Newspaper article

Artist Brent Cooke holds an eagle head, part of a piece he’s working on, at his Langford home studio. It’s been a
successful summer for Cooke, who won the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s Robert Bateman Award for his contributions
to conservation through his artwork, and was named the Artists for Conservation’s Festival Artist Patron for 2015.
Conservation a priority for artist

Brent Cooke an
emerging arts luminary
on the national and
international scene
Rick Stiebel
News Gazette staff
What started out as a hobby in high
school and a passion for preserving
wildlife morphed into an award-winning
calling for sculptor Brent Cooke.
The Langford resident, who received
a Canadian Wildlife Federation award
in Ottawa recently, began carving
driftwood in his teens, making many of
his own tools. “The biggest problem with
that is the pieces are one-offs and you’re
never really able to recover the cost and
the time for selling one piece at a time in
that medium,” he says.
That changed in 1999 when a friend
suggested he look into bronze casting.
“I was instantly intrigued. Carving
is art by subtraction – you start with
a lump and end up with a smaller
product,” says Cooke, who developed
a keen interest in preserving wildlife
along the way. “Working with clay is an
additive process that provides a lot more
leeway.”

Langford resident Brent Cooke stands amid some of his work done
in his home studio. Cooke got his start as a sculpture working with
driftwood but has moved on to working with bronze casting.

That process enabled him to work with thin
materials that would allow for doing a sculpture
of two birds in flight, for example, something he
could never achieve working with wood.
Cooke starts the process for completing a
bronze sculpture by creating his vision for a piece
using clay. A rubber mould of the clay creation is
then filled with wax and coated with a porridgelike
substance that is heated and burned out,
until it becomes a hard mould into which the
bronze is poured.
“It’s a very expensive process,” Cooke says,
adding with a laugh, “that’s why I still have my
day job.”
He has worked as a museum consultant since
2006, when he retired after 33 years as director
of exhibits and public programs at the Royal B.C.
Museum.
One of his recent consulting gigs involved
designing and building a Harley-Davidson
Museum on the Mainland for the legendary
Trev Deeley dealership, which explains the two
Harleys in the garage Cooke and his wife, Elaine,
love to ride regularly.
Cooke’s love for sculpting wildlife led to his
involvement with Artists for Conservation (AFC)
about six years ago. The organization brings
together artists in various mediums who create
pieces depicting wildlife seldom viewed by the
masses, such as lions on the Serengeti. About
500 artists from 27 countries participate with the
organization, which holds an annual show and
festival in Vancouver that includes educational
art and nature programs for youth.
Exhibits from the show travel to international
art galleries where the pieces are sold to raise
money for conservation.
“One aspect (of Artist for Conservation) that
hooked me right away is all artists contribute
to a conservation-based charity of their choice,
and the money raised goes directly to that
organization,” says Cooke, who supports the
Raptor Recovery Centre in Duncan. “Many of
them are tiny little places doing great work. The
fact that the money helps organizations large and
small is really neat.”
Cooke was “shocked and pleased” when
notified earlier this summer that he had won
the 2015 Canadian Wildlife Federation Robert
Bateman award, given to groups or individuals
who bring awareness to conservation through
artistic works. He submitted for the award last
year and didn’t make the cut, but the committee
decided to take another look this year and the
artist couldn’t be happier.
“You don’t get into conservation for
recognition, but it’s really nice when it happens,”
says Cooke. “It’s special as a sculptor, considering
80 per cent of the submissions are paintings.”
A Medal of Excellence and Best in Show
winner at the Vancouver AFC gala in 2013, he
was recently named the group’s Festival Artist
Patron, following in Bateman’s shoes. Cooke has
created a life-sized bronze great blue heron to be
auctioned off for the cause and displayed at the
AFC gala in September.
Cooke’s work is on display in galleries in
Sidney, Calgary and Tulsa. For a look at some of
his designs, check out castartstudio.com. More
information on Artists for Conservation is a few
clicks away at artistsforconservation.com.

news@goldstreamgazette.com
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