Painting as The Wonky Artist

Mental health, Health

A watercolour painting of a seaside landscape by Rachel Smith The Wonky Artist

While recovering on bed rest for a pressure sore, Rachel discovered a hidden talent for painting. She now works under the name “The Wonky Artist” and has been featured in exhibitions as well as on the BBC. She recently shared her story with us. 

My name is Rachel and I have a c5/6 complete injury which I sustained 20 years ago. I volunteer for Back Up as a mentor, and I teach languages to kids and adults on a private tuition basis. My husband is a lovely guy who I didn’t know before my injury, and we have a nine-year-old daughter and a mad mini labradoodle. Life is normally busy, exhausting and fun!

Unfortunately, this year has been quite different. In February, I had an ulcer which burst under my skin and left me with a deep and nasty grade four pressure sore. I had to be hospitalised twice with sepsis and ended up very low and had to start taking anti-depressants. Fast forward to today, I am still on bed rest and it’s still not healing. It’s been ten long months.

Once I had discovered the severity of this pressure sore, I knew I was going to be in bed for a long time and I started to not be able to cope mentally with everything that had been thrown at me. I put on a brave face for some people, but it was unconvincing and I found myself in a mess. I was constantly on Google, trying to find my way out of this situation but just kept hitting brick walls.

A lovely landscape watercolour painting of a coastal scene by Rachel, The Wonky Artist

One of Rachel’s lovely watercolour paintings

My husband, Ian, saw me sink increasingly further into depression and decided to try and pull me out of it by buying me some paints as a surprise. I laughed at him and asked him why on earth he thought I would be able to paint, especially with my limited hand function. He asked me to just give it a go and paint him something, so I painted a pot of lavender and it was rubbish – just as I thought! However, for want of anything better to do, I kept going and it helped me so much.

“My focus gradually shifted from my immediate situation and on to my paintings.”

Alongside my fantastic support network of family and friends, my painting has helped to improve my mood immensely. I am now not only painting but SELLING my paintings! If anyone had told me that a year ago, I would have just laughed at them. I even have an exhibition going on right now in two cafés in the north west. My husband (bless him) has done a couple of Christmas fairs for me with great results, and my story and work was featured on BBC North West online.

 

I am still on complete bed rest. It took me four and a half months of fighting when I was at my lowest point to find the right surgeon who could operate on me. They told me there was a 10-month waiting list. That was in October when I had already been on bed rest since February. The surgeon knew my circumstances and all we have gone through this year as a family, and he somehow managed to prioritise me and I now have a surgery date in January.

My painting has definitely improved my outlook on the surgery. I find now I haven’t dwelled on the actual surgery at all, even though I now know it will be happening pretty much straight after Christmas. I’m continuing to paint on the run up to Christmas, and I’m looking forward to spending the festive season with loved ones.

I wanted to share my story with others who might be having a hard time. Life works in mysterious ways. Think about trying something new, it might well help you shift your focus and help you find your way out of that hole. You never know where it might lead.

Thanks all, and have a great Christmas!

Rachel x

To hear more about Rachel’s journey and check out her work, visit her Facebook page and Instagram.

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