By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Nov 28, 2013 at 9:04 AM

Sometimes, the most challenging aspects of our lives become the most poignant. Such was the case for artist Joyce Winter who was in a serious snowmobiling accident in 1972.

After the accident, Winter spent a week in the hospital. 

"Because the pain was so severe, I told the nurse to close the curtain around me and I let go and willed myself to die. I felt myself rise up and I could see myself laying in the bed below me," says Winter. 

But Winter, whose son was only 1 year old at the time, knew she couldn’t die and she would need to find the strength and the mental space to heal.

Through meditation, Winter willed herself to go beyond the pain and over time, even though she spent the next year in a full-leg cast, she got better physically and, unexpectedly, emotionally, too.

"It changed my outlook and attitude. Looking back, both myself and my husband say it was the best thing that ever happened to me," says Winters. "It was a learning experience that I needed to learn."

After she healed, Winters – who eventually had three children – went back to college and studied at Mount Mary College. 

The serious accident experience also changed her art, which became what she calls, "pure play." Winter says her technique was more conventional, instead of letting the paint "go where it wants."

"I learned to give up and let go in life and in art," says Winter.

Winter’s process involves spreading liquid watercolor on wet paper and letting it "show her the way."

"I do not have any expectations or plans. When I put watercolor on wet paper, I begin to ‘see’ suggestions of shapes, sometimes it’s figures, trees, nature-related things. I believe that when you just play, your inner self is free to create. The suggestions show me what the painting is about and it becomes a story that I share. It is my journey into being a whole person and it is a never-ending journey," she says.

Winter makes her art in her Menomonee Falls-based studio which is inside her home on 20 acres of farmland. Her son, Mark, has a sculpture studio on the premise as well and her son-in-law, Dave, has a woodworking shop.

Her husband and high school sweetheart, Mike, is also a woodworker and he makes all of the frames for her art pieces as well as the table she uses to display her art on.

"We have an old farm with a barn and house that we have been remolding since 1970. We have added on to the house and have created quite an art colony here," she says. "Mike never stops, he is like the Energizer bunny."

Winter says she originally started creating art when she was about 10 years old after being encouraged by nuns at Notre Dame.

"I took lessons from them at the Old Motherhouse on Knapp Street," says Winter.

Despite the fact she did not have any formal training in art, Winter taught drawing, painting, clay hand construction and silk screening from her studio to kids and adults for 15 years.

"We would always start with a drawing lesson for about an hour. Then the students could choose what they wanted. Each one was different. We would end with a critique and invite the parents to come down to listen," she says.

Winter realized along the way that formal training was sometimes less necessary than verbally supporting the artist and providing them with encouragement to use their imagination.

"The teaching turned out to be very successful for me and the students. Just last week, a student's father showed up at my door. After 35 years, he still had to tell me how I had influenced his son and helped shape his life," she says. "The crazy part of that is, I had to tell him, I didn't really know what I was doing. I just treated the kids as other artists."

Winters has also painted murals in schools and libraries. She says the Milwaukee Artist Resource Network (MARN) has been very supportive.

"I am really thankful for MARN," she says. "MARN is the best thing for any artist and it is a honor to be a member. As artists, we are really loners and need to create that way but we need connections too. This organization fills that role to perfection."

When not creating art, Winter says she likes to garden, raise bees and "freeze anything in sight."

"We also love water, boating, reading and mostly we work. But in our mind, work is not work, it is fun," Winter says.

Winter will show her work on Friday, Dec. 6 at Gallery 2622 in Wauwatosa. The opening is from 6 to 9 p.m. She will also be a part of a show at the Cedarburg Cultural Center on Feb. 15, 2014 and one of two people showing at the Urban Ecology Center on the East Side in early 2015.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.