Meet Amanda Hope Cook, Tennessee's Talented Sign Artist

Isabelle Pitman

Amanda Hope Cook is a Southerner, born and bred, who has been heavily influenced by her father’s artwork. Hailing from Nashville, Amanda has been painting for as long as she can remember. We talk to this talented artist about Tennessee’s buzzing art scene and discover her unique passion for conserving vintage signs using her paintbrush.

Amanda H. Cook

Your father, Marion B. Cook, was a painter, too. Was art an obvious path for you from a young age as a result of this? Absolutely. Art was in my genes from the beginning. My Dad’s art studio was my sanctuary growing up. I learned so much about the disciplines of painting and drawing from my Dad. I knew early, very early in life that a career in the arts requires a dedication like no other. How would you describe your work to people that view your art for the first time? People will sometimes comment on the ‘photorealism’ of my paintings, but I do not consider my paintings to be photo-like. If people have the chance to view my paintings in person, I ask them to look closer and observe the brushstrokes, corrected mistakes, the thin paint and the thick paint. I am a painter, after all. As for the subject matter, I want them to see the beauty that I see. Clients sometimes tell me that they take extra time to notice signage in general after they have become familiar with my work. What is your preferred medium? Did it take lots of experimentation to find your preferred style, or did it come naturally? I paint almost exclusively with oils. As I had been familiar with them since I was a child, it seemed to come very naturally to me. As far as the depths of light, color, and shadow that I hope to capture in my paintings, no other paint medium has the capacity to accomplish these critical elements.

’31W’ from a sign in Goodlettsville, Tennessee. Oil on panel

You have spoken about the conservation of vintage signs through your work, can you tell us a little more about this motivation? I really want people to look past my paintings, and I hope they see that the signage portrayed in the painting is the true work of art. Signs are not just visual aids used to identify a business, but these signs were themselves created by artists, designers, welders, painters, glass artists, etc. I am hoping to create more of an awareness of these signs and their history. Have you had any artistic disappointments in your career? If so, how did you fight them? I have had more disappointments than successes in my career. I believe that as a professional artist, this comes with the territory. I have been extremely discouraged, but not enough to stop painting. As an artist, I do what I love to do every day. I have worked very hard for this career, and I consider it a privilege. Nothing could keep me from painting. What can we expect to see from you in the near future? Are you working on any particular projects at the moment? I feel like I have a million projects on the horizon. Notably, I am in the process of producing my second painting of a series that will depict neon signs seen in the Disney/Pixar movie, ‘Cars’. Fine Art Reproductions of my first painting in the series, ‘The Cozy Cone’, are available for purchase at Off The Page Gallery in Disneyland, California. ‘Flo’s Café’ is the subject of the painting currently on my easel. What is the best piece of creative advice you have ever received? Who was it from? The best piece of advice I have received as an artist comes from my Dad, of course. When I was still very young, he told me that if he were able to paint every day for 100 or more years, he would still not know all there is to know about creating art. I am open to learning something new everyday, and I usually do. Remaining humble and always thriving to do better is why I create painting after painting after painting.

Photo by a staff photographer at The Tennessean of Amanda painting with her Father

Henry Miller wrote 11 work schedule commandments in his book, Henry Miller on Writing. Number 7 is ‘Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it’. Do you have a particular morning routine or way of working which helps you to create? As an artist, I consider myself as being always ‘on call’. An idea can come anytime, day or night, and I find inspiration everywhere; however, I am at my studio by 8am, five to six days a week. I usually paint for ten hours at a time. My work can be painstaking, so discipline and habit are important to its creation, as well as the spontaneity of an idea. Do you consider a country’s art or galleries when you select your travel destinations? If you could take an artistic tour across one country in the world, where would you go? Before graduating from college, I took an art tour across Europe. I hope to revisit France and soak in more of its art and rich art history. My first priority for an overseas travel opportunity would be to research, explore, and study the neon signage of Europe as a whole. I have not traveled there since neon signage became the focus of my paintings.

‘Vogue Cleaners’ from a sign in Birmingham, Alabama. Oil on panel

The best gallery for art lovers in Tennessee? Haynes Gallery. Absolutely, hands down. You are currently living in Ohio, but call Nashville your home. Can you tell us a bit about their respective art scenes? Was it your art that brought you to Ohio? A scholarship to attend the Columbus College of Art & Design initially brought me to Columbus. I like the small-town feel of Columbus, and the Columbus art scene is thriving; however, I am a southerner through and through. My family is in Nashville, some of the best neon signs in the U.S. are in and around Nashville, and the drive between Nashville and Columbus is effortless.

Amanda is one of the winners of The Culture Trip’s Tennessee Local Favorite 2015 Award. The Local Favorite badge is awarded to our favorite local towns, restaurants, artists, galleries, and everything in between. We are passionate about showcasing popular local talents on a global scale, so we have cultivated a carefully selected, but growing community.

Some of Amanda’s paintings are available for purchase. Visit her website for more details.

Interview by Isabelle Pitman

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