New Website and a Back Story


I have finally finished the monumental task of rebuilding my website from scratch. My old website was hosted by a service that provided an infrastructure that was difficult to keep updated and expensive. And because of that, I never updated it and it was stale. I knew that I had to economize and find a creative work around to that site and I had to do it by March 18th. I am three days ahead of schedule.

At first, I toyed around with building the site on Blogger now that they have up to ten static pages that are designed as tabs on the top of the opening page. I looked at hundreds of gallery style XML pages that you can import into Blogger. I thought that was workable and affordable (free!) and could link it up with my Flickr pages that could work as a portfolio. There were so many neat free sites that can help an artist showcase their work my head was spinning. I looked at a site called Carbonmade which was a simple flash site that could host portfolios. IPhones cannot see Flash (shocking, isnt it?) so I decided against Carbonmade. After looking at lots of sites that discussed the merits of all the different art hosting sites, I decided on Jimdo, a website building company based in Germany.

The structure was the most elegant I had seen, and making it bend to my aesthetic was not only not difficult but enjoyable. I dont need to or want to learn CSS and am thrilled I can just focus on what I need to do to showcase what it is that I DO.


That was the next question. What do I do? What do I want to do?

Well, I have a story Ive not told. It was a perfect storm of 3 events:

1. a bad review
2. a busted neck
3. the financial blow out/ banker scheme / economy implosion

1.) I have illustrated several children's books. I had a rep in New York that I liked a lot, but the fact is that reps are in the business of making money just like anybody else. I came to understand that my rep really reps the clients as they are the ones who are buying art.  The last book illustration project I did should have been a perfect job for me. It featured a folk tale from a foreign land with a bird as the central character. However, on this job, there was a young art director that had very definite ideas about how the art should look. It's rare that an illustrator gets total free reign on a project -but most art directors hired me for the strengths they saw in my portfolio and I was always happy and proud of the finished product. On this job, the art director wanted a different color palette than I normally used and wanted the art silhouetted on a white page -thus taking away the kind of lush backgrounds I had been doing.

I did express my concerns and even painted full pages my way, but lost the battle. I was under contract and finished the job in the style the AD wanted. When the book came out the printing wasn't very good and the colors looked even more washed out. I was crushed and even embarrassed, but I didnt know it could get worse and it did. When the book was reviewed, the person reviewing the book wrote about the wonderful story that had been ruined by the awful illustrations. I cannot begin to express how hard I took this and when I see it on Amazon, to this day, I still just want to dig a hole and hide in it.

When people are in a book store and they read that cover that says "illustrated by", they will never know that what they are seeing may have been something created by an invisible art director.

Even worse, I realized that I had traded away my integrity and aesthetic and reputation for money. And not that much, either.

2.) While I was working on this dreadful project, my neck was getting increasingly worse. I had already had one neck surgery which was the result of a horse crash I had in my 30's. My arm was getting numb and at times I had to take my left hand and open up my right hand to get a pencil or paint brush out of it. To draw and paint the intricate things I do takes a lot of physical control -it requires a sort of stiff posture and that was always about being bent over a desk. 8, 10, 12 hours a day or more with severe deadlines. I ate lots of Vicodin to keep going when I knew I shouldve stopped. I went to an expensive sports clinic where my arm was rubbed while I did tasks, it was called ART - active release technique. It didnt work.
Meanwhile, I was stressed out and feeling fat so I enrolled in a Pilates and Yoga bootcamp and on the second day of the last week, I blew my neck out so bad that I had to be sedated twice in a hospital while waiting for my surgery because the pain was so great my blood pressure was spiking high. I couldnt sleep, eat, lay down, sit or do anything but weep. I had to constantly move like a shark, and when my surgeon saw my MRI he said it was the worst he had ever seen that wasn't the result of a car wreck or other catestrophic event. He operated, and when I woke up, I could tell it was over -the pain from surgery was like nothing after that.

While I was recovering my rep and I parted ways.

3.) After a long road back, and a tentative return to my studio, I made my christmas ornaments and built an Etsy shop and had no clue how I was going to make a living. I was freeloading a studio space at V's company and getting free power and internet. Then the housing crisis happened, the bailouts, the decline in V's business and the decline in buying anything, much less art, happened. I was so disturbed by the obvious fraud and corruption in the financial system that I had a loss of faith in the american future and abandoned my projects, mainly seeing if I couldnt either license or manufacture my christmas ornaments which I still think are commercially viable.

So I went up to Chickory and thought about how better to use my time. I thought maybe I was played out as an artist and just didnt know if anything would ever happen. I built a garden and started learning about food. Over time, I realized I actually preferred this integrated life of nature and growing things, and writing about it and painting. I hadnt realized how narrow my artistic life had been and now I was interested in having the art reflect this new way of being. I found that I really liked making the folk art paintings, meeting and talking to people at the farmers market and sort of cobbling together a living with all kinds of different projects in this little town I call home now. In a way, it seemed my job was as an evangelist to a saner less materialistic crazy frenzy life - and it resonated with many.

Long story, I know. The new website isn't about the one thing. Its about all things. Because what art is to me is a way of living. I dont really make a distinction between writing a blog or taking a photograph or making a painting. They are all manifestations of how I see the world; how I am in love with the world.

You know I think this is the only post I have ever posted that doesnt have an image?


My new website:

Ande Cook Studio / Better Living Through Creativity


Tell me what you think. Gloves off.  No sugar coating. Or if it be favorable, thats good too. It was hard to select from all the things Ive done what to showcase -and it is still probably too much. I plan to return to the project of trying to get those christmas ornaments either licensed or sold - so i need to work on the Christmas pages some more. The good news is that now with this design, it will be very easy to change it, update it and mess around with it to my hearts delight. Im hoping that it will help me get some paying gigs that are interesting and right for me, and that allow me to continue on this path of a richer fuller life that is sane and chilled down and spiritually gratifying.


  1. You and I have to meet up and talk, talk, talk. Wow.

    With your permission, I will link your new website.

  2. Man, that's a difficult line to walk, between your artistic integrity on the one side and the imperatives of the client on the other. Been there and it's a gut punch whenever an editor is unhappy. Often for no other reason than they just . . . are.

    Your website is wonderful. I love your list of "things I can do." (You're on turkey sausage and gumbo duty in July, BTW, and maybe it's even time for an official Blogger Summit Rap . . .) The only thing I see is the little orphan "well" that lands all by its lonesome out in left field, on your "about" page. Pull that little sucker in with everybody else :o)

  3. Love the website, fascinated by the back story – except OUCH at what happened with that annoying art director.

    Your website is inviting and easy to navigate. Having seen a number of your pieces on your blog, it was really interesting to get more of picture of your work as a whole. Hella impressive, and a compelling balance between the personal and the professional - you know you got me with the turkey and sausage gumbo :) And I may have to talk to you about those Halloween ornaments . . .

  4. Check carbonmade on your iphone, there is no flash at all.

  5. Both the pain-in-the-neck and the pain-in-the-ass-editor stories made me cringe.

    The new web site looks good and is easy to understand and navigate. I like the Courier font!

  6. The good, my favorite font: Courier, the page: clean, white, crispy, easy on the eyes, easy to locate the stuff you want to see, ideal for you.
    The bad: nothing.

    I was so delighted with the work you did for the Botanical Gardens. Holy moly, you know I just fell into the grid and fell in love.

  7. I have missed your blog and your chickens! Your website is just how I like 'em-- clean and easy to navigate.

  8. I love the website. It is more than business and art, it shows the sides of your life that we have learned about through your blog. The animals have their own page! And the backstory is interesting too, I think I have heard bits and pieces over the course of time, but not all of it. And you prove that health is more than physical, it is spiritual and mental as well. Good on you, the website is great. I hope it opens up many blessings of business to you!

  9. PS: CSS is easy and fun!

  10. Susan: I would love to meet and talk with you. I know we could whip us up a revolution in no time. grherhaha yes, link me! and thank you.

    moi: it was much worse than an unhappy editor. it was a rip on my art in a national publication on picture books. the comments made were the exact ones i told the art director and as such, the review killed me.

    are you talking about the part "living well?" it must be awkward and i may change that tomorrow. thanks a million for looking. I'll get to work on that rap. K9 wrote 'em all the time - but hes always busy with memes now.

    eggy; thank you for looking! i tried to show the full life without it being just like a blog but a way to see what delights and inspires me. Im glad you found it easy to navigate. te halloween ornaments include a calavera, a black cat, a vampire and a pumpkin. I will upload new images of them soon. thank you!!

    anon: really? i dont have an iphone, but people tell me they cant see flash slide shows with them. i actually have flash on the website if you want to run them they are the galleries of smaller images.

    xl: thanks for looking. COurier was the best of what was available. and it reminds me of old school art books i made. those stories still make me cringe -when i think about what happened with my neck i damn near break into a cold sweat.

  11. nina: that first image of the quiet white southern winter seems like one you would like. i think you like the quite ones like the palm sunday lamb. thank you so much for looking a the site and thanks for the positive feedback -glad it looks clean, thats how i like a page to look, too.

    run lori run: thank you! did you see the snow chicken portraits? they were fun. glad to see you.

    pam: a million thanks. Im glad you looked at the animals' page. that was fun to make. and they are so much a part of it all. artists dogs (and chicks) have it made cause their person works at home! ive never told that bad review story before because it is so crushing to me. i mean, it was a serious LOW in my life of work. the worst.

    xl: oh stop it. what cant you do? you are such a techno wizard. grherahahaha it doesnt look easy to me. ive tried to do a few things only to have weird formatting problems. i thought, why? just use a template. its lame, but I worked it out.

  12. Who says there wasn't an image....what do you think all those words were creating?

    Love the website.

  13. Love the new website. Clean, crisp, and just so you.

    I remember when you had all that trouble with your neck and when you went for surgery.

    Love you.


  14. Clean, straightforward, colorful, easy to navigate - the perfect website! And you are one amazing artist, my friend. I wish we could get together over coffee and compare publishing notes - hahahaha! Oh my, my. Here's to the creative life! xoxo Pam

  15. PS - I bought myself a chicken, but your site doesn't say I did. LOL! Just letting you know. :) xox Pam

  16. Looks great girlfriend!

  17. It has been a long and difficult journey for you to arrive at where you are now... but you have certainly learned some good lessons along the way and it is wonderful to read about how your life is fuller,sane and spiritually gratifying. I had often wondered about your injured neck but did not like to ask, I now know and why you can identify so much with Frieda will have to take good care of it.
    I can easily see that you would work long hours on your beautiful art, every brush stroke is perfection and I am so happy that you now have your own studio.
    I love your new website, the white is pristine and does not take anything away from the vibrant palette of colours that you use.
    Good luck with it sweet girl, I'm sure it will be a success, you certainly deserve it after all of your hard work and the disappointments you have had to endure.
    love from your friend, Dianne. xoxo

  18. It's superlative and this blog post describing how you got to this place as an artist is too.

    A few suggestions:

    1) Offering viewers the option of sorting all your work by theme rather than type if that's technically feasible. I.E. Religious. Nature. Holidays.

    2) Make room for your MFA and Teaching Credentials in "About Ande". Perhaps by eliminating the gumbo and rap.

  19. Chickie: Does the telling of your bad review help you release it from your life? I hope that it does. One review does not an artist make. A corporate artist perhaps, but you are much much more than that!

  20. I knew the neck story, but not the bad review story. Both painful. Hopefully they can heal and I like what Pam said about releasing it.

    I also still think your ornaments have commercial value, you just need to find a way to produce them in way that doesn't have YOU painting them for hours and hours. I have always been a big fan.

    The new site; really good. I like the white background. It's clean and easy on the eyes. I hate sites that are junked up with "design" but make it hard to see what it's really about. I REALLY love the free down loads. What a nice gift to the person who visits. I still have my garland up from NYE and the ability to download that project was made it so cool.

    Congrats! I know you worked hard on it. xoxo

  21. This page:

    Right under your photo where you're holding the paint brushes. The word "well" is all by its lonesome to the left. It may just be my browser, but take a look.

  22. Man, the back story is grounds fer sailing to Tahiti an livin' in under a hammock.

    I can relate--have gone the other way: refused article assignments 'cause the editor an' Aunty doan see eye to eye. An' on mah subject matter? Ah,' thas' a NO!

    BUT, I hears that some editors done said "Fergit Aunty, ya' cain't work wif' her --she be inflexible."

    Why is I tellin' ya this, Pup? 'Cause even if ya went yore own way on that project ya' mighta found that AD would freeze ya out fer bein' uncooperative--see? Danged if ya do, danged if ya' doan.

    So, keep your own integrity. Bein' poor is only poor. It ain't besmirched.

    On the website?

    Over all, I smile when I see it!

    Gloves off?

    Ditto Troll's
    # 2 comments. Prefer emphasis on hard won professional creds..not that great gumbo ain't hard won, but ya' ain't sellin' yore gumbo on that site. Yet.

    plus check minor grammar/ punctuation such as to capitalize the first "You" under the Newsletter sign up as the first word of that sentence since the other first words of that sidebar text are capitalized.

    Also, mayhap ,"Hello. I'm Ande, the artist" could be "Hello I'm Ande, an artist". It's jes' a style thang, but some folks read
    "The artist" as singular/ unique/ part of a title:

    "Hello, I'm Batman, the Super Hero"

    otherwise, I'se tickled to see yore text in the ABOUT section--a slice of who ya' is...(but drop the "and well" per Moi.)

    Maybe Art Directors an' others know, but would adding "book" to "illustration" on the left sidebar be an idea? Thought is to indicate one of yore most stellar achievements--not many artists illustrate mass market books.

    An' I might take *ande cook studio* one notch up== larger.

    When I reviewed all the tabs I'se amazed at all ya done, Chick9!!

    Whoo hoo, chile'!

  23. I don't see the 'well' out of place. Might me a browser thang.

  24. First and foremost, well done, girl, I know this is a HUGE but important undertaking. Just surfing through all of the crap on offer for website platforms and design is a huge job in itself. How searchable is this platform? I know Wordpress is SEO friendly and you are up on this stuff, so I'm curious. I built my own site on Apple so I could have control to add content when I want but the searchability and SEO is abysmal.

    Second, I feel your pain in being embarrassed about your work not being shown in the best light for the children's book. But when you work on a team with other creatives, you lose control. I would feel just like you and it's not fair that the printing and colours were so poorly done to make your work to not be represented in its true glorious self.

    The website is clean and easy to navigate. The white makes your art pop. I like that I can sign up for an email newsletter (I did) and that it's easy to share via FB, Twitter, et al. And if you don't mind, I'll put a link on my fan page to your new website.

    I like that the shopping button is easy to find too. I go to many websites that are so cluttered that when I want to the main thing I went to the site for (listen to a radio show, download, shop, watch a video) it's hidden and I can't find the link/widget. This sucks, I get frustrated and leave the site, so easy, simple is best.

    I also like the fact that you let people download some of your images, tres cool.

    My biggest criticism is that your work is priced TOO DANG CHEAP!!!!!! Seriously. Put your prices up girl.

    That's it from me, good luck with it all! xo

  25. Ok, just posted the link and a thumbnail to both my FB profile and fan page!

  26. funny, isn't it, how a piece of art can be dragged into something that doesn't let it show well.
    I would suggest, don't worry about it. In fact, post it as a resume piece (in words) and if you have a chance, include what you would have put in.
    No images?
    Well, you already had beaucoup on the sidebar and they are great.
    Who can complain about dogs and chickens, after all?
    (well, besides hawks, who more than likely would like for you to stop rocksalting the leaves around there, keep the dogs in more, and feel free to set the chickens in a big open field)


    I'll sure put up a link for you.
    And I'm sure all the millions of visitors (OK, the dozens of visitors...
    OK OK the four or five who come by, sometimes) will visit, soon.

  27. hello all i just posted a detailed comment to each of you and blogger ATE IT. did you hear me screaming? I will be back later this afternoon/even with a personal reply to each of you wonderful dear friends. thank you so much.

  28. Chickie! It just did the same to me. I felt sick to my stomach. Usually I "right click" and copy but today I didn't.

  29. shamu: thank you! Its just that i rely on imagery to hold this blog together. Its been a while since i've written much. Thanks for looking at the site and hope to be seeing yours someday soon.

    faery: thank you - im glad you approve you are so good with design. ANd I know you could build one from scratch! that neck thing was truly horrible; surreal even. pain creates an alternate universe that you occupy in a space where (mostly) everyone else is is just fine. I have a lot of empathy for people who have chronic pain issues.

  30. yoborobo: you did? I thank you. I like that one. the art business -well that would be a fun lunch conversation.
    but I told my sister that i didnt particularly highlight my book illustration because I really wasnt all that interested in doing it again. I cant be on a desk all day everyday ever again.

    You wrote your books, didnt you? I have a manuscript i wrote i could illustrate: about a georgia bull who makes it all the way to the P B R. rahhhhhhhh!
    thanks for looking at my site you sweet friend!

  31. dani: thank you! can you believe how much influence those hens have on my work? LOL

    dianne: what a dear friend you are. thank you. one thing i am sure of I cannot -or should not -physically be in a situation where i assume the same position day after day. Like bent over a drawing table. I think the garden has made me much healthier in many many ways. I have a game plan for the immediate and long term -we'll see if I can get it going. Thanks so much for looking at the site and giving me this sweet feedback.

  32. troll: thank you! thats a story I have never told before. you're right i took the gumbo and rap out - i'll save that for the blogs. unfortunately I dont have an MFA. I have an MAEd. it really is only valuable if you want to teach, run an art non-profit, or work in a museum. All of which I have done and pretty sure I dont want to do it again. But I think you have a good point about the resume because it lists all my shows too. SO I am going to link to a resume page. Thanks!

    pam: it was interesting to write about it because i am mortified by that review. I just cant believe i let that happen to me. anyway - i am released because it inspires me to think up something that is entirely managed by myself. I have some ideas. we'll see. and thank you so much for your sweet comment.

  33. Love the new site- lovelovelove. I even pimped ya out.

  34. (1) Your story reminds me so much of what I research in my day gig. I don't know, really, what makes an art critic. I would think that with visual art (as in the other arts) various critics could hold a wide diversity of opinion on the same piece, or the same performance.

    But I think this one might have gotten to you because you yourself didn't like the results. I know you're wise enough not to beat yourself up about it, but money is part of the artists game too (I can't tell you how many times I've played "Melancholy Baby" because some joker with a dollar for the tip jar thinks it's hysterically funny to request it).

    On the other hand, I'm really curious as to what was going on through those folks' minds (speaking loosely). I'm hoping you get a better rep.

    (2) I'm glad that you've turned the corner with respect to your physical pain. I'm sorry that you had to suffer it so long, and so profoundly.

    (3) "Because what art is to me is a way of living."

    I saw a similar quote from Yoko Ono when researching the series on John Lennon. But I've known a few NY artists who take this sentiment to heart.

    And who knows? You could be headed somewhere you'd rather be. Sounds like that might already be the case.

  35. c,

    love the new site --
    intuitive, very clean & responsive
    once you get there, though a bit slow loading at first (might have just been an internet thing)

    minimalism was invented because of and/or for computers... and/or should have been -- it works

    × × ×


  36. i so remember your neck story! and your decision to move into the cohuttas. i was rooting for you. i had no idea about the rep and the a.d., of course. wonder if that art director still has a job? i did know about you illustrating books and publishing in scholastic arts. okay, i admit, i was curious .. and i was impressed. so screw the critics ..., the review.

    i like your site. it's easy to navigate. it's you, it represents your art well. i didn't notice a well off to the side, and i don't think i thought your site was slow. the only thing you might could do is turn that little star that is to the left over the links to your pages into a word .. say, 'home' for example. meaning you click on home and it takes you to your main page.

  37. boxer: i should post a garland download with instructions on how to make that flower star. glad you like the white - i always have even though ive tried colors i always come back to that clean page. ahhhhhh
    big thank you for going and taking a look, the sweet feedback i really appreciate it.

    aunty:and i know that! i walked on the ABG project and then i got to do it my way. hard terrible lesson. i think i got all the lack of apostrophes and little i's and centered a few things. i 'preciate the specific advice. youse a treasure aunty

  38. la diva: i thank you for the time you spent to leave me such a detailed and helpful comment. Im working on my seo - and it seems to work pretty good on some sample searches. but I havent done all the pages. we'll see. As far as the prices..if you are looking at the shop that is embedded into the site, its mostly prints of the originals. and then the folk art of course is a deal. I dont have any of the expensive stuff listed but I may. Thank you for pimpen me on FB - youve got a really great business that you market beautifully.

  39. boney: rock saltin' the leaves! grrrhahahahha youre so funny. the chicks are too smart to go in the field. i take them out there and they run to the trees. thanks for your comment boney and looking at the site.

    boxer: i have lost more comments in blogger this week. just makes me want to turn to angry birds (level 3-8)

    jenner!! you sweet heart thank you so so much.

    xdell: im not sure i want another rep. I dont think i can physically do the gig anymore. I have a book i wrote i might illustrate someday...on my schedule and my way...and at least i know a few people i could take it too. Im better off trying to get gigs that interest me or even better try to somehow take what i do an make it into something commercially viable.

    youre right about the critic. Everything she said was what i thought too. it was so hard. But like you said, the whole thing has turned into something better: for all aspects of live. I realize how compartmentalized things can get and this feels more integrated. doing lots of things i enjoy and having it all be in someway how I live and work.

    thank you for this comment, and for looking at the site. and thanks for the card you sent me when i was recovering from my surgery. that was really special and i havent forgotten.

  40. /t: thank you - you should know you have mastered the minimal presentation format and i love it! Dont know about those slow downloads...hope it was a glitch. thanks for looking at the site oh great one.

    foam: oh no you didnt look that up did you? if you did you can see why that kills. nothing you will see on my site will vindicate that statement...and yet it lives on in eternity. Thanks for the insight on the home page..the reason i took it off is i didnt like how it formatted on my nav bar. and thanks for your kind words and the broke neck chicken card you sent me. Iloved that.

  41. I'm so sorry I've been up my own backside and haven't been round.

    I'm in awe of your creativity. My goodness woman, you totally rock!!!! I love, love, love the new webstie, more than that, I love your art. Do you ship to the UK?

    Your story of finding a better way of living lifts my heart and lights my Path, thank you for sharing it.

  42. no, actually i did not look for the review. i did not know there was a review. i just noticed the children's books you had illustrated ..

  43. I love the new website. It's clean, engaging, and has enough pages to warrant a second (third, fourth) visit without being too complex.

    I have admired your work for a long time! I've downloaded the patron saint of painters (thank you!) but maybe for my birthday I'll treat myself to a few prints by my favorite artists to decorate my studio. It will be hard to pick just one of yours.

    Thanks for visiting my site! I am tickled pink that you stopped by. We are both inspired by the same Southern Appalachian landscape, only I'm further north. My crabapple burst into bloom today, and there's daffodils and forsythia, but so far that's about it!

  44. Your blog is real. It feels like dirt under my fingers, pine scented forests, home-made soup and watermelon. It's folksy, southern, and red, white, and blue.
    That's what I got.

  45. On first viewing...

    The old sign painter thinks that for his (old) eyes, a larger point type size would help him navigate the site.

    He would suggest "emboldening" your name, up at the header, for the same reason, and also because it would help in differentiating the title of the site from the body copy. Changing weights instead of fonts keeps things together the same way a monochromatic color scale does in a drawing.

    He also wonders where you get all your energy.

    Here, the pinkletinks have started pinkle-ing, but today it snowed. Fickle March. The first trailing arbutus flower will open tomorrow, if it's clear, and if the sun is strong enough.

  46. And today I have a photograph of arbutus in the snow!

  47. Confession...well, sorta....
    I turned thirty-one yesterday and recently found out life altering news and parts of me stress and worry and wonder how I'm going to make a balanced life with art and everything else life gives us and your stories really resonated with may not realize this but your site and artwork are a guiding lights of sorts and it helps remind me that there are people out there living "successful" lives with art, creativity and balance without selling their souls...I love hearing back stories and true and real accounts of real life everyday people and how they get back up again and again after life's horse, I thank you for sharing your stories and pictures and everything else...
    Love the new site by the's laid out very easy to navigate and loads quickly and simply and I love that you have large photos that don't necessarily require clicking to view...good job! In fact my husband is going to build me a site and I may send him the info you shared about the sites! Thanks!


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