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Inspired by the world around her

Art: Evie Cook, of Canyon Country, produces digital paintings with heart, wisdom and widespread appe

Posted: July 17, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 17, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Digital painter Evie Cook is the featured artist throughout July at OutWest Marketing in Newhall. Her work is titled “The Inspirational Canvas.”

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From wine and chocolate to music and dance, the world is a muse for artist Evie Cook.

She touches on topics that affect everyone in her popular digital painting series called, “The Inspirational Canvas,” which is on display at OutWest Marketing in Newhall throughout July.

Prints range from $15 to $139 and are available unframed, framed or as gallery-wrapped stretched canvas squares.

Cook adds sayings to each piece. Her first effort, titled “Create” is adorned with the statement: “Create from the knowledge of your mind with the passion of your heart.” Birds flying over an ocean are the focal point of “Soar,” which states: “Soar high out of the box until it is but a speck on the sea of indifference.”

She started the series in 2007 and, so far, it’s catching on.

“Usually, I’ll have someone that falls in love with one of the statements or images,” she said. “I want to bring happy, positive energy to someone. That’s what this is all geared towards.”

Learning the skills
Originally from New Jersey, Cook knew from an early age that art would play an important role in her life.

“I remember, as a kid in a high chair, my mom drawing pictures. I was drawing people before learning my ABCs,” she said.

Between the ages of 8 and 13, Cook took lessons from an artist named William Benkert. Every Saturday for four hours, Cook learned techniques that served her for a lifetime.

“Modern art was just coming up, and acrylic didn’t exist. I learned traditional oil and pastels, as well as anatomy, and how material drapes over anatomy. These are the basics that aren’t taught much anymore. They’re very important,” Cook said.
She continued to study art at Purdue University in Indiana and St. Joseph’s College in Chicago.

Cook said elite art professors were brought in to teach part-time at the latter.

“I felt it really broadened the subject of what art was for me,” she said.

Upon graduation, Cook began selling pen-and-ink and pastel drawings in the Chicago area. One night in 1971, she drove to Alice’s Revisited, a club located on the city’s west side, to peddle her wares.

“It was a little dingy, freaky hangout, but they had wonderful acts. I saw the beginnings of Chaka Khan and Styx there,” Cook recalled with a smile.

It was a fortuitous stop.

“The owner saw my art and told me to come over to him. He opened a box and gave me a fistful of cash. He said, ‘Make me some T-shirts for this band, and be here next week,” Cook said. “I went screaming home in my little red Toyota and bought the shirts the next day.”

Rocking and rolling
The band was the Pure Food and Drug Act, fronted by Don “Sugarcane” Harris, a guitarist and violinist who made his name playing for Frank Zappa and John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. Cook concocted custom commissions to fit each band member’s unique personality using a technique called liquid embroidery.

“They flipped out. They loved it,” she said. “I got a foothold in with the T-shirts.”

Over the next few years, Cook produced an estimated 1,400 more for musicians, such as Joni Mitchell and Lenny White.
“These T’s were all done by hand, never mass-produced. It was fun, like painting, which I love,” she said.

After watching Brownsville Station, famous for their hit “Smokin’ in the Boys Room,” perform at a club, Cook approached the lead singer Cub Koda.

“Do you want some of these for the band?” she screamed at him during a set break.

The answer was yes, with detailed instructions.

“He wanted a red guitar on it, with a rainbow overhead and a certain section tie-died in brown,” Cook said. “Cub was such a little guy; a men’s small didn’t fit him. I had to get the oldest boy’s size.”

Cook presented the shirt to Koda at his dressing room during another gig. The musician was wearing a full colonial outfit at the time, complete with velvet jacket and knickers, plus an elaborately ruffled shirt. She held up the completed T-shirt, to which Koda responded, “Wow” four times.

“I took his guitar off, the jacket and the shirt, too, then put the T-shirt on over his head and tucked it into his knickers,” Cook said. “He put the guitar back on and played the whole concert in my T-shirt. Those were the days. I wish they had iPhones back then.”

California dreaming
It was the mid-1980s when Cook came to California, following her husband, who was business executive.
“I loved it. I never want to go back to the snow and cold weather,” she said.

When the couple divorced, Cook stayed in her adopted state, moving from Corona to the Antelope Valley, working as a special-effects artist for the movie industry (most recently for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1”) and continuing to produce original art.

In 2007, she took a class at Antelope Valley College.

“I was just trying to brush up on graphic design and stay current,” she said. “The teacher, however, wanted to create a big gallery showing, with digital paintings on canvases up to 4-1/2-feet-by-4-1/2 feet. She couldn’t put the show together, but she really loved my piece.”

The piece was “Create,” and it broke artistic rules of design, according to Cook. She divided the canvas in half, which is usually a no-no, adding an embellished font at the top, with hand-drawn images she scanned in throughout, using Photoshop and Illustrator to create the final product.

Eventually, she added “Love,” “Dance,” “Common Sense,” “My Friend” (in dog and horse versions), “Café,” “Vino,” “Chocolate,” “Blues” and more to the series, bringing it to the Santa Barbara Art Walk and other venues to sell.

“I usually sold at least one, sometimes eight or nine. I saw this thing kind of catching on,” Cook said.

New home, friends
Recently, Cook has moved to Canyon Country, and is a member of the Santa Clarita Artist’s Association.

“The support and friendship I’ve received here has been really nice, more so than anywhere else I’ve lived,” she said.

Besides the show at OutWest, Cook’s work can be found on the website fineartamerica.com, and her own inspriationalcanvas.com. Ultimately, she hopes her work gets picked up by more galleries, art dealers and retail outlets.

“A nice level of mass market, not discount stores,” she explained.

Wherever she is, whoever she’s with, Cook continues to be inspired by the world around her.

“Art is in all life and cultural understanding. I just feel really strongly about it,” she said. “These are my own writing and thoughts, but they are all in response to something I have seen or experienced or witnessed that struck me as unjust, illogical and wrong, or a fresh take on an every-day problem many of us share.”

“The Inspirational Canvas” series by Evie Cook will be shown throughout the month of July at OutWest Marketing, 24265 Main Street, Newhall. (661) 255-7087.

For more information on Evie Cook, visit www.Evie-Cook.FineArtAmerica.com or www.theinspirationalcanvas.com.

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