I went into semi retirement almost 4 years ago now. It wasn’t something I was looking to do, it just found me. I had been really fit, and very sporty. I was also the adventurous type, with scuba diving and motorcycling near the top of my to do list. Sadly life doesn’t always go as planned an ill health overtook me. So here I am, no longer a full time action man cop. Instead Im a sitting round the house getting fat and bored man.
Art to the rescue
About 2 years ago I started painting.
Not what I would call a masterpiece but at the time I was incredibly proud of it. I copied the picture from somewhere, I can’t recall where now. Looking back at it now I have at little smile, not just at the naivety of it, but at how pleased I was when I had finished it.
Spurred on my my newly found talents I set out to conquer the art world. You know what, my pictures are not very good. It’s not just the fact that they are basic that make them poor either. Some renowned painters use only simple lines but make them tell a story.
Take Van Gogh for instance. His picture of The Bedroom is simplicity itself. The art is the way in which he has positioned all the objects, their proportions and added a story. You can just imagine waking up there.
At this time I was really down, thats what happens when action man struggles to get out of bed in the morning. When I say I struggled to get out of bed, I mean I actually struggled. My back was agony. My hands, full of arthritis and carpel tunnel where bunched up like claws. Looking out of my window at my motorcycle just sitting there did nothing for inspiration.
When I was paining I was like a child again. Night time was the best for me, mainly because the pains of the day were easing, my back loosened up, hands opening and multiple doses of painkillers and dihydrocodeine had taken effect.
I buried my head in sheets of paper, colouring with watercolour paint and coloured pencils. I reeled off picture after picture. Each one only slightly better than the last. But I was not depressed! Well not for the time I was painting anyway.
Back to school
When I left the Police, I took advantage of some of their free courses to get new qualifications. I did a level 2 in Mental Health Awareness and spurred on from that took a level 3 in Education and Training, paid for by the good old UK government. I thought learning about mental health would help me come to terms with my situation. Wrong! It just highlighted everything and made me more aware of where my mind was.
When I joined an art class the total opposite happened, I just relaxed. I forgot about my problems and painted pictures. Rubbish ones.
What I can say though is that I was chilled for the morning. Even if my pictures went wrong, which they usually did. By the way I had quite a lot of help on the above picture of a cockle picker. The teacher did most of it and I just coloured it in. It may have been the friendly social environment or the creativity, but I was temporarily relaxed. I still go to the same class now, every Thursday morning.
Asthma and oils do not mix
I tried oil painting. I enrolled in a group and got stuck in. Much like with watercolour, my mind was focused on the task at hand. Oils are different, especially the style we were doing in the group, where the pictures were quite lifelike and detailed. They took a lot of hard concentration and I loved it. Sadly oils contain chemicals, then you need turps to clean your brushes. A group of artists in a very small room equals a lot of fumes. Not so much of a problem in summer with the windows and doors open. In winter when they were shut, and the heater switched on, caused all kinds of breathing problems.
I have had asthma since I was a child and suffered whenever my parents glossed the skirting boards. So it was no surprise that the fumes caused non stop coughing. I only managed to complete the one painting before I reluctantly called it a day.
At least I was improving.
Whatever you are doing I can highly recommend private tuition. I did it with Spanish. In groups I improved, privately I took huge steps. So it was with watercolour painting. Thinking back to how my Spanish had improved with one to one tuition I started taking lessons. Only an hour a week, but the difference is incredible. After 6 months private tuition I have decided I can make art work for me.
I have also found that animals are my thing. I have a target, by winter 2018 I will be good enough to start taking commissions. The timescale from the barn above to the horse was roughly 18 months.
The time between the above picture of my wife, to painting Clint was less than a year.
Yes there are problems ahead. My health has not got any better, in fact it’s much worse. Im not exactly full of joy either. I do have a target though, and it’s one I intend to hit. Does art cure all of life’s ills? No. But it certainly makes for a more pleasant journey along the way.