DonCee’s Story

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Telling stories through fabric
By Hailey Stangebye
Photos courtesy of Don Coulter

Don “DonCee” Coulter remembers meeting Earvin “Magic” Johnson like it was yesterday.

Don was only 9 or 10 years old, but he knew that he loved basketball. What he didn’t know, was that his chance meeting with “Magic” Johnson would ultimately launch him toward his future career  not as a basketball player, but as an artist.

“He gave us a pep talk and he had talked about how much he wanted to be an NBA basketball player as a kid,” Don says. “I remember this story well. He said, ‘If it was snowing, I had my basketball and I had a shovel. It was raining, I had my basketball and I had my umbrella.’ And he talked about how he would be there from the morning all the way until night playing basketball.”

“I remember this story well. He said, ‘If it was snowing, I had my basketball and I had a shovel. It was raining, I had my basketball and I had my umbrella.’ And he talked about how he would be there from the morning all the way until night playing basketball.”

Armed with inspiration from such a legend, Don set out to be just like Earvin. He was so motivated that, at the start, he went out to practice basketball every day. But as the days wore on, so did his motivation. Meanwhile, Don would use his downtime to create art.

“One day it kind of dawned on me: If I want to play basketball, I always have to remember what Earvin said to motivate me. But no one ever had to motivate me to do art. This is something that comes to me naturally,” Don says. “And that’s why, at a young age, I realized this is what I really want to do. I am an artist.”

“But no one ever had to motivate me to do art. This is something that comes to me naturally. And that’s why, at a young age, I realized this is what I really want to do. I am an artist.”

Fast forward to today, and Don’s art was featured on the invitation to one of Columbus’ most famous events for the arts: the Columbus Museum of Art’s Art Celebration. Not only was his portrait of Donna and Larry James on display at the museum, it was adapted into an augmented reality work through a collaboration with Ariel Peguero.

Click here to see the augmented reality portion of this portrait.

Don has made incredible strides in the art community, but not without obstacles. One of his main challenges has always been his medium of choice: fabric.

“It’s pretty challenging trying to describe what I do and trying to get people to buy in to the concept,” Don says. “A lot of times, I would tell people, ‘What I do is I just paint with fabric.’ And they’re like, ‘What? What do you mean? Like you paint on the leather?’ And I’m like, ‘No. The leather is the paint.’ Trying to get that concept to people and galleries didn’t go over too well.”

Don’s medium of choice is fabric. He uses carefully cut pieces of things such as denim, leather and suede to produce multi-textured images that carry the depth of his subject matter and the history of his craft.

“I’ve been doing this for about 20 years. It initially started from growing up in the hip hop era. We began painting on clothing for the breakdancers and hip hop artists. From there, I began creating clothing and took a fashion design course,” Don says. “Eventually, that kind of led on to what I do today.”

“I’ve been doing this for about 20 years. It initially started from growing up in the hip hop era. We began painting on clothing for the breakdancers and hip hop artists. From there, I began creating clothing and took a fashion design course.”

Each piece that Don creates comes down to a narrative. The same is true of his portrait featuring Donna and Larry James: that image is a story of love, both between Donna and Larry, and between them and the arts.

“I think creating art is important because art tells a story. If you look back in history, a lot of times when we study other cultures, what’s the best way to really figure out what was really going on? You look to the arts,” Don says. “It’s more than just something that’s cosmetic. Art can also be therapeutic. It can also teach us. It tells a story, especially for those that feel like they may not have a voice.”

Don has found his voice through art and, just like Earvin with basketball, he continues to practice and hone his craft every day.

 

DonCee’s Work

 

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Comments
  • Mary Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

    Wonderful article about a great artist. My young artists from the Dowd were thrilled to see the power in your art.
    Imagine and live in peace.
    Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

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