Bill Crook grew up in Springfield and was inspired to draw by his mother - an active member of the Springfield Art Association. His new book, titled Springfield Illinois: A Pen & Ink Artist Looks at His Hometown, covers the artist's life work thus far. He's been at it for over 40 years. For more information about a reception and reading of the book at The Pharmacy Gallery & Art Space in Springfield on Friday night, click here.
Crook says he went to study engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, per his father's suggestion. But after a year of excelling in the program, he was swept up in the cultural sea change taking place across the country. He says, "By 1968 my world started to unravel because of all the political tensions ... there was the Vietnam War, the assassination of Martin Luther King." Crook literally headed for the hills.
"I was inspired by Henry David Thoreau - it was just the age of the Whole Earth Catalog, and the back to the land movement - communes," says Crook. His travels took him to various locations, including Mexico and rural Wisconsin - where he lived with a band called Sky Farmer on some 40 acres of land. But he eventually found this off-the-grid lifestyle to be limiting, and returned to his home of Springfield, with a host of new inspirations.
Crook has a unique and very detailed crosshatching style; he uses pen and ink for his drawings, and sometimes paint for color. Some of his most known works are of historic buildings in the capital city - like the interior view of the capitol dome. He also acted as a sort of reporter during the Rod Blagojevich corruption hearings, capturing the proceedings with his detailed renderings. He often attends art fairs in Springfield with his wife Wendy, also an artist. His work can also be found in shops around town. While Crook harbors many unique and progressive visions for the world, Springfield has truly managed to draw him in. Listen to the interview above for more insight.
Web extra: Crook was good friends with artist Bob Waldmire, whose family founded the Cozy Dog Drive In at 2935 South Sixth Street. Waldmire drove his converted school bus along Route 66, making friends and art along the way. In the audio below, Crook talks about their time together: