Interview with Ande Cook
Artist Ande Cook has created several cover illustrations for Bas Bleu over the years. Ande's work and philosophy somehow conjure up elements of Frida Kahlo and Fodderwing, Annie Dillard and Opal Whiteley. Read our interview with Ande for insights on what inspires this talented woman—artist, nature lover, writer, avid reader. To see more of Ande's work, check out her website at AndeCook.com. or read her blog at chickory.blogspot.com.
Bas Bleu: How do you describe your work?
Ande Cook: My artwork generally is about the natural world—with a surrealistic edge and a hint of naive art. I like to play with scale and odd combinations. I think one of my strengths is my color sense. The Bas Bleu covers are interesting for me to do because typically I don't work with the human figure at all. So those covers let me paint readers. Sometimes those Bas Bleu women represent what I hope for myself. One cover in particular was the painting I did with the silver-haired woman reading on an early spring day with her cat by her side, a book on her lap, and dogwood petals swirling in the sky to the music of birdsong. That's what I hope my future will look like.
BB: What inspires you?
Ande: My inspiration comes from all over: things I see, things I read about. I like archetypes and symbolic imagery. I use plants from my garden. Sometimes I lay my flowers on the scanner and look at them in Photoshop and find gorgeous compositions. I love Latin American art…the colors and the emotion laid bare. My favorite artists are Frida Kahlo, Marc Chagall, Andy Goldsworthy, Mark Ryden, Fra Angelico, and all the unknown artists who did illuminated manuscripts.
BB: You seem to be very connected to the outdoors.
Ande: I consider the forest to be my cathedral. I'm attuned to the sounds and the way light filters through the leaves. I don't play music or watch TV while I am up at my cabin in north Georgia, I hear the creek, big pileated woodpeckers pecking hollow trees, crow calls, and my tree-climbing hound baying up on the ridge. This is the place where I am truly content.
BB: We know you paint and take photographs. Do you work in other media?
Ande: My husband gave me a video camera and I am learning to edit and add soundtracks and effects. I'm working on a horror film, "Night of the Hennies," starring my chickens. It's pretty funny. I have much more to do, but the scene where you see the shadow of the hens as they creep by is terrifying! I smeared some peanut butter on my husband's neck and filmed the chickens pecking it off. With the right sound and lighting, it will look like an attack.
BB: Tell us about your chickens!
Ande: I have two old English bantam game hens, "Red" and "Dovey." I had a shop up in Blue Ridge, in the North Georgia Mountains, for a few years and across the street was a feed-and-seed store. I would go over there all the time and look at all the varieties of spring chicks. I finally broke down and bought two. It's the classic story: you buy pets that costs $3.50 each and end up spending hundreds of dollars on the various pens and runs, chicken houses (mine is shaped like a church), and feed. My chickens are sociable, inquisitive, expressive, wonderful pets. It's great to have birds that just "stay home" and don't really require a cage except for safety. I love my hens. They are three years old, which is remarkable for the amount of free-ranging they do. In the summer I get at least an egg a day—and they are tasty!
BB: We know you're an avid reader. What are your favorites?
Ande: I have loved Cormac McCarthy's books, in particular The Border Trilogy. And all of Flannery O'Connor's stories. I love Annie Dillard. Love her! She is probably the primary influence on my own nature-writing style.
BB: Did you draw and paint as a child?
Ande: The women in my family have always nurtured my artwork, my sisters are ten and eleven years older. These woman are great cooks and gardeners...one is a professional writer; the other, an interior designer with a great eye. My mom used to draw the fashion ads (before they used photography for everything) for Maison Blanche, a department store in New Orleans. I can remember drawing all the time, all of us together at the kitchen table as they drank what seemed to be pot after pot of tea. My parents still have some of my early work on their walls.
BB: How did you become interested in painting saints?
Ande: It started when I did a painting for my sister of the Virgin Mary. She's standing on a crescent moon on the back of a lamb. Instead of a dress, she's wearing a cloak of bird wings. The painting hangs in my sister's foyer and is the first thing you see when you come into the house. Later I got an assignment to paint saints for a parochial school second-grade textbook. It was one of my favorite projects of all time. And, I learned a lot about each of the saints I painted. Talk about some great stories!!
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