Finding the courage to paint wasn’t always easy for Vancouver-based artist Erica Pang. As a child, Pang struggled to find a voice to express her truest thoughts and feelings. Pang now wonders how much of that silence was shaped by her cultural origins in her Chinese-Canadian community, where she says women were not taught to assert themselves, especially within the creative arts. Even after earning a BFA at Emily Carr University, Pang doubted her value as an artist and stepped back from creative pursuits.
However, after years of travel, meditation, and yoga, Pang ended up on the Big Island of Hawaii. During a Reiki session, a healer handed her a red hibiscus. Something took hold of Pang and she ended up painting an image of the hibiscus. In that single experience, she felt her creativity blossom. She remembers it vividly, remarking: “I finally let go of my doubts about myself and realized that painting is my voice.” That shift led Pang to sell her first painting, and it restored the artistic passion that had always been so central to her identity, and so nourishing to her soul.
In November 2018, Pang’s journey came full circle. She moved her painting practice to a studio in Chinatown, just a block away from where her grandfather settled after boarding a ship in Hong Kong with only 40 cents in his pocket. From her studio, Pang paints and practices art therapy (she earned a post-graduate diploma in Art Therapy from the Vancouver Art Therapy Institute). She wants to impact her community by breaking the burden of silence she used to feel. “I have to do this for the next generation,” she insists. “I want my clients to find their voices, to express themselves in a way that feels right for them.” As an artist, Pang has found the courage of self-expression; as an art therapist, she thrives by helping others discover their voices, too.
Painting is a spiritual experience for me, and I take the process of making art as an opportunity for setting and following intentions. My painting begins with ritual—the scent of sage, palo santo, or incense; the focus on deep breathing; the awareness of the energies around me. These are some of the ceremonial processes that connect me to my art.
I write affirmations on the first layer of my canvas—a process of blessing the piece and its creation. Then, I use flow and movement to explore the relationship between my spirituality and my artistic expression, weaving images of life—leaves and flowers, birds and insects—as an evocation of growth and energy. Each brushstroke is an intuitive dance that draws images from within myself to the canvas, but my choice of colours is always intentional. Colour connects to the seven chakras, promising healing and peace. Like my clothes and my home, my art is lush with bright, bold colours; they are part of who I am and how I live, and I hope that the colours on my canvases communicate a sense of joy and ease to my audience. Those feelings are my gift to share with the world.
I feel most myself when I am painting. But the process of painting is also transformative, and each piece teaches me something new about who I am. As Hugh Prather puts it, “always a new painting, always a new me.” For me, art is an interactive process of change, whereby creation does not only produce a painting. It also generates a new artist and, at my most hopeful, a new world.