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My artwork: Sandra E Ball

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My artwork: Sandra E Ball

My artwork: Sandra E Ball

My art makes me focus on the better things in life

Can you outline some of the creative works you’ve taken up following your brain injury?

Since having a rare form of brain tumour removed in May 2011 I found I needed some cognitive therapy as part of the rehabilitation process. Invited by my friend and neighbour, late 2012, the local art group was the answer, so armed with postcard size paper and a little box of watercolour paints the art journey began.

An experienced member asked when I would use larger paper, so eventually, I progressed onto larger paper and tried, pastels, acrylics, and a few oil paintings, in that order, before returning to concentrate on watercolours the last few years. Whilst with this art group I was invited to drawing lessons fortnightly, with a couple of retired art teachers who loved to give homework and forbade the use of erasers!

Attending the hospital, one day, for vestibular balance exercises I saw a poster advertising ‘Art for Health’ run by the local council. It was here that I was introduced to another drawing class, also ceramics, various forms of printing, book binding, and 3D collages, plus painting with ink – basically having lots of fun being inspired and enjoying the company of others in the small groups. Sadly, funding for the group dried up and it was closed. I miss seeing all those people who took part.

I have always been a gardener, so I took online classes in botanical art until realising that I want to be able to keep a variety of techniques including more loose work, rather than just illustrative. I find these days, although there are lots of online courses, I much prefer when I am able to do my own work from my own ideas. 

'Under wraps' self-portrait by Sandra E Ball
Spring promise watercolour by Sandra E Ball

I also tried out senior mystery coach trips which provided lots of resources for inspiration by the huge amount of photos taken in each place visited. I also tried to be able to do drawing/painting from life by annual subscription to my local zoo, again taking lots of photographs.

I would love to master portraiture, however, getting someone to paint from life is not easy. I should add that I love to read reference/factual books and have devoured many art books in this whole process. I now belong to another art group which have introduced me to other artists and a few workshops/demos have been enjoyed.

How do these reflect your life after brain injury?

Without the art therapy, gardening, photography and I should add, painting and decorating that has always been a huge part of my life, life for me would be very sad. I have always loved variety and my Saviour Jesus has blessed me with being able to not only pursue these, despite hidden disabilities, He has given opportunities, divine connections and the very best medical care. Initially, after surgery, I was told that I would not be able to decorate, go up step ladders etc by a very negative thinking relative… that made me more determined and I did indeed finish painting and decorating the hall and staircase of our home shortly after surgery.

So for me life after surgery, though painfully difficult at times and certainly a challenge, has been very sweet in that what I wasn’t able to do with artistic painting before surgery, I discovered afterwards, that I could. 

I gave the surgeons each a portrait, asking the neurosurgeon had he done something to the creative juices when he performed surgery, to which he replied, no, but we’ll take the credit for that!

It’s an exciting life, each day different, and even competitions have been open to me, although they always make me nervous! My art makes me focus on the better things in life and some former treasured memories when I use my own photos for inspiration.

How does your creative work help you?

The creativity I do helps by taking me into a relaxing zone (usually listening to Radio 4 or Classic FM at the same time), switching me off from distractions of the world’s problems. I like the challenge of learning and progressing. Basically, it keeps me happy knowing that I am leaving some kind of legacy behind for our two sons and grandchild.

It has also introduced me to other very special artists and art lovers, some of whom I’ve been privileged to meet in person, through having the art page on social media and being a part of the bigger picture of the art world. The garden is a joy to behold and enjoy – pure bliss! I should add that doing creative things makes me much more appreciative of the world around me as I observe and see things differently now.

If you could give one bit of advice to others affected by brain injury, what would it be?

Keep the faith, look up, be kind and patient with yourself, stay positive, and make sure a good night’s rest is routine. (Apologies, that’s five!) 

All important to me, the top one being sleep as that is when our bodies heal.

You can see more of Sandra's artwork at


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