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Anthony Carlton Cooke

Anthony Carlton Cooke was born in North Carolina. He began drawing and writing at an early age; he and his younger brother would make homemade comic books. During high school, he developed an interest in pen and ink and created many drawings of various scale. He was also introduced to Expressionism. The influence of Expressionism, combined with his interest in imaginative literature, led to his emphasis on figurative exaggeration.  When a chance to transfer from public school to an arts-oriented institution came up, Cooke unfortunately could not take advantage of the opportunity due to the pressures of independent living and full-time employment.


Cooke continued to draw and write, eventually relocating to California. Here he attended museums for the first time and was exposed to Medieval Art and traditional African Art. The use of figurative distortion and symbolism to communicate a meaning greater than an immediate surface interpretation had a huge impact on his style and creative philosophy. He saved enough money to visit France for a month and visited museums in Paris, where a trip to the Musée Gustave Moreau intensified his growing fascination with Symbolist art and poetry. He enrolled in many art classes over the years, but always withdrew within a few days due to the expense of art supplies and the need to support himself. Eventually, he chose to abandon drawing and focus on exclusively on writing. 


Cooke finally attained enough stability to attend college, transferring from San Francisco Community College to Stony Brook University. While working on a degree in English, he discovered Outsider, Folk, and Self-Taught Art. He saw a connection between these art forms that, like Expressionist, Medieval, African, and Symbolist arts, prioritized creativity and purpose. After he completed his PhD in English at Emory University, he began to draw again, spending two years writing and illustrating a graphic novel. Cooke also used this time to discover the interconnectedness of drawing and writing and to gain a holistic understanding of his work, its past development, and the trajectory of his artistic evolution.