Art exhibition explores artist’s tragedy and triumphs

‘Art as Therapy’ at Amelia Douglas Gallery

By Cheryl Minns, Arts Editor

P. Thomas Wood’s Art as Therapy exhibition opens February 21 at the Amelia Douglas Gallery. A collection of paintings, ceramics, and digital works will adorn the walls and hallways, showcasing Wood’s amazing journey from being an abstract artist to rediscovering art as a form of therapy after suffering a devastating car accident.

“The one thing that I loved in the beginning—which was making art and being an artist—ended up being something that saved me in the long run because I was able to use art to bring myself back from the mess that I was left in after the accident,” he said.

He attributes the show’s theme of artist therapy to the gallery committee at Douglas College, which encouraged him to show his work as a part of his recovery.

“This artist therapy was more an idea of Douglas College because when I went in and did my interview and they asked me about myself all this came out,” he said. “They were really intrigued in turning this negative circumstance into a positive one.”

But it wasn’t an easy journey for Wood to get back into creating art after the accident, especially since he struggled with memory loss due to a head injury he sustained.

“My biggest problem was when I first went down and started to paint abstract, and then when I would come back the next day, I couldn’t remember where I was last or what I was doing because my short-term memory was shot,” he explained.

Wood eventually discovered that creating art with the use of a grid and colour theory instead of abstract ideas allowed him to track the development in his creation because the artwork followed certain rules.

“The grid worked out extremely well especially with some of my larger paintings, which have 150 to 300 different little squares on them. I would go down and paint two or three squares a day and then I could come back the next day and I could find out what I was doing by looking at the squares that I’d just done,” he said. “I worked a lot of colour theory in there and it was a way for me to mark where I was and what I was doing.”

While his artwork played a large part in his recovery from the accident, he also attributes his improved state to his family and pets, especially his cat Jason.

“There were days when I just didn’t want to get out of bed, so my cat would come in and bug me and wake me up and I’d end up having to get up and deal with him and feed him,” Wood recalled. “Coming home to my cat was a really important factor to me getting well because it was somebody who unconditionally loved you regardless of what had happened to you or what the day was like.”

Jason helped Wood get his life back on track, which Wood thought was reciprocation for rescuing the stray cat that was out in the cold and looking for scraps.

“I helped him in the beginning—he was starving and he was dying, so we let him into the house and he ended up being such a beautiful animal,” he said. “I had helped him and then he helped me. It’s kind of like he paid me back.”

Wood will present an artist talk on February 21 at the Douglas College New Westminster campus. As a former teacher, he is excited about entering a classroom again to speak with students.

“Going back into the classroom I think is going to be really interesting. I hope I’m as animated as I used to be,” he said. “This is going to be the first time in seven years I’m going to be able to go back into a classroom again.”

The Art as Therapy’s opening reception from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Amelia Douglas Gallery. The exhibit will be on display until April 11.

To learn more about Wood’s art, visit his website at