From Kitchen Sink to New York.....(extract from Oxford Mail, August 2006)
Sue Cook, self-taught artist and mother of 2 has just been voted 1st prize winner in an International Art competition for her stunning flower paintings. The competition was hosted at www.myartspace.com by the CatMacArt Corporation in the United States.
This was no easy task, as she was up against nearly 700 other contestants and achieved a grand total of 6849 votes from her peers, winning a trip to an Artist's Retreat in the south of France and an exhibition in 2007 in one of New York's top galleries.
This in itself is an amazing achievement, but Sue didn't even go to art school, and is, for the most part entirely self-taught.
Cook is over the moon about winning such a prestigious international competition, and puts her success down to widespread appeal, and the use of evocative colours to alter the mood of the viewer. To go from painting in the kitchen to preparing for her first ever exhibition in New York in such a short time is every artist's dream.
Sue says her inspiration came from her grandfather....
"To explain my painting career you have to go back to World War I and to my Welsh grandfather. He had dreamed of being an artist and had an exceptional talent. He drew and painted constantly and I think hoped it would mean earning a living above ground. In those days nearly all the boys were destined to work down the mine. The War started and like so many in his village, he signed up at 17 and was sent to France. He did a fantastic self portrait of himself as a Arthurian knight to pass the time on the boat."
"In France, he was badly injured and sent to a remote Red Cross hospital where he was initially left for dead as a nurse had put a German coat over him. There were only limited spaces on the ambulance and the majority of them went to the British wounded, he later told me. Fortunately for him, when the stretcher bearers were taking those who had a chance of survival to a hospital in safer territory, they knocked against his unconcious form and his arm fell out from under the coat. A sharp eyed doctor noticed my grandfather's sleeve bore the 3 feathers symbol of a Welsh regiment and he was added to the lucky few to be taken to the main hospital. In all the confusion, my great grandmother got a telegram saying he was dead. In her grief she destroyed all his paintings and drawings. He returned eventually and refused to ever paint or draw again. His self-portrait sketch is all that remains of his work."
"Years later, as me and my sister were growing up, he would spend hours instructing us on how to draw and paint - but would never do it himself. When I was a teenager he finally told me why he never drew again - he said that he had seen such horrors in the trenches it was all he could see whenever he lifted a pencil and it just overwhelmed him so much it was easier not to draw at all. Very tragic I think. But he did tell me shortly before he died 10 years ago, that I should always follow a dream and to keep drawing and painting."
"So I did. I had done all the 'science' subjects at school (as my parents wished) and gone to University to get a degree in Microbiology. I had a series of jobs mainly science related...the latest being to train as a science teacher. I got my teaching certificate when I was 7 months pregnant with my second child. It was then I decided it was time I started living my life the way I wanted to. So, I went and bought myself a set of acrylics and a canvas
in November 2004 and started painting when the kids had gone to bed . And I haven't stopped since."
" I couldn't be happier - I am so lucky to be able to paint and be at home for my children....I am finally earning myself a living from painting - I think my grandad would be proud. "
It goes to show, with an entreprenuerial spirit, a little web know-how and perserverance you can achieve wonders when you have a dream to chase.
Exhibitions & Sales
Oxford Art Society
McCormack Gallery, New York
Venus Gallery, Henley
Oxfordshire Visual Arts Festival
Jam Factory, Oxford
Said Business School Art Gallery
LIttle Gallery, Oxford
Oxford Modern Art Museum
Flowers-Talk at Eynsham Emporium
Four Blank Walls
The Saatchi Gallery Online
Wilton Art Gallery