Patricia Coulter is an award-winning artist who lives in Alberta, Canada. Art Business News recently selected her as one of “The Top Artists To Watch”. In addition to making her own art, she enjoys helping others discover their creativity by presenting workshops around the world. In this article she shares a heartfelt story about her devastating loss and how painting provided personal strength. We are grateful to Patricia for sharing her experience and creative process with us. We hope articles like hers will encourage others to find solace and healing through art. ~ Renée Phillips
When my beautiful young daughter was killed by a drunk driver, it was as if I had been driving across a frozen lake in the middle of winter and suddenly, without warning, fell down, down, into a dark place. I knew I would eventually swim up to the light but for the longest time, I struggled. I often thought, “Really, what is the point of anything!”
People rally around you when you suffer devastating loss but eventually, you have to move forward on your own. A lot of recovery was just one step at a time, one foot in front of the other. I couldn’t imagine a future, I couldn’t see hope! I was just so sad. I was thankful to have a supportive spouse, a demanding job that didn’t leave a lot of time for pondering, and some friends who often said, “Let’s go for a walk!”
One of the things that really helped me on my own was art.
Sunday afternoons had often been a time for my daughter and I to experiment with watercolour painting. After she died, the first paintings I did were very small and dark. I am sure most of them went into the recycling bin. But, during the few minutes of painting, I noticed that my shoulders fell down from my ears, and I was focused on watching paint play with water and seeing what results came of it.
Gradually, my paintings became less dark and grew in size! I loved how calming painting was, even if the painting didn’t turn out like I had hoped. I remember an instructor saying “It’s only paint and paper” and that was freeing. I lost the feeling that everything had to be a masterpiece! I just experimented, played, tried.
Painting originally with watercolour, my favourite technique was the wet-on-wet. I loved how the colors blended, and merged and hung out together. I even liked the puddles left behind on the palette.
I was always searching for more vivid color and larger scale. I experimented with acrylic paint but added so much water that it results in pasty, washed out images. The lusciousness of fluid acrylic solved that. I wanted to work bigger and felt the paint had more to say than it could on a sheet of paper. I began experimenting with large pieces of canvas, setting it up at various heights and layering huge washes of fluid acrylic paint onto it.
The energy that came from these paintings is incredible. As I layer the paint, the colors begin a dialogue. It is as if the paint has a mind of its own.
Sometimes, I have a specific image in mind when I started but always, the painting takes over. Using the canvas set up at various heights requires some careful thought and planning ahead of time. Sometimes the paint rushes in a new shape I wasn’t expecting but I modify and make the most of this. This style of painting creates exciting, flowing paintings that feature sweeps of color and bold energy!
The flow of paint is immediate. I am constantly moving around the canvas, directing the flow, there is no time for anything else but going with the flow. I begin as the guide but really, I recognize that I am just the enabler – allowing the paint colors to sing and flow.
There is never a second that goes by that I didn’t miss my daughter but whenever I feel the image emanating an uplifting energy, I feel it is my daughter saying “I am glad you are painting” or “Good for you, Mom!” and always “I love you Mom!”
Visit Patricia Coulter’s website www.patriciacoulter.com