When she couldn't speak with her voice, she learned to speak with her art.
JoAnne Wood, 69, worked hard for 17 years as an escrow officer in Southern California, until she lost her voice to spasmodic dysphonia.
She described the ailment as "a situation where your vocal cords rub together and make it difficult to enunciate certain vowels," she said. "I lost my voice entirely for a while."
Her forced early retirement 10 years ago led to a discovery of her artistic side, when she started taking art classes. Instead of spending her days finalizing real estate transactions, she was exploring the more colorful world of watercolor. And she found out she had talent.
"I didn't even know I could do this until I started taking classes at Lake Tahoe Community College," she said. "You never even take the time to see if you can do it until something happens and you retire."
Eventually, through sessions with a speech therapist and a somewhat miraculous recovery after a visit to Australia, Wood's voice returned. But she's not going back to her old job.
"I enjoy painting a lot more than I did being an escrow officer," she said. "It's a lot less stressful."
Wood has shown her work at Edgewood Country Club, Passaretti's Restaurant in South Lake Tahoe, Lake Tahoe Community College and now, the Nevada Artists Association Gallery in the Brewery Arts Center, where her display will run through Thursday.
"I've also done a number of open-studio tours." she said. "That's when you show your art, and people travel around from studio to studio."
Wood's favorite subjects to paint are flowers and landscapes, which lend themselves easily to her love of watercolor and pastels. She has also done multimedia works.
The former South Lake Tahoe resident has recently relocated to Dayton. She has been so busy getting settled in her new home that she hasn't had much time to paint the desert landscape, but she is looking forward to it.
"I think that the sunsets here are just fantastic," she said. "The skies are overwhelmingly beautiful."
The beauty of the landscape has always enchanted Wood, who spent her early childhood near Yosemite and her youth and most of her adult years in California's San Fernando Valley or at the beach in Ventura.
She moved to South Lake Tahoe about 10 years ago after her retirement because she and her husband loved the lake. Those places, as well as her trips to Europe and Australia, inspired much of her work.
At age 72, her husband, Ron, a photographer who also does the matting and framing for JoAnne's art, got sick of shoveling snow. The couple moved to Dayton so they'd have less of it. With JoAnne's 88-year-old mother now living with them, she said the arts center show will be the last of the year for her.
"I have a lot of shows coming up in the spring and summer, but this is the last one of the year," she said.
Wood, a member of the Nevada Artists Association and the Carson Valley Art Association, said she has always been fascinated by the power of color and tries to create paintings that are uplifting celebrations of life.
Her paintings are for sale, not only the watercolor and pastels, but also giclée prints, or sprayed-ink works.
If You Go
WHAT: JoAnne Wood's watercolors and pastels
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Thursday
WHERE: Nevada Artists Association Gallery, 449 West King St.
CALL: Wood at 246-1548