Painting comes naturally for Glen Osborne artist
When Bill Cook of Glen Osborne created his first painting, his wife, Melissa, couldn't believe it.
A fine arts college graduate, she said she convinced her husband of 30 years to take a painting class with her at Sweetwater Center for the Arts, and they were both amazed when his hidden talent was revealed.
Melissa said his oil painting of pears done with a palette knife was so good no one could believe it was his first attempt.
After that first class in 2002, Bill, 71, an elected member of Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, has embraced his new-found talent. Over the years, his paintings of seascapes, landscapes, bridges, poppies, sailboats and other subjects, have been selected for display at several local and out-of-state galleries and shows.
His painting of the Sewickley Bridge was featured on a Sweetwater catalog. He also does commissioned work.
His latest display of 16 paintings now is hanging at The Sewickley Cafe, 409 Beaver St. The exhibit can be viewed from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and from 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through December.
Although the Cooks always have been art lovers and collectors, Bill's own talent was unexpected — particularly since his life's work had been in the business-engineering field. At one point, he worked for Alcoa and also had his own business consulting firm, Cook Corp. Development, he said.
A firm believer that anyone can do anything if they educate themselves and read enough, Bill said he mostly is self taught.
“People I paint with ask me where I went to art school. I tell them I didn't,” he said.
Once he started painting, he began to read every book about art he could get his hands on at the Sewickley Public Library. His studio also contains two book shelves overflowing with art books.
And, his studies have seemed to work.
Although he has sold many of his paintings throughout the years, he said that was never his main goal, and selling his art sometimes is painful.
“It's like selling your child or your pet. There's a little of me in every painting,” he said.
When he first began to paint, Cook said he was determined to complete 100 paintings, but he has far surpassed that goal.
Previously, he had exhibited exclusively at The Gift Corner, where his wife was manager for 34 years before it closed in January last year. All the paintings there were transferred to the Cooks' home in Glen Osborne, where the couple moved in 2004 after 26 years living in Edgeworth.
Melissa's paintings and sculptures also are displayed, including a bust she created of her husband. Bill's sculpture of a nude torso also joined the collection after his first sculpture class with his wife. Bill works on his paintings, some created by palette knife and most by brush, after taking a photo or drawing sketches of the scene and making his own interpretation on canvas.
Some of his engineering and math skills come in handy as he figures out the proper proportions from transferring the scene to fit a larger canvas, which he also makes himself.
“I interpret a photo into a painting and put in my take and feelings on the experience. The photo just gives me landmarks to work from,” he said.
Although a few paintings are created en plein air, such as one of his Sewickley Bridge pieces, Bill said it is difficult because the light changes too quickly.
Melissa said she thinks her husband's paintings are so good because he can see light differently, like the subtle pink in the sky.
“He's taught me to see things differently,” she said.
Because of Bill's engineering background, Melissa said he understands how pigments work, and he mixes his own colors.
“That's why his paintings dance. He has such a fabulous color sense,” she said.
“I just like the effect light has on water, land and nature,” he said.
Melissa said although her husband has spent his life in the business field, she thinks he always has been somewhat artistic.
“But now, it's his passion and he is consumed by it,” she said.
At times, he wakes up his wife in the middle of night when he is compelled to write down a thought or idea.
“People I play sports with ask me why I paint, and I say it's all about light and love and something you care about,” he said.
“I like nature and it's about honoring the gift of the human experience.”
He said he believes he has created a successful painting when it evokes an enjoyable optical sensation or experience for the viewer. He said he doesn't try to deliver a statement and try to make the viewer believe as he does.
If the viewer gets a good feeling or relives a good memory while looking at one his paintings, Cook said he is happy with that.
Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or firstname.lastname@example.org.