Expressive Painting Workshop at Transitions LifeCare

Paintings from the Transitions LifeCare Workshop

Last Wednesday eleven teenaged girls gathered in a plastic covered room at Transitions LifeCare in Cary for an evening of painting with artist Debra Wuliger. All of the young women had either recently lost a loved one or were trying to process the complex emotions revolving around a family member’s serious or terminal illness.

The workshop was a result of a months-long collaborative effort between Cary Visual Art and Transitions LifeCare. Transitions is a nonprofit organization which provides quality end-of-life care and support as well as educational, emotional, and spiritual support for the patient’s entire family. The teenaged years are an especially difficult time to experience grief, and Transitions has occasionally hosted events targeted at teens as an additional means of support.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about what made the evening so special” mused Wuliger. “Anyone can paint- but what we did was create a special space for them to honor their efforts and their feelings.”

The night started with a short demonstration and lecture. The girls would be doing “automatic painting”, a kind of technique where each stroke is intuitively and fluidly made. Rather than being about the final product, automatic is painting all about the process. Does an emotion compel you to make a heavy black mark? A broken line? This kind of painting, Debra proposed, was a way for the bereaved girls to honor their feelings without being pushed to talk about them. “They didn’t talk about their feelings,” said Debra. “They’re teenage girls. They’re private. And they had only just met me that evening.”


They did talk about the artwork, however. Prompted by questions like “What were you thinking when you made this mark or chose this color?” and “ What do you see in the painting?” the girls grew more comfortable talking to one another about what the paintings made them think about. This was Debra's intent- that instead of being coerced to talk about feelings they were not yet comfortable sharing they could talk about the emotions they felt when creating their work instead.

One of the things Debra took away from the evening was how much the people at Transitions do to support one another. She said there was an instant camaraderie between herself and the staff. “Molly, Kate, and Jennifer really cared about the girls. Everyone worked really hard to make it happen.”

“You could feel the love in the room. We kept calling it magical.”



For more on Transitions LifeCare, visit

For more on Debra Wuliger, visit


Wednesday, April 22, 2015
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