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December 2022 was the start of a long healing process in dealing with the aftermath of an extremely traumatiuc epileptic seizure. I have suffered from epilipesy in the past and was offically diagnoised in 2004, but this latest seaizure was a shock as I had been 10 years without any episodes, and this paticular inciden had given me life altering injuries.

Healing from such a traumic incident, an incident where you have no memory of it happening, you just wake up and find yourself physically and mentally hurting, is a process without timeline. In previous recovery times I have taken at most a month to recover, but this time after nealry a year later I'm still battling with physical injuries.

Creating, I thought would be a natural way for me to start healing, but in the early months I was in so much pain that I physically could not stand (or sit) at the easel and paint. The studio became a torture room, a place that I could not do what i really wanted to do. I did not have the strength to venture into the mountains and I did not have the abiblity to get lost in the canvas. But I needed to create.

Sketchbook page playing with colour and medium

Being forced to abandon my usual way of creating was initially a very unfair experience, but I slowly learnt to adapt. I returned to sketchbook work as a form of play, exploring different mediums whilst not being afraid to explore with colour. I began producing almost two or three sketches a day either from memory of the mountainous wilderness or from photographs, openning myself up to techniques that I use to tell myself I had no time for. I wasnt at the easel, in my element, painting with oils on a canvas, but I was healing the mind and openning it up to further explorations. I found myself re-igniting my joy of art, there was no pressure to produce work, I was doing it becuse I needed to and wanted to, not becuse I had to.

Each stage of my healing there was always frustration that I was still not able to create how I use to, and each time I would have to remind myself of the progress I had made, and that I had adapted before and I could do it again. I gradually began to find myself in the studio, adapting the heights of various pieces of equipment to allow for a more comfotable painting session. I wanted to be in the studio, but standing at the easel was only achievable for 20 mins at a time. Due to the more physical nature of painting in oils I was being drawn to a medium that I have never fully embraced, watercolours. I had always told myself, before I even start using them, that I was no good at it, however being in the healing mind set of play and ease of pressure I just picked up the brush and had a go. I found it to be such a gentle way of painting,and at that moment of my recovery was the perfect tool to allow me to start painting again. In addition to watercolours I began using drawing ink to add a richer depth to the work. I felt free in exploring colour and simply allowed the paint to bleed and travel where it wanted. Typically sometmes it worked and sometimes it was an utter fail, but it didnt matter, I was painting again.

Watercolour and drawing ink study

The drawing/playing in sketchbooks with coloured pencil or messing around with inks and watercolours began to have an effect on my canvas work. Colours that I hadnt thought of using before began to creep in, I began to play more with composition and canvas orientation. As my strength began to return to me and more and more work was being focussed on the canvas, I didnt want to loose the freedom that working on paper and in a sketchbook gave me,I began to include it in my studio practice. I now use it was a way of warming up or a place to go to when Im having a bad time at the easel. It helps me to remember the joy of painting.

As the anniversay of my seizure approaches and although I'm not fully healed, I look back over the year and feel so grateful that I have my creativty to give me a focus when times are really tough. I will take so much from this past year, it was not how expected it would be (when is it ever), and although I really wish this trauma and never happened to me it has showed me that I can adapt and that I will always have the need and want to create. Roll on next year, when I will hopefully re-gain all my strength and more.


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