STORY OF AN ARTIST
I am a mum of two adult children Zakariah 26 and who is in the army and Alexandra 22 who has a gorgeous baby boy, Chase. They are my biggest supports and both their homes are mini galleries of my work.
So how it all began, I was living in Perth and became very ill. After 6 months of tests I was diagnosed with Remitting Relapsing MS in March 2011 and unfortunately, I had to stop work because of my disabilities.
I have some cognitive issues which include short term memory loss, I can no longer count properly anymore nor can I multi task.
I have nerve pain in my feet and legs, they feel like razor blades slicing through them and occasionally it feels like electricity shooting out of them,
fatigue is a major issue- I have to rest a lot and my mobility at times is affected.
Occasionally at times I have to use a walking stick or wheel chair.
So, when my world crashed around me over 6 years ago I was forced to spend most of my days alone, not leaving the house or seeing anyone. I had depression and anxiety.
I asked myself a lot of questions……
Wondering how I was going to fulfil the rest of my life.
What was I going to do with all of my time?
How would I now fill my days?
It has always been important for me to contribute back into society.
How was I now ever going to do that?
My Neurologist suggested I pick a hobby. I had always wanted to learn to paint but never found the time with raising my family and my career which was in the weight loss industry. Now all I had was time.
When I was first diagnosed, I had huge anxiety issues, which I had never suffered with prior to getting MS. It took me 3 months to walk through the door to my first art class, I was petrified and one of my girlfriends even owned the studio I was booked in to attend!
When I finally walked through the door my whole world just changed. I felt like I could express myself without even talking. My friends and family were giving me wonderful encouragement.
My partner, daughter Ally and I moved to Geelong in December 2011 to be closer to my family to help with support when I was relapsing.
Not long after moving here my partner left me and moved back to Perth saying that me having MS would affect his goals and dreams in life. But what about mine?
I was keen to find somewhere to learn more about art and meet like-minded people. I was like a sponge, wanting and needing to find out as much as I could about painting and drawing.
So I started classes at a Springdale neighborhood center and also at Geelong’s MS Australia’s Social Support Day Program each week. I also found a TV program called Colour In Your Life on Chanel 31 and I would watch it for hints and tips. It all started to come together.
I found myself enjoying what I was creating and shocked myself when I’d complete a painting. I couldn’t believe I had done that. I had dabbled with hobby ceramics 25 years ago and had studied music when leaving high school which was my only previous experience into the art world.
I entered my first exhibition in the Drysdale Rotary Art Show in April 2012 and sold my first painting. I was shocked that someone had thought my art was worthy enough for them to spend their hard-earnt money on and want to hang it on their wall! But they did!
I considered my art to just be a hobby that I dabbled in. I was unaware on how much it was becoming a major part of my life.
In 2013, I applied for a Go for Gold MS scholarship and won $3000 to spend on art supplies.
This then enabled me to go to town on buying different mediums in my home studio. I bought inks, watercolours, acrylic paints, graphite, pastels, oil paint, paint brushes, pencils, art paper, canvas and a SLR camera. My house swelled with supplies.
I have continued to enter exhibitions such as the State Trustee’s Connected art exhibition, IAN, Zonta, Royal Geelong and Melbourne shows, Rotary Art shows and have had three solo exhibitions at independent galleries. My art has been bought around the world.
My health determines what type of art I can create each day. My vision sometimes is effected so those days I create abstracts, some days I have extreme pain in my hands and I can’t hold a paint brush or pencil so I worked out I can still finger -paint with an impasto acrylic. There isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not working on my art.
In 2015, I thought it might be a good idea to get some formal qualifications in the art world. I completed a cert 1 in creative industries and started my cert 3 in visual arts. Unfortunately, my MS decided that wasn’t such a good idea. I missed too many classes with being sick that the college I was at wasn’t understanding in my disability. Then I questioned why did I need a piece of paper to sell my art when I was already doing that? I didn’t, so I left.
In the past 6 years I have won some major awards for my art including:
Zonta conviction commitment and courage exhibition
The people’s choice award 4 times at Connected and also last year the Public advocates award,
The disability services commissioner award at ADEC last year
And at other exhibitions I’ve placed 1st, 2nd, 3rd, Commended and highly commended in open fine arts against abled body artists.
My days now revolve around my art.
My Facebook art page, Instagram and website are all branded under the name JUZT art and in 2016 I registered JUZT art as a business and I had the fortune to take over a gallery at Café Zoo in Drysdale and it now is proudly called JUZT art Gallery. I hang my work there full time as well as newbie artists- giving them their first breaks into the world of exhibiting.
I am admin on a Facebook page for artists around the world call Get My Art Recognised and has just over 20k members. It's opened up some amazing doors for me.
I needed a work space bigger than my kitchen table so I renovated my house at the end of last year and put in a beautiful studio straight off my kitchen, including a Jackson Pollack look floor!
I thought it was big until I started creating up a storm in there! This enables me the freedom to create when I want, I can do a bit then go lay down if I need to. It’s been wonderful, I don’t have to pack up after each piece I’m working on. It’s an organised mess in there. Just the way I like it.
My health is up and down, in the past six years I’ve had three major heart surgeries, pericarditis, 2016 I had Melanoma on my leg and then early 2017 I was diagnosed with Livdeo Reticulars, Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, Small Lymphocytic Lymphoma and Mixed Cryoglobulinemia. All scary big words. It comes down to I had three primary cancers, and way too much protein in my blood. I’ve completed Chemotherapy in August 2017 I’m in full remission from the cancers, though will take my body a lot longer to recover because of the MS.
Its been a nightmare of a few years, the only thing that has kept me sane throughout it has been the ability to create in some-way shape or form.
I would take my drawing gear into Chemo day ward and go into my own little world. Doing my art has become my form of meditation. I lose myself in it. I feel equal with my peers of any ability. I donate a lot of my work to charities, it’s my way of giving something back, to be able to contribute and it feels good to do so.
2018 saw me join the Barwon Heads Arts Council as a committee member and in 2019 as Vice President.
2019 has seen me teaching throughout Victoria and New South Wales. Such an amazing feeling to see others create, that I have introduced classes available at JUZT art Studio and Gallery in Marshall. (see the classes page for more details)
After I was diagnosed people would ask me what I did for a living, and I would feel shameful to say sorry I don’t work anymore, I’m disabled, I felt like such a burden to society as they would look at me strangely as to how could I be disabled? However now when people ask me I tell them with pride that I’m a disabled artist, one that is always busy, one that now has dreams and goals, one that never thought I would have been able to achieve so much in such a short space of time. But I did, I have and I will continue to do so. I have some big things planned on my bucket list that I want to achieve in the art world and in life.
Never be afraid to put paint to canvas or ink to paper because you just don’t know how far it will take you to fulfil your dreams.