As an oil painter in college, Elizabeth Cook expected to pursue the life of the typical aspiring American artist: get an advanced degree, move to a big city, embark on a future of creative struggle.
Then she attended an exclusive arts workshop in New York.
"Here I was, right in the center of the contemporary art world, and I saw that in addition to talent, you had to have a big ego and be comfortable selling yourself," says Cook, a Louisiana native and a 2008 summa cum laude graduate of Louisiana State University. "I needed something more down to earth and predictable."
So she reached out to another part of herself.
Cook, who happened to have...