“Why the hearts?” It was a question a New York City reporter asked Nita Patel during her first interview. In her collection of mixed-media work, swaths of acrylic are overlaid with a single heart. One is made from an outline of raw sapphires, another is filled with amazonite, and there are pink opals in another piece.
“I realized that I had created hearts to heal my own heart, and that’s when I realized I could use art to help others heal as well,” Patel explains.
A self-taught painter, she’s come a long way from the mixed-media works that drew her out of working a traditional nine-to-five job. She’s now an accomplished abstract artist whose work has been shown around the United States and Europe, and she’s added motivational speaker, coach and best-selling author to her résumé.
At the core of all these endeavors is the mission to heal—the way art healed her.
“The more I created [art], the better I felt, and so I continued exploring this path only to heal myself for the first few years,” Patel says. “Once I did my first show, I was hooked after that point.”
Born in England and raised in the United States, Patel grew up being creative and watched her father design and build custom homes. She enjoyed theater, singing and dancing, but she wasn’t one for expressing her feelings. During what she calls an “early midlife crisis” in her mid-30s, Patel found comfort in the visual arts.
“I woke up one day thinking, I feel like I’m living like a robot; there must be more to life than this. I need to give to the world; I need to help people; I need to find my purpose. I can’t keep doing the same thing over and over with no fulfillment in sight,” she recalls.
Because of her days visiting job sites with her father, Patel was drawn to raw materials like wood and glass. Eventually she was buying massive rolls of canvas and experimenting with acrylic and oil paints. Completely self-taught, she used her background in psychology to explore composition and other more technical parts of creating art. But she had no intention of becoming an artist. Her canvases piled up, the results of her hobby, but she couldn’t ignore the reactions she got from friends who saw her work. She started getting invited to shows, and when it felt right, she left behind her corporate job to focus on her career in the arts.
A decade later, Patel’s abstract work has been shown around the country, as well as London, Paris and Torino, Italy. One of her earlier collections was Hearts and Dragons, in which she used gemstones and other raw materials. In 2020, her Opalescence series was inspired by the rainbow color play that exists in the opal stone, and its qualities of amplifying emotions and releasing inhibitions. Her newest series explores the concept of space, both externally and within, and a recent exhibition included multidimensional elements of light and sound for an immersive experience.
“How do I want a person to feel when they look at this? What kind of emotions is it going to evoke for someone?” Patel asks. “There’s a huge integration of psychology in my work.”
Having learned never to box herself in, Patel wanted to keep on her mission of helping others heal—this time as a motivational speaker and success coach. She began business etiquette courses to help people gain the skill set and confidence to move through the workplace. She’s also the author of Boss Vibes and co-author of a volume of books including, The 13 Steps to Riches, with celebrity entrepreneurs like Kevin Harrington of “Shark Tank” and Rich Dad, Poor Dad co-author Sharon Lechter.
This all comes together in Patel’s Richardson, Texas, studio, which serves not only as a workspace but as an exhibition showroom and gathering place for business mixers and events.
Over the summer, she earned her master’s degree in industrial organizational psychology from Harvard. Combining her psychology education and artistic talents, Patel carries out her mission of healing the world through art. From color therapy to self-help books and motivational speaking, she thinks outside the box to harness all her powers to help others.
“I ask myself, ‘How can I help people feel 2% better about themselves?’ Because that 2% shift will cascade into everyone they know, and that domino effect will impact the world. That’s my motivator, and that’s why I continue to learn and find new ways to integrate everything I do,” she says. *
Christiana Lilly is a freelance journalist in Pompano Beach, Florida. See more of her work spanning the arts, community news and social justice at christianalilly.com.