It was a crowded, makeshift gallery in the Factory building of the Cleveland Institute of Art. It was the late summer of 1993, we were standing around before empty walls waiting to hang the "best" of our High School work right before the opening of the new student show. As I recall it was essentially a mixer before classes started and our parents went away and left us to become whatever we were to become. I had the luck and the horror to hang my work near Amanda Cook. She was so very good and honestly, as I looked around the room they were ALL so very good that I started to seriously consider going back to WV with my parents. Amanda had seen me hanging my, whatever it was, and being the exceedingly kind person she was decided to strike up a conversation. We talked about many, chit chatty things but what I remember was she had also set her sights on becoming an Illustrator. A part of my brain thought, "oh great, competition," but a larger part of my brain thought, "oh great! Illustration class is going to be awesome!" I wasn't wrong.
Amanda was consistently outstanding. She is one of the best Draftspersons I've ever had the pleasure to study with. Her drawings were so rich, her eye so trained, I learned to render volume and to feel the line carve into and out of the object by being in the same class with Amanda. From that first show on, I always looked for and learned from Amanda's work.
We were fast friends as I am sure anyone who was fortunate enough to meet her could say. Her kindness, and friendly nature was one of the things that kept me from hopping in the car with my folks and getting the heck back to West Virginia. Her smile was everywhere! I walk into the drawing room, Amanda would smile, stroll into Art History, a smile, tip toe into Design, a weary smile. Even on days when the pencil wasn't hitting the paper the right way and I would feel a fraud, Amanda was there so things weren't so bad.
She cared deeply about all of her friends. Amanda would ask me about home, how things were going, we would talk about things we saw and stuff we did over breaks and when she found out the name of the girl I was dating (and would eventually marry) was also Amanda she wholeheartedly approved! I'll always remember that when Amanda and Mandi finally met it was like they already knew each other but then that's how she was.
This last weekend our friend Amanda passed away after long suffering illness. She leaves behind a beautiful little boy, a loving husband, a great family and scores of friends, old and new that will miss her very much.
Amanda loved nature but if she were to have a totem animal it would be the manatee. She absolutely loved them, did her part to help conserve them, drew them like no one else could. So today when I sat down at my desk the only thing I wanted to draw was a manatee. This little guy will be a place holder till I get the color one up.