Style, technique, use of color, use of multiple mediums; these are some the elements that artists use to set themselves apart while making recognizable art. Most artists strive to have one cohesive body of work, Bonnie Coulter likes to create in an interesting collection of connected genres. The overarching glue is bold color, humor, the personality of a thing or being and everything connected to the sea. While Coulter has recently made some major transitions in media, she remains true to the heart of her subject matter.
Bonnie's love of design, form and function flourished early in life. "My father heavily influenced what I would do in life. When I was seventeen, I wanted to join the family business, but he talked me into becoming an architectural draftsman because being a cement finisher like him was out of the question," Bonnie talks about her early years designing custom homes and how that would influence her later years. "I was well versed at putting pen to paper. Sketching concept drawings that would become working construction plans and further seeing a project to its' completion. 35 years immersed in that career provided a good jumping off point to further sharpen by artistic voice."
Bonnie started out working in oils, she jokes about her first art course using the "Bob Ross" method to create 3D renderings of buildings and finished landscapes. She quickly moved on to painting wildlife but found that she was impatient waiting for the oil to dry. Instead she tried acrylic and found she loved the immediacy of painting quickly and intensely. Experimentation, trial and error led to the crackle series where a thick layer of the medium is troweled onto a cradled board and set to dry producing a "cracked up" surface. Coulter continues in this way and has produced a large body of small and medium sized paintings that take on an aged, romantic feel. In 2016, while flirting with Steampunk style using found objects she began playing with assemblage, putting together thousands of fishing lures to create The Lure Thief. The use of canning lids became 'Canned Salmon' working with metal and found objects she says, "was like opening all the windows on a sunny, windy day".
Coulter grew up in a large family in Surrey BC, married high school sweetheart Keith in 1971 and promptly moved to Soda Creek, BC. They bought a 160-acre hobby farm on the banks of the Fraser River and proceeded to populate it with every animal they could manage over the course of 25 years. Dogs, cats, pigs, goats, rabbits, cows, chickens, ducks, turkeys, sheep, horses and cows not to mention donkeys and mules in the later years. Pet rats, deer mice, guinea pigs, newts, lizards and snakes along with a baby crow and wayward bat took up residency in the house.
It wasn't until Bonnie retired in 2010 on Vancouver Island that art began to play a major role in her life and became her passion along with deep sea fishing. It is then no surprise that all those interactions with animals and scenery energized her imagination. Bonnie explains "We lived in a remote area and our kids didn't have other kids to knock around with, so the farm animals stood in for playmates. I was frequently amazed by how the animals would willingly play their role". Most of Bonnie's early work focused on the animal friends left behind on the farm. Stories the kids still tell about their favourite animals, like the time her son was found harbouring a momma mouse and her litter in his sock drawer and begged their lives be spared. Behold whole series on rabbits, rats, mice and dogs.
As luck would have it her husband built a 10' x 20' foot building for a client, who's project fell through and so Keith gifted her the building that became "The Boar's Bristle Studio". So, named because she uses boar bristle brushes when working in oil and just happened to have a huge taxidermy boar that hung in the studio as mascot. Today Bonnie has expanded the pallet of animals to include whales, all species of salmon, mythical mermaids made of fishing lures, bullfrogs on musical missions and any creature connected to the sea. Her studio sits mere feet off the Sooke Basin where the couple resides.
Bonnie loves meeting people and makes fast friends with studio visitors. In her words, "I have been described, by a dear friend as one degree off normal. I say I was separated from the herd at birth. I just see things differently. A little color blind, a little bit short, a little driven and a whole lot bemused by an imagination that keeps me up at night. They say paint what you know; well, I collect rusty bits, funny stories, plumb bobs and oiler cans ... not your cup of tea ... I may not paint normal art, but you can judge for yourself, you know what you like. I work in my studio most days. The coffee is always on. Drop in anytime that suits you. Just kidding, I like evenings off and during the week I take time out to go fishing. Don't be disappointed, call ahead".