Artist Spotlight: De'Anne Crooks

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De'Anne Crooks
Artist-Educator


Follow: @de4nnecrooks

...I eventually realised that I wasn’t creating bad pieces of Art, it just needed more time, more care, more of me.

Where does your artistic journey begin?

My artistic journey begins on the stairs of my grandparent’s house in 1997. I imagine that, like most children, I picked up a pencil, paintbrush and pen prior to 1997 but to say that I genuinely understood that I was creating pieces of Art before my 7th birthday would be a lie. At 7 years old, I consciously attempted to imitate my surroundings as a landscape using my newly unwrapped art set; a Christmas gift from my mother. I grew disheartened with Art, mostly because I subscribed to the notion that a piece of Art must look exactly like what you are aiming to depict. I fell in and out of love with Art as I grew up. This continued to happen until I eventually realised that I wasn’t creating bad pieces of Art, it just needed more time, more care, more of me.

Reparations 24"x36" portrait oil painting 2018

Reparations
24"x36" portrait oil painting
2018

Does your cultural background influence your work?

My cultural background is currently the life and soul of my work and this is not because race and diversity have recently become buzzwords in society. My culture is the backbone of my work because being black British with a Jamaican heritage is a core part of my identity. Whilst my race is not all that I am, it is the driving part to identifying how my character has developed as an individual. Having Jamaican grandparents, uncles, aunties, cousins and other relatives but being born in England is somewhat of a conundrum as you can often be deprived of your history and lack a sense of belonging. In my most recent work, I discuss the effects of retracted history and the importance of black British history in relation to knowing who you are.

Who keeps you going?

Fortunately for me, my eldest nephew has developed an avid interest for Art and whilst he has already visited copious amounts of galleries at such a young age, being able to see him standing in an Art space viewing Art that his aunty has created that also happens to reflect his legacy, is beyond motivating. Prior to my nephew’s admiration for my profession, I was and I still am, encouraged by the plethora of innovative artists, who are also striving to create, inspire and narrate. I am inspired by the likes of Lubaina Himid, Amy Sherald, Kehinde Wiley and Titus Kaphar. Artists who are changing the narrative and creating space for individuals like myself- individuals who are having visual conversations about pertinent issues.

When do you know a painting is finished?

My mentor from my teacher training placement used to despise the term ‘final outcome’, I never quite understood why until I began to create more regularly. Her hatred for the term stemmed from the concept that a piece of work is never really finished, that there is no definitive point of completion if a piece of work is to truly be great. As an artist, I agree but as an educator, part of my job is to assess a finished piece and so I suppose I am torn. In my most recent Art, I agree that it is finished when I move approximately 2 feet away from a painting or sculpture and I feel an emotional surge. If a piece of Art does not provoke an echoing sensation in the depths of my chest then it still needs more work.

Millenial Love, 2017 

Why do you create?

I am seldom asked why I create but I am always thrilled to answer. I wouldn’t be lying if I said that I solely create for the wider world or that I only create because there is need for art and art as a medium is one of the most superior methods in which to communicate. The more truthful answer is more self-serving. I create because it heals me. I create because it resolves those harrowing issues that plague my thought process. I create because when I am not creating, I struggle to comprehend life. It may be dramatic to somebody less in touch with their inner creative to say that I create in order to stay alive but that is honestly the most truthful answer I can give.

Upcoming Exhibition: Two Truths and a Lie | July 2019

Donya Davis