Coral Ryder has drawn thousands of pictures over the past 12 years, yet doesn’t consider herself an artist.
Instead, she jokingly refers to herself as a spiritual fax machine.
“Marge is the one who draws through me,” said Ryder, 46. “She’s the artist, I just hold the pencil.”
Marge is Marge Haimaii and Ryder’s not sure where she lived, when she lived or if she lived, only that for years, that’s how she signed her work, with Ryder’s hand, “Marge Haimaii.”
It’s an unusual, leap-of-faith field known as spirit artistry.
Ryder, who lives in the United Kingdom, will be in Hartford on Sunday for an event she describes as drawing spirits, guided by spirit.
She said she didn’t grow up knowing she had it in her. Ryder’s mother is a medium and a minister in the Spiritualists’ National Union. As a teen, Ryder sometimes felt things, saw things or knew things that she didn’t particularly want to.
“I ended up going, ‘I’m not ready for this’ and I turned it off,” Ryder said. “It used to freak my friends out because I would finish their sentences. I started having dreams that would come true. I can still remember friends going, ‘Should we tell her?’ (and saying to them) ‘You don’t need to tell me, I know she’s pregnant.’ She was 15 and pregnant and it just burst out of my mouth. I have no idea how I knew, I just did.”
One day at home playing Metal Gear Solid on her PlayStation, “I heard clear as day, ‘Put that down. Paper, pencil and draw,'” she said. “I was like, OK. A bit strange. I found a quiet spot and I sat with just a piece of paper on a pad and a pencil, and I sat with my eyes closed, waiting for something to happen.”
The voice prompted, “Can you open your eyes so that I can see what I’m doing please?” and her hand started drawing swirls.
“The best way I can describe this, you know when you’re a child and you would run down a hill and your legs and your body would be going too fast for each other so you’re almost on the verge of tripping over? My hand moved that quickly,” she said. “I was finding it hard to keep up with it.”
They had to work through each other’s quirks, she said: Marge was left-handed, Ryder was not. Marge was an artist, while the highest marks Ryder had gotten in art class was 2 out of 10.
With lots of practice, the faces in her pictures got clearer and Ryder got faster. While she’s drawing the spirits that surround people, she said she purposely doesn’t know who or what she’s drawing to begin with. It’s emerging for her on paper as it is for anyone watching.
When working with someone, Ryder asks them to silently put out a call to whomever they’d like to come forward. She said there’s no guarantee that specific person will appear to Marge.
“My hand will start moving, I’ll start drawing, and then I’ll get a sense whether it’s a male or a female. I sometimes get if it’s mom or dad,” Ryder said. “I tend to feel conditions the person had, but just because I feel the conditions they had, doesn’t mean they take them to the spirit world with them.”
People sometimes bring photos afterward to compare the likeness to her drawing.
Ryder’s been at the Camp Etna Spiritualist church camp, for her first visit to Maine, since Aug. 22. She’ll be at the Hartford Town Hall on Sunday, hosted by the Pinpoint of Light Spiritualist Camp, for a free public presentation starting at 10 a.m. She said she’ll describe how she works and draw spirits in the room that come to Marge.
She and her mother, Ann Robson, will do paid private readings in the afternoon. They fly home Monday.
Ryder, who fits her work in around family life with two kids, said she draws because she feels like she’s giving people some comfort.
“You’re showing them that there is a continuation of life, that the body is nothing more than the vehicle of the soul,” she said. “I like to think we’re spirits having a human experience and that when we die, we return to the spirit world where we belong.”