Jo began painting as part of art therapy in rehab following a series of CVST’s (a very rare form of strokes) at 34, to help regain some use of her affected arm. She blogs her art along with her recovery very honestly under Stroke of a Brush, she sells her artwork to help raise awareness and the funds made are donated to CHANCES which Jo set up. CHANCES has a support group purely for younger and working age survivors, awareness events and, Jo directly supports other younger and working age survivors more, in various ways by rehab support, including packs for survivors to try therapies like art and craft therapy and more that not only have a physical benefit but great benefits from a wellbeing perspective. Jo has now been painting since September 2017, is self-taught and began exhibiting her work in 2019 as part of Bicester Artweeks. Jo now has establishments in Oxfordshire who request to display her work to help raise awareness and fundraise for CHANCES.
Jo paints mainly in acrylics but also watercolours and oils and produces seascapes, landscapes, skies, pet portraits and abstract works. Jo selects her colour pallets depending on her mood and paints how she feels and memories come back from before her CVST’s and she paints from the pictures in her head.
Since being introduced to art therapy in her stroke rehabilitation in hospital, Jo finds she zones out and switches off from anything around her and just gets lost in colour and then zones back in and there is a picture. Since her CVST’s Jo doesn’t see depth and has some visual issues but colour she sees incredibly vividly, and she uses this to her advantage to build paintings. It’s how Jo sees the world now, initially it was overwhelming for her and felt a curse but now she has adjusted it is a wonderful blessing that Jo feels she can use to do good, help raise awareness, help drive change and support other younger and working age survivors by giving them hope and support on their recovery journeys.
Jo used to draw, and could never paint, she attempted it several times and following her CVST’s she can no longer draw with a pencil but can paint and sees this as the positive to come out of her CVST’s. Sometimes life can deal you cruel and unexpected cards, but your attitude and how you adapt to them can turn this into a positive to focus on.
Art therapy saved Jo from a very difficult transition, and people now look at Jo and don’t immediately think she is a CVST survivor. Jo was in a wheelchair, her arm didn’t work and she began painting using her unaffected arm, and when she could hold a pen she painted but holding the brush in her left hand and using her unaffected arm to guide her and do the work, and now Jo paints with her affected arm only. Jo doesn’t ever want sympathy, but does want to help drive change. She is incredibly driven to get back all she lost and help others work to the same goals. The name Stroke of a Brush came about when Jo was trying to think of a blog name from her hospital bed and tried to say brush stroke and her aphasia kept making her say it stroke brush and after this going on for hours, Jo thought why not use that, maybe it is meant to be like that. Maybe some things do happen for a reason and we should learn to embrace them, this is exactly Jo’s approach to her art.