By Brett Ortler
Bill Hook, featured in the August 2016 issue of Watercolor Artist (now available in print and as a download here and on newsstands June 14), eschews stereotypical watercolor painting imagery, filling his work instead with images of grain elevators, bascule bridges and structures made of concrete, rivets and steel. His paintings reveal the gritty grace of these often overlooked forms, and the beauty inherent in the chaos of our ever-changing urban world.
An architect for 15 years, and an architectural illustrator for 30 more, Hook is familiar with his subject matter, in part because he spent a good deal of his life designing and illustrating similar forms. Now Hook finds himself able to look past the details of the physical framework through watercolor painting and see the spaces and wedges of light surrounding a building.
Owning the Image
The sketching process affords Hook a great deal of freedom. “Once it’s in my sketchbook, I feel that I ‘own’ the image, and I can do what I want with it,” he says. The sketchbook is Hook’s laboratory, a place to “plan successes and hide failures,” and it’s also where the bulk of his artistic thought process occurs.
If he has a good thumbnail sketch from which to work—one with energy, interesting shapes and values—it typically leads to success. He finds that if a painting isn’t working, a quick glance back at his thumbnail sketch usually will highlight the problem, which is frequently an issue of values or contrast.
BRETT ORTLER is an editor, author and freelance writer based in Isanti, Minn.
Read more about Bill Hook in the August issue of Watercolor Artist.