When Nana Cook was a child her mother would rouse her and her siblings in the night with plans of a southern adventure.
“It was just… surprise!” said the Nanoose Bay artist. “And that would be it, we’d be crossing the border and heading for the desert.”
Cook has fond memories of trips to the Southwestern United States with her mother, her sister and her brtoher, which would happen at least once a year. She remembers playing in the Grand Canyon, hiking Bryce Canyon and swimming off the coast of California. The images of the architecture and the people were etched in her mind, but she didn’t start painting them until 1997.
Cook grew up in Vancouver and moved to Salt Spring Island at age 11, where she lived until she was 21. She moved back to Vancouver and had a belly dancing company for years, teaching for the Corporation of Delta while performing around Vancouver. She also worked as a make up artist and promotional consultant for Elizabeth Arden.
Cook’s mother, Charlotte Madison, is a longtime artist, so Cook was always surrounded by art and was artistic as a child, she said. She decided in 1997 it was time to grab the paintbrushes. Her annual trips to the Southwest continued with her mother, and she began to paint the adobe buildings and the faces of those regions.
Cook moved to Vancouver Island in 1989, and while she has still painted the people and architecture of the southwest from time to time, she has been focusing on painting arbutus trees since 2006.
Recently she took a trip out to Barkerville to visit a friend and fell in love with the historic B.C. town.
“I just said, ‘I have to come back. I have to come back and paint,’” she said.
Cook said the town, a provincially designated heritage site and National Historic Site of Canada, reminded her of her childhood and all the wonderful old places she visited.
Her friend, who lives in the town, is a talented singer and co-producer at the Theatre Royal, operated by Newman & Wright Theatre Company. When Cook let the company know she’d be returning in the future to paint, she was invited to be the first Resident Visual Artist, beginning Aug 16. Cook will paint the theatre and cast as well as the town’s historic sites. Cook is currently on her way to Barkerville, where she’ll do research, sketch, photograph, interview people and do some plein air painting. She told The News what she’s most looking forward to.
“Sitting quietly on the hill overlooking the town and just watching, watching he faces on the tourists as they discover, watching the people who live there interacting with them, [and] watching the light change on the buildings.”
Cook will spend the winter putting together an exhibition at her home in Nanoose Bay and then take it to Barkerville next summer.
For more on Cook visit her website www.nanacook.com.