Pacific Coast Romance

By Gangelhoff, Bonnie | Southwest Art, June 2000 | Go to article overview

Pacific Coast Romance


Gangelhoff, Bonnie, Southwest Art


William Hook captures the vastness of the sky and sea with clarity and lush color

LANDSCAPE PAINTER WILLIAM HOOK IS MODEST ABOUT his impressive artistic pedigree. In a recent interview he casually mentions that his middle name is Cather and that he is named for his famous cousin, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Willa Cather. Interestingly, Cather captured in words some of the same landscapes Hook depicts in paint a generation later. For example, in works such as Death Comes to the Archbishop, Cather unravels the history and enduring romance of New Mexico's villages and missions. Hook, too, has been fascinated over the years with the state's spare beauty and spiritual undercurrents. Over the past three decades the artist has painted throughout New Mexico, as well as in Colorado and California, becoming a dedicated interpreter of the light and vistas of the vanishing West. Today, at 52, Hook is known for the lush color and clarity he brings to his acrylic landscape paintings, yet he still challenges himself with new goals. "At this point in time I'm trying to bring more monumentality to my work," Hook says. "I'm finding myself painting landscapes that have either large foregrounds or huge skies, both of which are common in the West. I want to bring the viewer that feeling of vastness."

This past spring, Hook was busy preparing for an August show at Howard Portnoy Gallerie in Carmel, CA, and for this fall's Artists of America show in Denver, CO-one exhibit in his new hometown and another in his former one.

Hook moved to Carmel from Denver about 18 months ago on a mission to simplify his life. He settled just outside the picturesque artists' colony, not far from where the sky meets the Pacific Ocean. The stunning terrain attracted him to the area: Isolated beaches, sand dunes, and rolling hills are only minutes from his front door. "I was determined to find a location where I could get outside and do plein-air painting," he says.

Hook's coastal studio can be easily compared to a treehouse. It's perched on a hill and has windows that reveal a forest of Monterey pines and tall Acacia trees with enormous, snakelike branches. The building faces south, a factor that almost caused him to reject it before he realized that the combination of diffused light and fog along the Southern California coast was comparable to the north light he wanted for painting.

From this spot he can venture to a number of picturesque locations. For the painting COOL SHADows, Hook traveled up the Pacific Coast. He stopped at Point Reyes National Seashore, just north of San Francisco, to capture the evening light as it struck California's trademark golden hills.

On another day he was taken by a storm brewing on a lonely beach near his home. "I was really intrigued by the lack of color that day and by how to evoke the feeling of the pounding surf, fog, and sea mist," he says. Hook recalls that he stood watching for some time as the wind whipped up spray from the waves. Then he walked back to his studio and painted BEACH STORM STUDY in an hour-unusually fast compared to many of his other works.

Works such as BEACH STORM STUDY demonstrate Hook's current interest in the dramatic California sky over Pacific Coast beaches. He has yet to grow tired of painting such subjects; the everchanging weather conditions, ranging from clear skies to thick fog, fascinate him.

On the other hand, lately he has steered away from what he calls "happy" scenes. Although the public may not always appreciate his moodier pieces, Hook says that such works interest him as an artist. …

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