i CAN draw!! – Claudia Coenen


Because I loved to twirl with the wind, my mother enrolled me in a creative movement class when I was 3. Deborah Koff was also in that class, and we attended ballet class together for several years. We attended different elementary schools but came back together in high school, where she invited me to learn a modern dance piece which opened my whole body and soul to a new way of dance expression.

When Deborah discovered Touch Drawing, she would experiment in her studio, and I would dance. As she began teaching workshops, Deborah encouraged me to try Touch Drawing, but I was afraid. Growing up surrounded by accomplished artists who could easily and beautifully transfer what they envisionedn to the page or canvas, I “knew” that I could not draw. My art was ephemeral because even when a dance piece is performed many times, it is always slightly different and gone once it was done, leaving behind its impression but nothing tangible.

Throughout my life, Deborah has woven in and out, always offering an insight, a suggestion, a subtle push towards something wider and deeper. She brought us into deep spiritual and creative work with Elizabeth Cogburn when Alby and I were first married. We attended each other’s weddings. I have witnessed Deborah’s evolution as a Touch Drawing artist and teacher over the years and have been the happy recipient of several of her drawings. I have one of her earliest applications of color, dated 1978, where she used colored pencils. I have the wedding gift she gave us in 1983 (see image of couple with tree.) When Alby died, Deborah sent me a tube of 8 Touch Drawings that seemed to channel his passage out of corporeal life.


The next time Deborah taught at Omega near my home, I signed up. I finally understood that the Touch Drawing process is just that – a process of discovery. Now I allow myself to play within this field of discovery. I often don’t keep the drawings, or I might cut up parts of them to use in collage. Yet occasionally, I create a Touch Drawing that I like enough to place on the wall – see Peeking Through image. I use Soul Cards in my office and sometimes my clients engage in Touch Drawing. 

I have several framed drawings that she gave me when she visited while my second husband was dying. Deborah also did a spontaneous song bath in my living room as I lay on the floor, and he listened from the bedroom. I am so grateful to my dearest, oldest friend, who always opens my eyes, my heart and my creativity.

I have always expressed my life creatively. I played music professionally with my family growing up, and I danced from the time I was 3. Continuing to perform and choreograph well into my 40s, I started a catering company, creating dinner parties and weddings. As a lifelong learner, I enhanced the education of my children by obtaining Arts grants, developing a curriculum driven garden project for their elementary school. After the sudden death of my husband, as I continued to launch my children out into the world, I went back to school to become a creative grief counselor. I have Masters degree in Transpersonal Psychology and two grief counseling certifications. I am also a Fellow in Thanatology, which is an advanced certification in the study of death, dying and bereavement.


Death, illness and life transitions affect us in all realms of being. My holistic approach blends expressive modalities including collage, coloring, touch drawing, music, movement, metaphor and storytelling. In private practice, in workshops, in-service and keynotes, I incorporate proven grief models and use imagery such as Deborah’s Soul Cards and my own deck of creative prompts called the Karuna Cards. I have published three books, the latest of which is Seasons of Grief: Creative Interventions to Support Bereaved People, which includes two chapters by Deborah, and is sprinkled with her touch drawings.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Heidi

    Oh my goodness, Claudia, Thank you for this lovely appreciation of Deborah and making it part of the TD celebration!

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