Sculptor Bonnie Coulter works on a piece at her East Sooke home studio

Bonnie Coulter is a maker and force of nature

East Sooke artist is among local artists in this weekend's Stinking Fish Studio Tour

By Frank Mitchell || Special to the Sooke News Mirror

Bonnie Coulter is a maker and force of nature. Visitors to her cozy studio on the East Sooke waterfront quickly discover she oozes artistic creativity.

Her paintings and sculptures are constantly evolving as she explores new ideas, techniques and media, all the while refining earlier inventions to reflect her thoughts.

Coulter did not start out as an artist. She was “the original tomboy” and wanted to go into trades.

After being rejected by the Vancouver Vocational Institute of Technology because she didn’t have credits in high school shop (they were mostly denied to girls at the time) she convinced her old school to give her an extra term of shop. This time VVI accepted her. She was the only girl entering in her year to make it past Christmas and graduated as a designer.

She married at 18 and she and husband, Keith, were set up for the good life in suburban Newton. But they had a yen to farm.

So they bought a quarter section near Soda Creek in the Cariboo and ran a mixed farm, with the whole range of crops and animals, including 20 mares for breeding mules.

The Coulters soon learned that most farmers only sustain their lifestyle with off-farm work.

So Bonnie designed houses built by Keith; she also secured a variety of design/survey related government jobs.

After their kids left home, however, running the farm and doing outside work became increasingly onerous.

The need to provide health care for a family member dictated a move to the South Island in 2001.

Keith continued to build houses, including their own in East Sooke, while Bonnie transferred to Victoria, rising to department head before “retiring” from the civil service in 2010.

Except when the fish are running, she spends four to five hours daily in her studio, making art for show or for the commissions always underway.

Bonnie has always enjoyed art, but the move to East Sooke opened new doors. Most important was the encouragement and advice from her daughter Angela (Menzies), an established painter and a longtime member of the Stinking Fish Studio Tour, to explore new techniques and subject matter.

The appeal of Bonnie’s work is demonstrated by public comments – and purchases. It’s hard to define that appeal in words.

A major factor is the play between unlikely materials and the ostensible subject matter. This is clearest in the case of her sculpture assemblies of mechanical parts and tools, many boat-related. People delight in the unexpected emergence of animals  from hard manufactured objects, especially when those animals exhibit “attitude.”

Several of her painting techniques involve seeming conflicts between materials and subjects. Sometimes the attraction emerges from deeper emotions and personal memories. Other works communicate a deep-rooted love of nature and the need to nurture it. One thing is clear: “It’s not about pretty,” says Bonnie.

She continues to explore new ideas, most recently photo realism, partly in connection with a multi-year project to document the construction of a classic wooden ship.

Bonnie’s work often appears in local galleries and since 2011, her studio has been included in the Stinking Fish Studio Tour.

 

On Tour

The Stinking Fish Studio Tour happens July 23 to 27 at venues around East Sooke and Metchosin, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Brochures and contact details for artists can be found at many local locations and online at stinkingfishstudiotour.com/map.php.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sooke Fall Fair postponed until 2021

Organizers hope to still hold some form of competitions

Cyclists see potential and pitfalls in Sooke infrastructure

Getting from Sooke Road to Galloping Goose Trail a challenge for bike riders

Province buys Paul’s Motor Inn to house Victoria’s homeless population

Inn is the second hotel the province has purchased to support vulnerable community

SEAPARC solidifies plans for Sooke summer camps

Facility set to reopen to the public

Firefighters called for technical rescue at Sooke Potholes

Woman breaks her leg while walking along riverbed

B.C. records four new COVID-19 cases, Abbotsford hospital outbreak cleared

Four senior home outbreaks also declared over, eight still active

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Friendly Cove and Kyuquot will remain closed until further notice

Transition of other B.C. communities will be monitored before a decision to ease restrictions

Gold River organizes a shop local initiative to creatively boost economy

Local purchases can earn shoppers $200 gift certificates to be spent on businesses within Gold River

Young killer whale untangles itself from trap line off Nanaimo shore

DFO marine mammal rescue unit arrived as whale broke free from prawn trap line

About 30% of B.C. students return to schools as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

Most Read