Jim Kook - Artist Bio

I hate reading artist biographies, particularly if the artists' life is pretty dull. I mean really, who cares about a rosy upbringing and love of colour, growing up on the English coast?

Caravaggio and his quick temper and hell-raising ways is worth reading, Vincent van Gogh's life is fascinating and totally worth investigating - but reading most artist statements are a quick route to sleep!

Having said that, you're reading this because you'd like to find out a little more, so I'll do my best to make it interesting.



I was born in 1968 against the back drop of oppression and strife in pleasant Enfield, north London. My mum was a portrait, landscape, pet and still life painter and I'd regularly go to Bayswater Road as a kiddie, to be with Dad as he displayed her work on the railings. I would wander up and down the road looking at all the artist's work and always liked those really tacky and brightly coloured  paintings of London landmarks on black velvet, the crying clown acrylics and carved wooden fairy faces. I certainly didn't have any taste and didn't really like my mum's work, I realise now she was extremely talented - she just didn't work very hard and was too involved in "being an artist" rather than creating anything groundbreaking. She sold lots of work but she could have been incredible and needed to blaze a trail.

Before starting school I was forever drawing and painting and I would drive her bananas by alternately asking for new subject material to draw or kicking my white plastic football against the back of the house whilst she was trying to paint serenely upstairs. I think that's why I got sent to boarding school when I was 8.

My older brother was a fantastic pencil artist and would often come home with amazing work, including a knight mosaic I still remember, created with broken and painted eggshells. It was brilliant.

So with the blessing of an inherent talent I got good at art through sibling rivalry, I wanted to be better than him and get mum's adoration. It was also kinda cool to be good at drawing at school back in my day, I liked that early kudos.

Boarding school was fun, and best of all, both the ones I went to until I reached 16 had great art blocks with loads of interesting materials to experiment with. There was a good friend in my class that could draw fantastic action comic heroes and I always remember he was incredible at drawing action feet - I tried and I was rubbish so I quickly niched to portraits, no point competing with him.

The end of junior school should have seen me awarded with the school art prize. It was a given, everyone knew it, I was even asked to create something for the departing head master. Great.

I didn't get it because I graffiti'd my name in the art block. I was gutted. It was given to a fella who couldn't draw a single pencil line. I believe he's now a head teacher somewhere. 

On to senior school in the Cotswolds, where I did "O" and "A" level art, and suffered the ignominy of having Mr Durston (Daffy to us art students) throw my oil painting on the floor outside because he said I was wasting my time and talent. I loved that man. He took us to London to see Giacometti sculptures and Rothko nonsense, then took us all to see Highlander at the cinema - what a fantastic art trip. He also took us to France to see Rodin and the Manet house, amazing!

Mr Durston was a truly inspirational man, and I wish I'd had the chance to tell him how much he ignited a love of art and art history in me at the tender age of 17. Back then I simply seemed to spend much of my time arguing with him and rescuing my paintings from being thrown out the window. This was when I officially sold my very first work - an oil copy of an impressionist portrait of a woman in a bonnet and I remember using a lot of mum's expensive cadmium yellow oil paint. I can't remember the artist and I can't find the original but I do remember I sold it for a packet of Craven "A" smokes which I shared with my mate Spike.

During A levels it was time to think about potential future careers, Dad was inspirational in recommending police or army, I was dead set on going to art / design school.

Mother intervened, and as if it wasn't enough that she shoved me off to boarding school at the age of 8, she now wielded her worldly knowledge by announcing  "Art is not a career, James, you can't make any money, it is hopeless", clearly she hadn't heard of graphic design or the opportunities that were cropping up as a result of computers, desktop publishing etc.

Mum thought I needed a much more stable and sensible career, so I went to theatre school instead.


Actually, there was a little method in this madness because I wanted to join the technical side where they learned all about scene making, prop building, lighting, sound and everything else that creates the magic of illusion. I went to the wrong bloody audition and didn't understand why I was called up to the Principals office and asked "Why on earth have you come to an all day audition without learning a piece to perform? Come back another time having prepared something properly"

Well I did and managed to get a place on the 3 year acting side.

I still wake up with nightmares having performed my end of year tap dance exam in socks and never remembering all my lines. But I did have a brilliant time, especially as Warwickshire County Council paid my fees and gave me a large grant to rent digs and feed myself. This was further enhanced by the fact my Nan lived down the road so I didn't actually need to spend any money on rent or food!

Instead I spent it on beer and 2 male gerbils with their gerbil hotel, they mysteriously turned into 9 gerbils and escaped all over Nans house. My brother and I eventually had to set them free in a bunker at Bush Hill Golf Club.


So degree finished, what was I going to do with my life, and how was I going to amount vast wealth?

I joined an indie guitar band.

We were awesome - if you so desire, just look on the worldwide interweb for The Sway.

16 years later, with adventures a plenty but empty pockets, mum intervened again and got me to leave UK and go and live with her and dad in France.

Where I learned to build and renovate houses (though I very much doubt anything I did is still standing) - and sculpting! We'd do regular markets and I managed to sell quite a few bits of work. Drinking far too much wine, loving life but not exactly building myself a long-term career.

So then I hit an age where I REALLY needed to do something sensible - most people my age were already CEOs with 2.4 kids etc. I still couldn't actually do anything, unless you count tap dancing in socks, playing guitar with my teeth and sculpting ancient religious characters.

I started learning to sell, and that's what I still do today. I sell media advertising and it has helped support a wonderful family with my ever patient wife and two of the most amazing kids possible.

But do I want to do it forever? No.

So on the side I decided to re-ignite my stalled art career, combining my love of portraiture, football and action comics - I started doing football super heroes on t-shirts and this site was born.

This was great fun and I got to meet some great people who were all super encouraging about my work. I also met some fantastic social media fan sites and through one of those I was invited to do portraits of John Barnes and Nigel Callaghan for a "Special Evening With" event - wing wizards of the Graham Taylor Watford era.

This was a totally different discipline for me, as up until then all my painted artwork had been using digital brushes and ink, using my phone on the commute to and from work. I love how digital work can replicate traditional physical media without the mess of paint everywhere and without the need to spend forever mixing the perfect colour.

But now I was asked to create the physical element, and this meant I had to get down and dirty with acrylics again.

So I did and I've relearned everything Daffy Durston tried to teach me - I think they're going well and now I've had the pleasure of creating and meeting John Barnes, Gazza, Vinnie Jones, Stuart Pearce, Ryan Giggs, Tyson Fury, Tony Bellew and Joe Calzaghe.

Further commissioned works include Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, Frank Bruno and Alistair Cook.

I work mainly in acrylics and ink, using an adapted Zorn Palette of 4 colours, Titanium White, Yellow Ochre, Indigo (blue black) and Burnt Sienna.

I'm available for all commissioned work - portraits, families, pets, I'm not yet accomplished at Landscapes unfortunately!

Thanks for reading, are you asleep yet?

Jim Kook







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