PRATT—When Patrice Egging picked up a paint brush last October she knew she wanted to paint sunflowers, but she didn't know how, she just knew it was something she had to do.


"My daughter Mendi loved sunflowers, I wanted to do something to memorialize her, to help me remember the light she was in my life. I needed a way to push back the darkness," Egging said.


Mendi Egging Cotter was 30 years old when she was killed in a car accident on a foggy September morning on U.S. Highway 54/400 near Cheney last year. It was a devastating blow for her family members in Pratt and Wichita, especially her mother.


"I have quilted and sewed, played the piano to be creative in the past," Egging said. "But I had never really painted before, except maybe a long time ago in junior high. All of the sudden one day, I just knew I had to paint sunflowers in memory of Mendi, so I went to Hobby Lobby and got some supplies. I didn't even really know what I was looking for, but I just picked up a paintbrush and got started."


For the past 10 months, Egging has painted almost every day, branching off from sunflowers in a variety of settings and sizes, to abstract scenery, all shapes and sizes of flowers, trees and landscapes.


"I like to do things in nature," Egging said. "It makes me happy to just start putting paint on a canvass. Sometimes I have a plan in mind, but it never really turns out the way I think it will. The accidents turn out to be my best work yet."


Egging said she sometimes watches YouTube videos to pick up painting tips and ideas to try, but mostly her work is a result of her own experimentation.


"I've found that the quality of paint really makes a difference," she said. "I like the thicker, more expensive acrylics, they seem to dry brighter."


On July 5, Egging decided to have a pop-up painting sale on her front porch north of Pratt. She pulled more than 80 paintings she has done out and filed them in boxes, setting some up for a display outside, hoping to sell a few to earn some more paint money. She said she has painted more than 100 pictures since her start in October 2019.


"I'm running out of places to put them," she said. "I have several sunflower paintings grouped in several spots in my house, in memory of Mendi, but I am running out of room for all the others and I really do want to make a bit of money so I can buy more canvas and paint to keep on going. Painting has become therapy for me. I need to do this."


Egging said the pop-up sale was the first time she had offered any paintings for sale, though she has made others as gifts for friends and family, and even donated one to a local family who recently lost everything in a house fire. But now that she is getting a bit braver about starting each picture, she decided it was time to let some go.


"I guess I'm painting my grief out. It's still there, but little by little I can let it go when I'm painting. I would like to keep all of these, but I have to sell some to make room," Egging said.


Egging plans to take part in the upcoming Vernon Filley Art Museum-sponsored community art show in August. She is considering which paintings she might show, or even offer for sale there, all the while letting go, little by little, and finding beauty in light, colors, sunflowers, and memories of Mendi.