Sonoma, California, artist Sam Cook was born in Ohio and received a degree in education from Ohio State University. He began teaching in Ohio, but soon transplanted his career to California in 1949 where he taught fifth grade for San Jose's Campbell School District.As a child, Sam was recognized for his artistic ability and was known as a cartoonist among his school friends. But he did not discover his painting talent until his early 40's, while in the middle of his teaching career.
He enjoyed traveling about Northern California on weekends and school holidays, especially in Sonoma County and the foothills of the "Gold Country," and would have a sketch pad at the ready, or when time and weather would allow, he would paint plein air. He was intrigued with painting old barns or weathered structures, and old boats.
To advance his skills, Sam took the opportunity to study watercolor with famed San Francisco watercolorist George Post and also with Henry Gosser of the New Jersey School of Fine Arts. He pursued painting into his retirement when he moved to Sonoma, California where he continued his artistic life. A painful neck injury along with arthritis and failing eyesight brought an end to his painting career which spans 1951 to 1974.
One of three artists known as "The Waterworks," his closest painting associates were E. John Robinson (oil paintings of water views), one of his best friends, and Ken Wilkerson. They exhibited their work at Wilkerson's "Vintage 1870" in the Napa Valley. He often taught painting with E. John Robinson.
Sam's technique involved first wetting the whole sheet of watercolor paper, then quickly blending in most of the color areas while wet. The finest details and darkest colors were applied when the paper was almost dry. The "red caboose" painting is an example of the "vignette" presentations he favored in the later years. He preferred to use English cold press rag paper as it was best for an even saturation of wet into wet.
He exhibited his work through various art associations, including the Marin Watercolor Society, and with his students was one of the founding members of the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society, along with fellow artists Charlotte Britton and Elsie Nelson. He taught watercolor classes in California and in Oregon. He was a member of the California Professional Artists and the Society of Western Artists. The Sonoma Valley Hospital still displays his works.