My art has kept me going
artist Arthur Ellis talks to John Bird
When you are a talented artist with a diploma in art and design but then contact meningitis and become totally blind, what do you do? Give up, withdraw into yourself and feel “why has this happened to me”!! Well that’s not what 67 year old Arthur Ellis of Bedford Road, Southborough, Tunbridge Wells did. Instead he taught himself ways of continuing to produce and exhibit his art, and this summer is taking part in South East Open Studios.
Arthur combined his job in the print finishing business with that of being a successful portrait and landscape artist although his real love was surreal painting. Then seven years ago he was struck down with bacterial meningitis. As well as going blind he also became partially deaf and suffered a loss of balance. He spent nine and a half months in hospital and suffered from frightening hallucinations, many of which still haunt him to this day. He couldn’t however accept that his sight would be gone forever and decided he was going to make the most of what was left of his life. He simply refused to feel sorry for himself, saying “Sod it I intend to have a go at everything”, and that – with the help of his sons, brother and two “wonderful” carers is exactly what he has done.
He found a way of continuing his artwork by using blu-tack and elastic bands together with plates and cups to keep track of where he is working on the art paper and gives himself boundaries and a point of reference. He found with brushes he couldn’t do this. So now he mainly uses coloured pens which means he can keep contact with the paper at all times.
“My art has kept me going. I keep trying to express in my work what I think I can see” says Arthur. He attributes art, plus a new found love of playing the saxophone, to helping him maintain his sanity. He is determined to keep these interests going at all costs. Although his work is now completely surreal, springing from images he can see in his mind, mainly due to a condition known as Charles Bonnet Syndrome. When you look at his work you can almost visualise what he is seeing, particularly in one of his pictures, aptly entitled ‘Dancers’.
His brother has built him a studio in his back garden and it’s here that on certain selected days between June 7th and June 23rd as part of the South East Open Studios event he will be showing his work and demonstrating his techniques to members of the public who care to visit. You can also see examples of his work in the Wells Kitchen Pub and Restaurant in Tunbridge Wells and the Toad Rock Retreat in Rusthall. And by the way if you see Arthur in there he enjoys a pint of real ale.
To find Arthur during South East Open Studios, or for more information about the event visit www.seos-art.org