Growing up in a room full of vibrant colors — murals of rainbows and sunshine painted by her parents, a young Ginger Williams really came by her artistic flair honestly.
Her earliest work, crayon on closet, didn’t go over so well. But it’s helped the artist to accept — and forgive – her own young daughter’s whims, ruining a painting in progress – with a highlighter. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
The experience has also taught Williams, now Ginger Williams-Cook, when to say when, with a move into a space in the Fondren Building, just above Salsa Mississippi, on Duling Avenue.
“Having a second child made our home feel much smaller,” she says from her new sunny, window-filled second floor studio. “I needed that extra space, to have a kid-free and pet-free zone. I was ready.”
Williams-Cook is fielding commissions as she settles into Fondren, balancing out who she wants to be as an artist this time out. “It’s funny how you have to retrain how you work,” she explains. “In becoming a parent, I have to use my time efficiently. I have to be much more selective. It’s a change for the better, I think.”
Enamored with the arts since childhood, Williams-Cook’s Forest Hill High School days were filled with theater and set design, an emphasis on the latter, painting backdrops for the school’s productions. When it was time for higher education, she began at the University of Southern Mississippi but transferred to William Carey College’s Gulf Coast campus.
It was around the same time her mother took her own life.Â Williams-Cook was 21 and the experience affected her profoundly (since chronicled in the HBO Documentary, ‘The Dead Mother’s Club’). “After that, at the height of my risk-taking period of life, I was no longer killing time, living by the day,” she recounts. “I threw myself into my work and was more serious about the creative process.”
During her final year of college, and to mark the one year anniversary of her mother’s death, Williams-Cook’s family took a trip to France, a trip she says changed her forever. “When you experience another culture you see yours so clearly. I was able to completely and physically get away, but it made it easier to process my life. It also brought to life every single painting in my art history book, an emotional and changing experience.”
Coming back to her hometown of Jackson post college,Â Williams-Cook became part of a collective of young artists, The Projectors, who centered around Fondren. The quartet of creatives – Williams-Cook, William Goodman, Jason “Twiggy” Lott and Josh Hailey — were a part of the burgeoning Fondren of 2003, the creative heartbeat, Cook says, of Jackson. “The city became this workspace for me, not the hometown of my childhood, but a fun place to create,” she adds. Here, the living was cheap and traveling was easy.
Fast forward twelve years, now married to attorney Justin Cook with two children, Eloise and Oliver, andÂ Williams-Cook is starting again — sort of. Working from home all along, the illustrator wanted to give her personal life a space. Now, it’s her art that needs room, creating something fresh in her branding and presentation. “It’s been a building process all along and I’m definitely taking more meditated steps,”Â Williams-Cook says. “I’m trying to have a clearer image of who I am as an artist.”
WhenÂ Williams-Cook envisioned her ideal studio, in Fondren of course, she pictured the exact space she landed in. “I pray a lot, not for things, but for alignment and how I process my day and use my time. It really did unfold, but it took a while. It’s better than I could have hoped for.”
These days,Â Williams-Cook is painting by a different set of numbers. “I used to create and get hemmed into a physical space, hoping people would come in and like my work,” she says. “Now, I’m creating as I want, not considering markets or dÃ©cor, trying to find my ideal buyer and understanding where I want my work to go.” She tells of “exciting projects” still to come, all illustration related. “It’s looking hopeful — and my style lends itself to what may be coming down the pipe.”
Walking the sidewalks outside her building,Â Williams-Cook is constantly reconnecting. “It’s so refreshing because I have been isolated, working from home,” she explains. “I take a walk to Sneaky Beans and I run into six people I know. I was worried it would compromise my productivity, but it’s been good. I’m hoping to build new relationships, too and find ways to get involved. It’s good to get out of a routine.”
Williams-Cook’s nesting dolls will return — a limited run, we should say. A viral sensation in 2010, her Golden Girls set was featured on MSNBC, People, Entertainment Weekly and New York Daily News. Follow Williams-Cook on Instagram.