Rhian Symes

How painting helped Rhian Symes deal with having a stroke


Watercolour painting came to me at a time in my life when I had just had a stroke. so I guess it found me I did not go looking for painting to be my new lifestyle.

Having been told by my physio to use your arm or lose it, you wake up to your self. So, having painted as a student many years ago I decided to give it a go.

I nearly passed out at the price of paint, brushes and paper - I decided on water colour as they were the cheapest in the shop!

Flowers, pets, the usual subjects, bored me so I decided to get my old camera out and sit by the canal rivers and lakes - living in the Breacon Beacon in mid Wales there is plenty of choice. The birds were wonderful to watch but the reflection they made intrigued me more.

The bright colours, wobbly shapes, extended images, the colour from the sky, trees houses, canal boats, all adding to the spectacular sight.

So this was me on the side of the river, lake and canal - sitting with my camera taking pictures, camera in one hand, walking stick in the other to help me balance just in case I fell in!

In 2007, I bought my first digital SLR camera with anti-shake system, a wonderful invention for a shaky photographer. I also invested in a large professional print which meant I could paint and print my own limited edition prints which are now on the ArtGallery.co.uk site for sale.

How to paint pictures when writing can be difficult ? I joined Disability Arts Cymru after trying to explain to the Arts Council that I might have problems filling out any grant or loan forms I did try to explain writing needs pressure to hold a pen, brush strokes are lighter, I also have the habit of writing and drawing backwards.

I draw an outline and use the brush to do the rest, I paint the bottom half of the painting then the sides side-ways, the top is painted upside down - so in theory my paintings could look better upside down!

It is ten years on since I had a stroke I was in my early 40's, now I'm middle-aged my work is improving although my balance is still wobbly. I have had my work selected and exhibited in The National Exhibition of Wildlife this summer and I have recently been elected to become a member of the Water Colour Society of Wales.

In 2002, I went to Brussels to the Parliament. As part of disability year, I was asked by Glennis Kinnock MEP for Wales, did I see myself as a disabled artist? No, I replied, an artist with wobbly bits! She laughed and I just get on with it.

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