Justin Cooke is a contemporary artist who draws upon the landscape for inspiration. Much like other artists in this field, Justin has developed an affinity with the landscape he knows really well. His work has now become un-avoidably associated with these places, most recently, the landscape of South Dorset and in particular the South Dorset Ridgeway. Wherever he finds inspiration, be it the Northumbria coast, or the Purbeck Coast in Dorset; The North Yorkshire Dales or the West Coast of Scotland, Justin finds himself not only immersed in the light or the colour before him but in the history of the place also.
Justin Cooke was born in Portsmouth in and moved to Dorset soon after. He studied for his B.A.(hons) in Fine Art at Newcastle University where Norman Adams RA was professor and head of department at the time. It was he who introduced Justin to mixed media and, more rarely for the time, championed watercolour as a medium even in large scale paintings. At the end of the 1980’s Justin went to New York which at the time, as it is today, was a focus for artists from all over the world; and it was while working and studying there that he began to enter the world of the professional artist.
“The buzz around the art world at that time was quite extraordinary, I would spend days in museums, looking at collections or tracking down obscure galleries; often ending the days with long discussions with artists, sat in bars without any concept of the time of day. As a part of my private study, I would make a journey to Washington D.C. to the Archives of American Art, where I would read the letters of artists to each other, particularly those of Whistler, an artist I had long admired. They contained all the things in life I recognised; opinions, concerns about work, the ordinary parts of an artist’s life. In one I remember Whistler nervously entrusting his friend Fantin-Latour to deliver his paintings to an exhibition for him. These were the exact same sort of things I would hear artists in New York talk about and it was a world I new I wanted to be a part of. Now I write similar notes my self and I can totally sympathise with Whistler’s concerns, I have had the same ones myself”.
On his return he began to work solely as an artist and has been doing so ever since. He now exhibits in major galleries throughout the UK and abroad, taking part in such shows as the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in London.
Justin returned to Dorset in 1989 close to where he grew up where he lives with his wife Nicola - also a painter - and their two sons. The landscape around him is a recurrent theme in his paintings. Like many artists before him, he has also adopted Cornwall as another source of inspiration.
As well as painting with oil paint on cavas, Justin also produces paintings using mixed media, often combining pastel with watercolour or oil paint. Layers of colour are built up over time; this creates a distinctive texture and allows colours to combine together. It is a process that demands the greatest understanding of the techniques involved, as each medium adds its own qualities to the painting. Be it through the delicate washes of watercolour or the intense colours of heavily pigmented pastels, scratched through with a knife.
In 2007 the book Justin Cooke The Ridgeway was published. It represents a body of work which takes its inspiration from an area known as the South Dorset Ridgeway, a line of hills and Bronze Age site of over 500 earth works.
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