With a lighthearted, whimsical style, Cross illustrates the wonders of nature that fascinate us. “Why do we travel all over the country to find the perfect autumn display of color, or collect seashells or gaze time and time again at the stars?” he asks. Calling these natural phenomena “Trapped Magic,” Cross freezes these ideas in his paintings and surrounds them with enchantment. Shells float inside pastel bubbles, rocks bearing faces support mermaids, stars dazzle fairies, and wizards master the magic in each painting.
“My paintings are ancient in content and look, but I use both traditional tools and tools of the future to implement them,” says Cross, referring to his marriage of tools like pencil and paper with the tool of tomorrow – the computer. “The computer’s ability to let me visualize ideas, layouts, juxtapositions of characters and scenes, not only speeds things along but actually frees up the creative process to be more responsive to the ideas and inspiration when it begins to really flow. I spend more of my time actually exploring and implementing instead of methodically plodding through the piece burdened by the constraints of cleaning brushes, finding the right paper or canvas, etc. Ironically, because of the luxury I now have to try many different ideas in rapid succession – all the while saving each as a separate “sketch” to be returned to later if need be- I actually find myself trying many things artistically that I would be afraid to do with just brush and canvas. I don’t have to worry about ruining anything. I have no fear to experiment anymore!”
Cross however downplays the role of the computer in the actual physical execution of the work. I don’t think people need to think so hard about the computer’s use as anything other than a tool,” he says. “We don’t think that way about a pencil or paint brush. After all, the best information processor we have is our eye/hand coordination. With or without the computer, I would still use whatever tools it takes to achieve my vision; I would use a lawnmower if it would give me the look I wanted!”
When creating his artwork, Cross often begins with sketch – sometimes done on paper and scanned in, sometimes sketched right on the computer with the use of a cordless pressure sensitive stylus and tablet that very effectively mimics the look and feel of natural drawing and painting. He then begins to fill in the color and strokes, or ‘paint with electric light’ as he likes to call it. “The fact is that I have some 16.7 million color choices on my digital palette. I’m not constrained or hindered by tubes of smelly paint and dried up ‘perfect’ colors,” that can never be recaptured,” remarks Cross. “And the real beauty of it all is that when finished it is digitally direct printed as a giclée print, which is the only medium that can capture all the colors and subtleties I employ. It is really ironic that my chosen medium is also the one best suited for taking full advantage of the giclée print medium, which is a medium gaining wide acceptance for its superior quality and reproduction values.”
Cross’ art has found resounding success in many facets of the art market, including licensed use on cards, puzzles, textiles and dimensional work. Clients include Lean’n Tree Cards, the Franklin Mint, and F.X. Schmid Puzzles to name but a few. Cross has also found wide-spread acceptance in the fine art limited edition print market, having had his work published by the prestigious Mill Pond Press and Applejack/National Wildlife Editions. His hand remarqued giclées and originals hang in select galleries worldwide, having had one-man shows or featured artist shows at Nihon Galleries, Nagoya, Japan, Brittany-Lore Gallery, Sarasota, FL; Corporate Art Gallery, Mentor, Ohio; Our Heritage, Upper Lisle, NY; Gallery One, Mentor, Ohio; Germanton Gallery, Germanton, NC; Golden Lynx Gallery, Rochester, NY. Cross is also a published author and illustrator, his latest 96-page, full-color art book entitled FAIRY GARDEN; Fairies of the Four Seasons, having been published by Andrews McMeel Universal in the Fall of 1998. A lavish 176-page work entitled THE WAY OF WIZARDS, is slated for a Fall of 2001 release.
Cross’ goal for his work is to be visually engaging, but the art can pull the viewer in on different levels. “You can either follow a path of fantasy and/or folklore, or if you delve deeper, it twists around into the environmental message inherent in each one,” he says. “To coin a phrase, ‘Yesterday’s magic is today’s science.”
Cross, the scientist, is a noted specialist on barrier island and beach ecology. He has taught, written and illustrated on the subject for the likes of the National Estuary Program, The Conservation Foundation and the Cousteau Society. Finding that all too often the essential messages about the environment seem to dire or demanding on the general public, Cross turned his efforts some years ago on the mission to make these messages more inviting by using healthy doses of folklore mixed with scientific fact. “I try to explain nature and ecological principles in a lighthearted way. Seeing how our predecessors viewed the world around them – through their stories, their art and their superstitions – often softens the blow and makes learning about our world much more enjoyable,” explains Cross.
Cross is excited about the direction his use of technology is taking him. “The giclée process is improving every day, becoming ‘museum quality’ permanent through the use of archival papers, canvases and lightfast inks, and even by utilizing embellishments such as metallic inks and embossing,” says Cross. The use of CD-ROM and Internet technologies have also not escaped Cross, having staked a claim to turf here and there on the on-line services and the world wide web. “It is an incredibly exciting time to be in the business of information. Be it words or pictures or both, I see that ironically it may be our use of this technology to deliver the right information to millions of people that eventually serves as the warning bell to begin really appreciating and protecting our environment.”
Even though he’s stepping into the future with his techniques, Cross’ concepts are steeped in simplicity. “I’d like to encourage people to look around, have a good time out there; ecology doesn’t have to be drudgery,” says Cross. “It’s so easy with our busy pace of life and technology out there – faxes, phones, modems – to forget the medium that we are all swimming through together. And that is nature.”