The abstract paintings of Ken Cook reflect his intimate relationship with his environment. From his studio above the Carquinez Strait, this northern California native bears witness to the perpetual ebb and flow of the tide, and it imbues his life and work.


“I’m able to watch the daily rhythms of tidal currents pushing against relentless river currents,” he explains in his artist’s statement. "Under the surface, the salt water is moving beneath the fresh water. Everything contends and mixes. It’s layer on layer of transition. This resonates with me and my paintings.”


After years of working in watercolor, Ken turned to acrylic and mixed media. “The habit of working fast in painting watercolor finds me moving rapidly from canvas to canvas, sometimes with a brush in each hand,” he explains. “Eventually though, the acrylic forces me to wait, allowing my heart to catch up to the drying surface. The result is a work that captures a deeper, layered journey.”


Ken paints in series of up to six pieces simultaneously, and he embraces process painting, an approach that emphasizes the creative process rather than technique or outcome. “It works well for me because it lets me tap into my intuition and my vision. I don’t always know what’s going to happen. I’m looking to lay down a certain structure, certain bones for the piece. Then I look for the harmony, a certain shape. It’s not one inspiration. It’s vision and intuition.”


 Beach Nap by Kenneth Cook

Just as it’s not one inspiration, it’s not one creative outlet for this artist. In addition to being a painter, Ken is a writer and musician. He’s a member of Benicia's Outlaw Writers Group, and he plays with the San Francisco Scottish Fiddlers. He used to think he needed to focus on one calling, but finally it dawned on him: “I can do whatever is speaking to me at a given moment. Why am I saying no to these things?”


In January, Ken joined Gallery 621, one of Benicia’s most enduring membership-run galleries, with a focus on original, contemporary fine art of various media, from painting and printmaking to 3D ceramic sculpture. Ken is this month’s featured artist at Gallery 621. His expanded exhibit runs from March 7 through 31, and a reception is slated for Saturday, March 9, from 4 to 6 pm.



Visit Gallery 621 at 309 First Street in Benicia during the hours of 12 to 6pm, Thursday to Sunday, or online at Gallery 621. More about Ken and his work can be found on his website,