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"I rediscovered that childlike delight in just making art for the sake of it."

Jo Clarke, a 62-year old grandmother, has many challenges in her day-to-day life. She has caring responsibilities for her mother, who has dementia, and has a number of chronic health issues to cope with. But when she started the course Introduction to Mixed Media Sketchbooks at Westbury Arts Centre, she found it ignited a reconnection with her early love of creating. “I had a kind of epiphany and rediscovered that childlike delight in just making art for the sake of it.”

On leaving school Jo started studying at art college but changed direction to take a degree in education , which was followed by a successful career in that field.

Since stopping work about 20 years ago because of her poor health, Jo has been volunteering and trying to rekindle her journey as an artist.

Jo moved to Milton Keynes to be nearer her family three years ago. When things started opening up after the Pandemic she attended some life drawing classes: “They really woke up my inner artist and started to give me an identity outside of being Grandma. I decided to start a drawing group of my own and we meet up regularly and work on projects together.”

She heard from a member of her drawing group about Westbury Arts Centre and decided to challenge herself by signing up for the Introduction to Mixed Media Sketchbooks course with tutor, Hillary Grayson.

“Going to the Westbury Arts Centre for the first time on a summer evening was a real treat.” Jo says. “The house has a lovely atmosphere and feels steeped in history. The tutor, Hillary, had set up the room with lots of different materials to try and provided us each with a concertina sketchbook. We could not wait to get started. “

Jo’s usual approach to a creative project had been to go straight to the finished piece, rather than first developing ideas, so the idea of first creating a sketchbook was outside her comfort zone. Her recent diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) had provided some explanation to her of her own behaviour.

“Something about the format of the sketchbook and Hillary’s enthusiasm and encouragement allowed me to let go and just experiment. Now, I can spend hours just bei

ng creative, rather than worrying about what I’m producing. So, whether you’re a complete beginner or an artist struggling with your practice I’d highly recommend trying something new at Westbury. I’m really glad I did” Jo concludes.

[Photo: Jo Clarke with her sketchbook]

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