In this new series of blog posts, we'll be sharing stories from members of our community, who are finding new ways to stay active and look after their wellbeing in these difficult times. In this first post Adele talks about how she has rediscovered her love of painting.

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How long have you been painting for? What made you want to first take it up?

I think I started late January this year. At school I always liked art, but I moved into the science stream for O levels, so I gave up art and crafty things and focused mostly on science. I did science A Levels, Physics at Uni, then had a career in Tech. I got married, and had a daughter. So with all of that there was no time for art. 

I think around 6 years ago, for fun, I did a small painting on a scrap of paper of a girl sitting in a garden. I was pleased with that but then I tried to do a painting of a scene from Guyana where I grew up and it was awful so this put me off and I put down my paint brushes.

Last winter I spent lots of time in Jamaica, sitting out on the balcony and enjoying the view. I felt I wanted to try and capture the blue sea and blue sky, so when my daughter, Zindzi, was visiting for Christmas I asked her to bring art supplies. 

I sat in front of the view and tried to paint it live, but I found that hard. So next I tried painting from photos I liked, and found that that was much more successful and I liked it more. 

Since then I have found tutorials on Youtube to be helpful. I learnt in an online video that when you are painting with watercolours (as I do), you’re supposed to wet the whole canvas first. So now I do that.

I think I’ve probably done 15 paintings since I started in January. People have been very encouraging, and the positive feedback motivates me.

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What kind of painting to do you enjoy most? Is there anything in particular that you like to paint (landscapes, people, etc)?

At the moment I do watercolour. I think when I was younger and tagged along to art lessons with my older sister I may have tried acrylic then, and I’m thinking I might explore that after lockdown when I can get the right supplies.

So far, I have mostly done landscapes because I find there’s more room for artistic interpretation. Recently I have been looking at video tutorials on Youtube on how to paint people’s faces, so I might try that next.    

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What is it about painting that you find enjoyable/relaxing?

It’s really just the whole creativity thing. I used to draw, and I think I could give you a pretty good likeness of something from drawing.  I think it was more of a challenge to say you’re going to paint, and I wanted a challenge. 

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Has painting been helping you over the last few weeks since the lockdown?

Absolutely! What I’ve found, is that in the first few days of lockdown, I was watching the news a lot and painting in between, but it goes to your head after a while. After the first week I declared myself a coronavirus-free zone and decided I wasn’t going to watch anything.

I was in my own world and I didn’t think about coronavirus. I felt I should have known this anyway, because of my experience with ovarian cancer - that you have to do things to distract yourself. But it was different in the past, because at the time of my diagnoses I was the only person in my family or friends that hat it, whereas right now with coronavirus, it’s the whole world. So even if you want to move away from it, you can’t, or it’s harder. It was good to come back to painting and remember that you need distraction.

When I got a letter saying that I was one of the extremely vulnerable, I wasn’t expecting it, and my friends all laughed. But it’s hard realising you’re going to be in a different situation to what you thought you would be. When I realised I wouldn’t be able to leave my front door I wasn’t expecting it and it was a shock.

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Do you have any advice for others at this time?

Find something that you love doing, and throw yourself into it. 

Connect with people. You can use Zoom, or if you don’t know how then you can use Facetime, or Whatsapp groups and do video calls with multiple people.

Limit your consumption of coronavirus information. Try and limit the amount of time you spend reading the news. If you feel you need to stay updated on the news and what’s happening in the world, allocate a maximum of half an hour a day. I am usually a firm believer in the head-in-the-sand approach, that’s how I faced cancer, but I think with this (coronavirus) it might be more of a shock when you do take your head out. So keep up to date, but try not to get too absorbed in it. 

Find some way to do some daily physical activity. I would recommend doing it with a friend in the same way that I am doing it with my daughter.

My daughter and I have been doing online morning workouts together. She doesn’t live with us anymore, but we both get our laptops and watch the same exercise video at the same time, and video call on our phones so we can talk and see each other while doing it.

I was upset when I realised it would be total lockdown, because for years my main form of exercise has been walking for 5-6 miles a day with my neighbour and walking buddy Marie. So it was a complete shock to find out that I couldn’t do that anymore. I think both your body and mind need exercise. 

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In summary:

Find a creative outlet. 

Find things that you enjoy.

Find a way to do daily physical activity.

Definitely connect with people. 

If you have a garden, then gardening. That’s what I will do next.

A lot of people said decluttering. I did that for about half an hour and got bored!

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For anyone wanting to try painting what advice or tips would you give?

Just go for it! My theme for my paintings is that “art is art”. What I mean by that is that it doesn’t matter what it looks like, if you’re enjoying creating it, just keep on going.

Do something that makes you feel happy, relaxed, and that takes you out of the nightmare that the whole world is going through right now. 

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