Jacqueline Cohen loved art as long as she can remember. She created her first painting in grade school. “In my parent’s home, I had a large upstairs bedroom/studio. The floor was covered with linoleum, and I could make as much of a mess as I wanted,” she remembered. In junior high and high school, she began to hone her artistic skills. “I was able to take the train into Chicago on Saturday for classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. We’d learn about one or more of the famous masters in class and then open the door to view some of their works. It was truly amazing,” she said.
Cohen studied art education at Indiana University, earning a bachelor’s degree with an emphasis in painting and photography. She taught art in secondary school and also taught art classes to adults, but the cold winters caused her to seek warmer climes. “When my parents moved to Scottsdale, I jumped at the chance to join them. So, in 1980, she found herself in the Phoenix metro area and went to work for Motorola and General Dynamics, where she had a 25-plus year career as a senior publication specialist and senior writer. During these years, she also married and raised a son while she took a hiatus from painting. “Much of my writing was creative and I was so busy with home and work,” she said. “I even formed my own production company and did video work,” she said, remarking that she maintains a full video editing suite in her office.
Once again, in 2009, Cohen and her husband were ready for a change, so they retired and moved to SaddleBrooke where Cohen decided it was time to pick up a paint brush again. “My neighbor, Renee Pearson, introduced me to the SaddleBrooke Fine Arts Guild. She knew that I had an art background. She was chairing a show for the Guild and needed a co-chair. I had time, so I said, “Why not,” she laughed. “That got me going.”
Once she picked up the brushes and camera again, Cohen has never set them down. “I don’t take a lot of classes these days, but I’m always problem solving. Once you have the basics down, you just need to explore and practice. I love to paint flowers and am known for big, bright florals. I also love to paint food. We have a big garden, and I’ve done a series on some of our produce. Heirloom tomatoes are a favorite subject—the purples, dark magenta and flecks of green. You can almost taste the burst of flavor,” she explained.
“Right now, I’m fascinated with water. How it clings, dances can be transparent or opaque. I’ve been painting a series that features fountains and other elements with moving water features. When I get the transparency and the reflected light just right, I’m really pleased, not only for this painting, but knowing I can then take that lesson and use it on the next work. That’s what satisfies me about painting.”
“And I’m so grateful for the people who like my work and even buy it. It took me a while to build up to having patrons. I cherish them,” Cohen added.
“Improving my work, striving for those ‘a-ha’ moments – I think you just have to go for it,” she explained. “Don’t let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do in terms of art. Too many teachers, especially in school, put children in boxes and want them to create in the way the teacher thinks is right. I encourage people to pick up a brush, begin throwing or molding clay, string a few beads or doodle. Whatever you try, just go for it. Explore a variety of options, do learn the basics so you’re not frustrated and soon you will find something that brings you joy.”
For more information about guild activities and membership, visit saddlebrookefinearts.org.