"I was getting help for my alcohol abuse and it was suggested that I try the Art Programme with some of the other people from my group"
"I didn’t have much social interaction with people other than in a drinking situation and didn’t think I had the social skills to cope in a group environment like this.
After the first day I realised it wasn’t as terrifying as I first envisioned. We were all in the same boat, so we soon bonded and found confidence; although at first I thought my abilities would be judged by others, the pressure to be good disappeared when I realised we all felt the same.
"I knew I needed a purpose and something to do other than sitting in front of the goggle-box so I went to see the people at IPSUM"
One day we started to draw; we had tried charcoal but now we were using ink. I looked at my drawing half-way through and thought, 'I still can’t do this', but Lucille encouraged me to persevere and gave me lots of practical advice - and I was really happy with the finished result. I received a certificate at the end of the 6 week project and felt like I’d found a new sense of direction. I’d surprised myself with my ability and thought I’d try something else and see what else I could do.
I carried on going to Art and trying new techniques and styles; one day we tried Pointillism, which I’d never heard of. I got to a stage where I felt fairly happy with my painting…. until the facilitator asked if I had finished. She sat with me for the next couple of hours and guided me to a finished product I was extremely happy with. I’m proud of all the work I do now and post my work up on social media when I’ve finished something.
I was interested in what else was happening in IPSUM, and ended up learning the bass guitar! Now I'm good enough to join in jamming sessions with other musicians too.
Next I started to attend the Sewing Group! At first I thought, 'I’m a grown man, what the heck do I need to learn how to sew for?' but I quickly took to it, which was quite funny. I egged on my friend too who had joked about it and he started coming along with me.
It was surprising how quickly time flew by. I took some work home with me to finish one night and I ended up working on it until 2am without realising! The most common phrase that gets used here is ‘time goes by so quickly’, and that’s because you’re relaxed, occupied, doing something creative and useful for yourself.
"The sense of achievement when you finish something you’re happy with is immense"
In the summer we went on a trip to the American Museum in Bath. It was completely free which was amazing. We sat in the gardens and all had a picnic together and looked around all of the displays. It was not only great to see all the works of art but also to get out of Swindon and spend time socially with other people. Most of us would not have been able to do this otherwise.
The group hung work up in an exhibition that we held in the Library. This was a huge confidence boost and the Mayor of Swindon came along as well as BBC Radio Wiltshire who interviewed some of us, and the Swindon Advertiser too. It’s so nice to hear a complete stranger say positive things about your work. I have developed my own drawing style and I’ve just joined Swindon Artist Forum in the Brunel Centre and hope to have some work on the walls there soon.
"I went on to become a volunteer in the art room and this improved my confidence and self esteem"
The staff gave me encouragement to try volunteering elsewhere as well to further my confidence. They helped me to access another local charity and through this I was offered full-time employment. I never thought when I first walked into that art room that one day my life would be as good as it is today!