ARTIST HISTORY | Lindy Cook Severns
My great-aunt holds me up to admire my first Christmas dinner, in the company of my greatgrandparents, grandparents, great uncles and my parents. I got a good start in life!
When the student is ready, the instructor will appear.
Despite precious little formal art training, I've been a professional artist all my adult life because a handful of kind, highly influential people entered my life.
I consider each mentor a priceless gift, a gift magically bestowed upon me at precisely the right time. Each taught me "to fish", to train myself, to boldly chose my own route as an artist.
Each taught me to believe in myself, to follow my heart and be true.
Early Years of Love and Attention
Daddy read to me from Day One. As I was cutting baby teeth, my artist mother handed me a red crayon and commenced teaching me to draw.
Draw, I did, as effortlessly as I read. I drew on walls. I colored their new mattress (I do love a large canvas). I drew on sidewalks, but never books. So I entered first grade already reading and stunned to discover that the other kids in my class didn't draw. I realized I had a gift, and one that was being strongly reinforced.
Every morning, Mom took the time to draw a cartoon on my lunch bag. By junior high, I found this lunch bag art slightly embarrassing, but now, I wish I had one of those brown bags with Mom's daily cartoon on it.
When little sis Kathy insisted she enjoyed my colored pencil paper dolls better than store-bought ones, I developed a whole family of paper people with backstories and paper pets and every-changing paper wardrobes.
Everyone assumed I'd become a fashion designer.
Those were imaginative years, and from our paper play, I learned that every piece of art can tell a story.
Baby brother Kelly Cook is an acclaimed, wildly talented landscape architect with his own Midland, Texas firm, KDC Associates.
Kelly shares my love of nature and my fascination with technology. We bounce ideas back and forth and speak a common creative language. Besides offering artful business advice, Kelly is also generous with his back slaps. Plus, he reminds me to pour single malt to celebrate finishing a painting.
Words can't express the encouragement and support my husband Jim Severns has given.
Jim, fondly known to my students as "the Artist's Go-Fer" appears frequently throughout this site, at exhibit openings and gallery visits. (Look for the cowboy hat and big smile.)
This 7" x 5" 1970 watercolor of my sister Kathy is among my earliest paintings.
While I no longer do watercolors, my style was developing -- notice the active strokes, loose detail and rich color, elements typical of my paintings today.
Like most artists, I don't try to paint a certain way--it just happens.
I was an honor student with stellar college opportunities. I seriously considered becoming a surgeon. Or an anthropologist.
But my high school art teacher, Inez Parker told me I was good enough to pursue a career in fine art.
Sometimes, you need someone to tell you you're good enough to be that thing you're uniquely meant to be.
Thanks for that push, Miss Parker and Midland Lee High School.
College art and I had our differences. So many differences that in my third semester as a studio art major, I quit going to classes. (Still sorry about that, Daddy.)
My B.A. from Texas Tech University is in English and Biology, and my unimpressive college GPA reflects a couple of semesters lined with zeros.
But I learned something from my sophomoric rebellion-- I learned that I was happier creating what I wanted to make than what someone made me do, and that I love literature and writing and biology as well as art.
I kept painting.
Jim Severns outside Old Spanish Trail Studio at Crows Nest Ranch in the Davis Mountains of Far West Texas.
Formal Art Instruction
Lubbock artist Peggy Benton Young entered my life when I was in my late twenties. Peggy taught a weekly oil painting class targeted at mature, hobby level housewives. I was a housewife, if not mature. I was also a pilot recovering from a near fatal plane crash. I was a young woman going berserk from two long years of enforced inactivity while my broken back healed.
Peggy taught specifics. Under this kind and patient woman, I gained a basic knowledge of oil painting techniques and a profound understanding of color. During each morning-long session, she gave each student, regardless of their talent, her sincere personal attention. From her, I learned that the act of creating counts for more than the creation, and she shared knowledge. Now, I share everything I've learned with my own students, and I encourage their creativity, whatever their abilities.
Ted Seth Jacobs, instructor at the Art Students' League in New York came to Lubbock in the 80's and taught a week-long life drawing workshop.
A black belt in aikido, Jacobs stressed the importance of weaving chi, the life force into drawings. A black belted martial artist myself, I well understood the value of harnessing chi, but incorporating it into my drawings was a new concept. This is among the reasons I do all my drawing without using projection or mechanical aids.
I recommend Jacob's esoteric DRAWING FROM THE LIGHT WITHIN as my all time favorite drawing book.
WHISPERING 11" x 17" graphite © Lindy Cook Severns
In this pencil drawing, I focused on the nuances of energy going on between the man and the skittish horse: I wanted you to feel their breath.
WATER LACE 9" x 12" plein air pastel © Lindy Cook Severns
Painting on location in wild places in the American Southwest came about gradually. While I've always recorded our adventures through my art in 2007, I began expanding and refining my plein air pastel paintings and carrying that energy into my studio work.
Enter Albert Handell.
In the early eighties, I took a week-long pastel painting workshop with another Art Students' League instructor, Albert Handell. And that workshop changed my life.
Albert subsequently left New York for Santa Fe, and is now known as a Master Pastelist. But back then, neither of us had gray in our hair, and as I watched the passionate young artist do serious, multi-layered paintings in soft pastels, I felt I'd entered a room filled with loving family members previously unknown to me. Who would've thought sticks of color could do so much?
Over the next decade, I took half a dozen week-long classes in oils and in pastels. In each workshop, Albert freely shared his bold command of value, mass and dynamic tension. I learned the difference in great as opposed to good composition.
I learned that the best way to improve my painting was to paint.
I spent the next two decades painting professionally, wandering the wilderness and ultimately, finding my own path in fine art without any instruction. With the exception of Albert's early classes and that week studying with Jacobs, I had no other workshops or training. I just painted.
In 2007, we'd quit working and I had time again. I enrolled in an Albert Handell mentoring workshop. This class was intensive: plein air painting in Northeastern New Mexico beside the master, as a peer rather than a student. I watched. Listened. Painted.
It knocked me to my knees. I felt like a failure.
But producing two paintings daily in ravaging winds, record heat, lightning, hail and a forest fire taught me to get the essence of my painting down quickly, whether on location or in the studio. Discern what you want to say, then say it. Tell your colorful story. And tell it succinctly.
I finally realized I wasn't painting like Albert Handell.
I was painting like Lindy Cook Severns.
I'd taken the tools the master teacher had long ago given me, and with them, I'd developed my own strong style and method.
My mentor hadn't fed me-- he'd taught me to fish!
Three years later, a prestigious invitational exhibit hung a Lindy Cook Severns pastel landscape painting at Ventana Fine Art on Canyon Road in Santa Fe. Ventana had been Albert Handell's home gallery for over twenty years. Showing my own art where my mentor exhibited gave me goosebumps. To my delight, Albert attended the opening reception and congratulated me.
That's what good teachers do.
Pastels chose me. I love oil painting, but if I had to stick to a single painting medium, I'd choose soft pastels.
I define myself as a pastelist, one who sculpts magic using crumbling sticks of pure pigment.
Thanks, Albert, for introducing us.
MOONRISE 24" x 48" pastel © Lindy Cook Severns
The Sierra del Carmen range under a full October moon over Big Bend National Park