Mary Ann Cook spent her working life as an X-ray technician. When she retired, she decided she need to try new things to fill her days and feed her creative spirit. “I didn’t want to be at a loss in finding ways to fill my days,” she said. Learning of an art class in a neighboring community, she decided to try it out. “I fell in love with color!” she exclaimed. “My work world was all shades of gray and this was so exciting.”

Cook says that color brings joy to her life. She also enjoys exploring new ideas and techniques. “I’m a very detail-oriented person and art allows me to be spontaneous and to try out a variety of techniques,” she said.

“I look at work by other artists and try to figure out what they did and how they did it. Sometimes, I need to adapt a technique to make it work for me,” she explained. “That’s when it gets really fun. For instance, I saw a technique where an artist was blowing through a straw on an in-progress watercolor to create abstract splatters. Because I have limited lung capacity and can’t blow like that, I thought about how I could create that result.”

“I got a can of compressed air and tried using it. Eureka! It worked, and I got a new technique to play with,” she smiled.

Cook generally works in watercolor but has also tried acrylics and is most excited to try out new approaches. She takes classes, watches YouTube videos and has even been known to buy art at thrift stores or yard sales if she sees a technique that fascinates her. “The challenge then is to figure out how to recreate the technique,” she said.

She generally has several pieces in progress at any one time. “I need to let a piece set before I take the next step. Often, I start with a background. But even that can be layered and embellished. I sometimes use a tiny bit of salt because it creates such an interesting effect. The paint pools around the crystals and when it dries it leaves little tiny circles. You can brush off the salt remains and even reuse it,” Cook added.

She added that she finds it important to have both a setting where she can allow the creative juices to flow and to make the time for exploring. To that end, she’s re-purposing her second bedroom to become a full-time art room. “Sometimes I do get frustrated when a piece doesn’t turn out how I imagined it would. But you can always learn from this and try again,” she noted. “I get the giggles when I figure it out and I am positively uplifted whether the piece is a success or not. I love to solve the problem,” she admitted.

Cook contends that we all need to expose ourselves to new idea. “Leave yourself open to all possibilities—especially in retirement,” she advises. “Dabble in various classes to test the water. When you find something that speaks to your soul, pursue it.”

For more information about the SaddleBrooke Fine Arts Guild, its classes, and other activities, visit them online at saddlebrookefinearts.org.

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