and how do you manage to keep tiny fingers away?

I usually paint in my kitchen, which opens up to both the family room and the dining room so it’s one big space. This is pretty awesome because I can have my paintings and drawings that I’m working on out all the time and when I paint at night when my husband’s home we can still be in the same room and talk while I paint so we’re still spending time together. My kids are really good about not touching my paints, and I make sure they have plenty of their own art supplies to use too.

Do you ever have days where you simply don’t feel in the right frame of mind to paint? If so, do you give in to that feeling? Or do you make yourself paint regardless…

Honestly most of the time I feel like painting, it’s my passion (or obsession some might say:0)), I think I might feel differently if I had unlimited amounts of time to paint (does anyone have that though?) (Not me!). But sometimes I really just don’t feel like it so then I’ll take the day off. It usually means that I’m burning out and if I push myself to paint anyway, I’ll get a nasty case of artist’s block that will take a loooong time to get over. 

If I am not in the right frame of mind to paint but paint anyway, I am often unhappy with the end result. Is this the same for you too?

Yes definitely! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ruined a painting because I pushed myself to paint when I wasn’t feeling like it. I think this is more because I’m rushing to get through painting because I think I ‘have to paint’ and so I’m making mistakes I wouldn’t usually make if I took the time to think things through.

My Mum is very artistic and my Dad, as an ex-photographer has a keen eye for colour and composition. Where do you think your Artistic gift came from and are any other members of your family Artistic?

I think it came from my Mom. She’s amazing at drawing! It just comes naturally to her. When I was little I used to ask her to draw pictures of horses for me all the time and I was always so amazed at how easy she made it look. My brother’s also really artistic and my sister is a photographer with an eye for colour and composition like your Dad. 

 I often ask my 15 year old Son Charlie for his view on a finished piece of artwork, because he seems to have a good eye and though always tactful, he is very honest. I think that we all need someone like that! Who is your most honest critic - who do you turn to for an opinion on your art if you are feeling unsure?

My middle son, who’s six, is pretty honest when I ask for his opinion. He even told me once that his favourite part of one of my paintings was my signature. (Ahh, how cute!) :0) 

What about your children, do any of your boys show signs of being a whizz with a paint brush? Do you try to teach them?

Both of my older boys show lots of talent with drawing. But my middle son (the six year old) has always been interested in art. From the time he was about 18 months old he has LOVED to colour and draw. This summer I spent some time teaching him about art and painting, but mostly I just tried to encourage him and provide him with lots of different supplies. Right now he really likes to illustrate his own little books that he makes and he can draw comic book type superheroes really well. 

My husband always says that he can’t even draw a straight line. My answer to that is always, ‘Well, there is nothing at all interesting about a straight line!’ Has Mr. Cook ever tried his hand at drawing?

I love that answer! A straight line is boring! My husband has tried, and he’s pretty good at drawing super hero guys too, but it’s not what he’s passionate about. We always joke that if our kids need help with math homework they go to him and if they need help with literature or art they come to me (Exactly the same in our house!). Which sadly has proved true, who knew fourth grade long division was so hard? :0)

 What first gave you the idea of starting your own blog?

I had just found one of my favourite author’s blogs (Maggie Stiefvater) that was a lot about the process of writing and offering encouragement to other writers and I just loved that approach. I wanted to do something similar, but with an art blog. When I first started as an artist I struggled a lot with feelings of inadequacy and failure and I thought that others probably did too (Ohhhh yes!), and wouldn’t it be great if I could combine my art with a little piece of my writing that was meant to motivate and encourage other artist’s to keep trying and never give up? I guess that sounds a little idealistic, but the whole idea of persevering even when things get tough has really been important to me and I wanted to make sure that if there happened to be other artists out there who needed someone to encourage them when they felt like quitting, then I could be that person for them.

What do you think has been the best part of having a blog?

The feeling of kinship with other artists. I love the connections you can make with people you wouldn’t otherwise have had the chance to meet. That is a very, very cool thing.

And the most difficult part?

Coming up with new ideas to write about. And making time for it. Blogging takes a significant amount of time and it’s hard to fit it in sometimes.

You paint portraits more than any other subject, but recently you painted a glass of iced tea, which I thought was just as brilliant. Is there a reason that you tend to stick to portraits even though it is clear that you can paint other subjects in equal amounts of amazingness to your portraits?

First of all, thank you so much for that wonderful compliment! :0) I guess I paint portraits so much because I want to express emotion with my paintings and I think that painting the human face is the most direct way to do that. 

I tend to paint from life when the subject allows. Do you ever paint or draw from life?

I don’t paint from life right now, one day I hope to do that, maybe when my kids are all grown up. I do draw from life in a sketchbook sometimes, and I’m going to be joining a live figure drawing group that I’m really excited about, and I’m a little scared about it too! :0)

As you know, I don’t particularly like painting landscapes. Is there any particular subject you avoid painting? If so, why is that?

Landscapes for me too! I keep telling myself I need to get over that, but I just don’t feel drawn to them for some reason. I think it’s because I am so used to painting close ups that when I see a huge landscape in front of me I just don’t know where to start!

Is there any subject that you haven’t attempted but you would like to try in the future?

I would really like to try some interior scenes with figures, maybe in coffee shops or restaurants or something like that. I want to incorporate more figures and scenes into my paintings instead of just portraits.

I have realised only in the last few months that try though I have, I can not paint like anybody else - I can only paint like ‘me’. Have you ever tried to paint like another Artist and if you have, did you find it difficult?

I think that realising that you can only paint like ‘you’ is one of the most important steps any artist can make. When I was first learning I copied the style of a lot of artists I admired, but quickly came to see, like you, that I couldn’t maintain that. I wasn’t happy painting like anyone else, I had to paint like me.

This is probably a difficult question, but which of your paintings is your favourite to date?

I have one painting, which I have never posted on my blog, that is my favourite because it was the first portrait that I painted that felt like it was ‘my’ style. I wasn’t copying the style of someone else, I was painting like me, and it’s also a portrait of my son and I feel like I really captured who he was in paint for the first time. But my favourite painting posted on my blog is ‘Timeless Remedy’.

and this is it... 

...Breath taking isn't it? Sigh...

I once read that you should never throw away a failed painting. What do you do with the paintings that you regard as unsuccessful, assuming you have any?

I, um, *gulp* throw them away! At least, the ones that I know are beyond saving and that have no sentimental value for me. But I have kept all the ones that I painted when I was learning to paint, just to see my progress over time.

What are your three all time favourite paintings by any Artist, dead or alive?

Now that is a hard question! Let’s see. . . 

Their Journey Together by Daniel Gerhartz - (Have just Googled. It's beautiful!)

The Lost Sheep (modern) by Liz Lemon Swindle - (Googled again - Not what I was expecting as no sheep apparent. Maybe sheep is indeed lost, lol! Can see exactly why you like it.)

By A Thread by Mary Whyte - (Wow, this is like a photograph!)

Aside from painting and writing, do you have time for any other hobbies?

Not really! I read, play with my family, go for a run. I do really enjoy cooking and baking.

Okay – now for the fun part! The Speed round…

  1. Early bird or night owl? Early bird. I love mornings!

  1. Sweet or savoury? Sweet!!! Huzzah!!

  1. Tea or coffee? Neither. Hot chocolate! With dark chocolate if you please. 

  1. Romantic comedy or serious drama? Romantic comedy

  1. Drive or walk? Drive. In a fast car. With a great sound system.

  1. Too warm or too cool? Too warm

  1. Friends for dinner or dinner at friends? Friends for dinner

  1. Autumn or Spring? Autumn

  1. Favourite colour? Pink! Hot pink, dusty pink, rosy pink, anything pink. 
    10. Ask the questions or answer the questions? Ask the questions. I’m very curious.  

    Thank you so much Crystal for such an insightful interview! I'm sure everybody will love reading it as much as I did!

    Now - A quick note to all, about the bear -  I have had real issues in trying to get a good photograph of him, which is why it's taking so long, but it will be the next post, I promise!


      1. Fabulous interview Sandra!!

        I've long been aware of Crystal's work and it never ceases to amaze. It's brilliant to get a glimpse of the woman behind the brush. Well done both of you!!

      2. Great interview! Interesting questions, and answers! Loved to read it. Well done!

      3. Another long time fan of Crystal's here too - very interesting to get a glimpse behind the brush :) xx

      4. Congratulations Sandra!
        Great interviewl!

      5. Great interview.. I cracked up in the part when Crystal's middle son says the best thing he likes about one of her paintings is her signature.. I guess he is going be a the most difficult crtique to please. LOL..

      6. Thank you Sandra! I got to learn even more about Crystal. Great questions and equally enjoyable answers. p.s. I really look forward to seeing your bear! : )

      7. Excellent questions and brilliant answers from two of MY favourite artists! Great post :)

      8. John - Thank you very much! :0)

        Jusy - Thank you so Much! :O)

        Pat - Thank you! It is isn't it! :0)

        Antonio - Thank you very much :0)

        Prabal - I laughed at that bit too! Thank you :0)

        Kim - Thank you - Not long now! It's the next post!! :0)

        Michael - Thank you so much! You are really kind :0)

      9. Thank you SO much for doing this Sandra! I'm so honored and really touched about what you had to say about me. :)))) I loved all your questions and had a good time answering them.

        And thanks so much everyone for the kind words!!

      10. Wonderful interview, Sandra!! I have three things that I can say about Crystal...she's an incredible painter....a wife....and a wonderful and caring Mom...

      11. enjoyed reading this ...great interview on crystal

      12. Thank you everybody! Crystal is amazing isn't she? :0)


      Thank you so much for leaving a comment! Where possible I will respond via email. I really do love to read them! They always make me smile ;0)


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