Jay's Story

I was getting help for my alcohol abuse and it was suggested that I try the art project with some of the other people from my group.

Jay's art
Jay's art

I was definitely sceptical at first and never perceived that I had any talent in art at all. I eventually attended, with a closed mind, after joking with a friend about going along. 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. I started ‘Drawing for the Terrified’. After the first day it wasn’t as terrifying as I first envisioned. The group were quiet to start with as we were all in the same boat, but we soon bonded and found confidence and 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 kept going. One day we started to draw some orchids. 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 with the detail and I was really happy with the finished result. If it wasn’t for this support and the feeling I felt when I finished that drawing I probably wouldn’t have bothered continuing. I received a certificate at the end of the 6week 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.

Next I started to attend the sewing group. My thoughts about sewing at first were “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 along 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 is ‘time goes by so quickly here’, and that’s because you’re occupied, doing something creative and useful for yourself. It’s relaxing. The sense of achievement when you finish something you’re happy with is immense.

I carried on going to art and trying new techniques and styles. One day we tried Pointillism, which I’d never heard of let alone tried. I got to a stage where I thought I’d finished my painting and felt fairly happy with it…. until Lucille asked if I had finished, “Yes”, I said, “Are you sure?”, she said. 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.

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 including me would not have been able to do this otherwise.

The group and I 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 interview some of us and the Swindon Advertiser too. It’s so nice to hear a complete stranger say positive things about your work.

I’ve been coming to the art project for a year now. I’ve been sober for a year and four months and I believe it’s definitely been possible because of the art.

I have developed my own drawing style and particularly like to use ink. I’ve just joined Swindon artist Forum in the Brunel centre and hope to have some work on the walls there soon. I’ve drawings over social media too. I’m also now learning the bass guitar and am now good enough to join in jamming sessions with other musicians too!

I completed my training to be a volunteer at the start of the year and now I volunteer in the art project every Thursday morning, which is helping my confidence and self-esteem and gives me something to add to my CV.

None of this would have been possible without the support and guidance from the staff and facilities. I’m so grateful for the continuous encouragement and opportunities to grow.