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"To express in paint the drama of the moment in such a way as to permanently provide an inspiration for others was a challenge. If I have done that, I am happy."
-Forrest C. Crooks on painting murals for St. Gregory's Church
Forrest C. Crooks was an illustrator, stained glass craftsman, and a painter. He was born in Indiana in 1893 and moved to his grandparent's farm in Michigan as a child. Crooks knew he wanted to be an artist at a young age.
Crooks found his passion for illustrating while at the art school of Carnegie Institute of Technology, now Carnegie-Mellon University. There he studied under George Sotter, a renowned Bucks County artist. Later in his life, Crooks went on to work with Sotter in his George W. Sotter Studios in Holicong, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
Crooks earned his way through school by taking on commercial art assignments and graduated in 1917. Knowing he wanted to become a magazine illustrator, he moved to New York City to make his way into the New York magazine scene. While in New York, Crooks worked in the art department of Architectural Record and also attended the Art Students League.
In 1918, he married Irene Phelps, and continued to make ample illustrations, showing them to art directors. He landed a job with Scribner's magazine, sparking his successful career. Crooks went off to work at magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Redbook, The American Legion Monthly, Good Housekeeping, and The Saturday Evening Post. During his career as an illustrator he worked for writers such as Irvin S. Cobb, Fanny Hurst, Rudyard Kipling, and Winston Churchill.
While working for magazines, Crooks designed dioramas of scenes for advertisements and magazine covers, before the years of four color photography. While in New York City, Heart Publishing Company offered him a contract to work for them exclusively, and he took it.
In 1925, he moved from Manhattan to Carversville, Bucks County. There he found a deserted house on 70 acres in Solebury, Bucks County. He bought the house and turned a barn on the property into a studio. Upon moving to Bucks County, Crooks worked at George W. Sotter Studios as a draughtsman and a stained glass designer. Crooks went on to design stained glass and painted murals for churches.
During the 1930s, Crooks and his neighbor, farmer Alston Waring, helped established the Honey Hollow Watershed, the nation's first watershed managing to conserve soil, water, and wildlife.
While in Bucks County, Crooks left his mark, through designing the George School arts building in Newtown, Pennsylvania, writing and illustrating his own articles, developing a successful Christmas tree farm and nature preserve, and painting murals and designing stained glass under George Sotter.
Forrest C. Crookes painting in studio, n.d. George Sotter Archival Collection. Image courtesy of Michener Art Museum Archives.
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