A few weeks ago, my Ohio-based brother and sister-in-law sent me a photo of a mural with flowers and the words “Be Kind.” I asked them where the photo was taken and if I could share it on our social media accounts. They did even better, connecting me to the artist behind the work. Alison Cook has been working at Dayton Children’s Hospital as an x-ray technologist for 3 years and as an artist at AC Artistry, LLC for 1.5 years. I’m really inspired by her story and her work and am so excited to share both in this edition of the Career Corner.
Career Corner is a place for members of The Smile Project community to share their work and inspire us all to learn new things and dream new possibilities.
Liz: When you were a child, what did you think you wanted to do for a career?
Alison: When I was younger, all through high school, I had planned on being a graphic designer. It wasn’t until I did more research, before going to college, that I learned what exactly a graphic designer does, and I had zero interest in the computer design aspect of the job. I have always loved doing hands-on work.
Liz: Tell me about the art you do.
Alison: I started with pencil drawings which eventually turned into painting with acrylics on canvas, which then turned into painting on big walls! Most of what I do now are commissioned canvas paintings and murals. I love bright bold colors and making art that makes other people feel happy when they see it. I would like to move towards doing primarily murals in the future… painting large scale has really captured my heart.
Liz: When did you first take an interest in art?
Alison: I have loved art all my life. Even in elementary school, I would get so excited on the days I had art class. I eventually chose to take advanced art courses in high school, and even art history in college.
Liz: What did you have to do to prepare for this role?
Alison: I have an Associates degree in Arts, an Associates in Radiology, and a Bachelors in Health Science, but most of the preparation I have done for my art career has been outside of any organized setting. Hours of practicing on my own has taught me a lot. I am also a member of the Artist Academy, an online group of muralists learning from the well-known and highly recognized Missouri muralist, Andrea Ehrhardt-Sanders. This is the group that made me realize if you can’t paint on a canvas, you can paint large scale on a wall!
Liz: What does a typical day look like between your art and your job as an x-ray technologist?
Alison: Because art isn’t what I do full time, work flow varies from day to day. I work nights at the hospital, which works great to allow me to paint during the day (murals dry much faster in the sun!) Lately, I have been playing catch up with canvas commissions, keeping up with social media posts, and ironing out project details with future clients. If I don’t have any projects that need my immediate attention, I work on mock-up drawings for murals on my iPad to present to clients or pitch to those I’d like to potentially work with in the future.
Liz: What's something that surprised you about the work or that might surprise someone else who doesn't work in your field?
Alison: People’s reactions to my work always surprise me. Artists are famous for being overly critical of their own work, and every time I present a finished product to a client, I am always taken by surprise by how much JOY they have. Honestly, they give me the reactions I truly want, but until the big reveal, I’m never convinced I deserve it. In my mind, I see a line out of place, or a patchy area of paint, but clients see their beloved family pet, a landscape they love, and their visions come to life in a tangible way that they aren’t able to create on their own.
Liz: What advice would you give someone who wants to go into this field?
Alison: Pick up a brush/chalk whatever it is… and practice and don’t be afraid to fail. You can watch video after video and research color theory or famous artists, but until you start practicing, you’ll never gain the confidence to create something amazing. And if you make something hideous, don’t be shocked… I’ve made PLENTY… maybe next time will be your best work yet. I learn something new with every project!
Liz: How can people follow along with what you're doing?
Alison: I do most of my updates on Instagram @alisoncookart. Here you can see the ins and outs of what the process of making a mural or painting looks like and all the behind the scenes things I am learning along the way. People can also check out my website alisoncookart.com to reach out about commissioning me or seeing most of my work in one place.
Liz: What didn't I ask you about that you'd like to tell me?
Alison: I want to acknowledge that I am in no way, shape, or form some magnificent, self-made painter. I love making art, I have always been surrounded by family and friends who have supported and encouraged me, and God has given me a skill that I am called to share with the world in order to glorify Him… not me. I started this business during Covid, and time and time again, God has opened doors for me along the way, and all I had to do was trust in His plan and say “yes” to every opportunity. I know this is a path I am meant to pursue and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. I love what I do and it brings me (and others) so much genuine joy and I am so thankful!