Posted by: writingwitch2013 | March 28, 2013

In praise of Kate Bentley (artist)

Inspiring artist and tutor, Kate Bentley

Inspiring artist and tutor , Kate Bentley

I am writing my blog today on a cloud of euphoria and adrenalin.

First attempt

First attempt

Some moments in life can knock you off course, but you can manage to get back to where you were. Other moments can change your path forever.

Life was going well until breast cancer in 2007. I lost a job I loved because I was only freelance and when I asked for time off for the op and chemo , there were others ready to step into my place.

As if  having a chunk of  lump taken out of my breast followed by chemo and radiotherapy wasn’t enough, the medication,( tamoxifen) robbed me of even more good health. The resulting migraines, depression, blurry eyes, joint pain,  to name a few side effects all leading to arthritis, difficulty seeing fine work and trouble concentrating , left me without work ( or benefits… The danger of paying minimum NI ) reliant on my husband for pocket money and getting more and more ‘down’ as every job application was either rejected or ignored. After two years of fruitless job hunting I said ENOUGH ! I gave up sitting in front of the computer for hours each day, job hunting. Instead I sat at the computer or in my bedroom, kitchen, lounge writing. I had always wanted to write novels. Now I had time to write and I was determined to use it.

I love writing, I have a fabulous support group (hi guys!) and although I am nowhere near that end novel, I am getting there and I am determined to succeed in being published.


I miss the colours and textures of textiles and creating and starting a project wondering what the finished article will look like. I can’t sew as I did anymore, and along with saying ENOUGH I spent two years selling all my yarn, fabric, books etc on eBay. It paid for two short holidays in Bruges and Rome for myself and Hubby, so I got something out of it…. Though nowhere near what the items were worth, and made a substantial loss on what I ‘d paid for them. But they were out of sight and not lying around taunting me. Despite filling my spare time that ‘C’ gave me, on writing, walking and gardening, I still felt a creative ‘loss’.

I decided to take up art, or as near to art as I was able. I always considered myself a 7yr olds level in drawing and painting, and a 20 week course in my early forties raised me to the level of a nine year old. But lack of practice and the jolt to the confidence that cancer gives you , had knocked me back a level or two.

I bought the materials and went on a few half day courses, but wasn’t really inspired. The work felt insipid. To be honest this was the reason for my giving up in my forties. I hadn’t found a tutor to build my creative building blocks in a way were I could experiment and lean towards my own style without falling down.

This week I found just that tutor.

I spotted her advert in Leisure Painter mag.  I don’t normally buy the mag but I was feeling indulgent having just been diagnosed by the consultant at the hospital with Fibromyalgia.  To someone as active as myself with active and cognitive hobbies this was bad news, besides the pain there are accompanying symptoms of  brain fog and fatigue. So once home I flicked through the mag whilst drinking a cuppa. I am a great believer in things happening for a reason. I was meant to buy the mag. I was meant to build up a new hobby to help me de-stress ( stress worsens Fibro.). The mag advertised a two day watercolour course in the Lake District, it wasn’t priced beyond my means as most of the ads in the mag were, and after emailing the artist I had a place on her course just two weeks later.

I love the Lake District but the snow that followed that booking was a threat to my being able to reach Silverdale. Luckily it melted near us and Silverdale didn’t have any when I got there.

I was introduced to my fellow students then the artist actually asked us all where we were up to art wise and what we wanted to accomplish, what type off style we hoped to achieve and what did we want to get out of of the workshop.  It was the first time on an art course I had been asked that question, and as an x textile artist and tutor I know how important it is not to force your style on to others. Freedom of expression is the main backbone of creativity. Some people like to do tight detailed work, others prefer a looser or even vague style. I had looked on Kate’s website before I booked to check out her style of art. I liked what I saw.  I had done this with previous tutors in the past, or looked at their exhibition work before booking a workshop, but in the past the work done in class had always disappointed me. It had been very basic, small scale, structured, do as I do… With no information on tools or paints other than ‘this is what I use’.

Kate started by explaining the properties of paint in enough detail to allow us to understand what we were using and help us in our choice of materials. Same with the paper, the brushes and any other painterly accessories we might need. I learnt more in that first morning than I had in all of my other workshop/art courses combined.

Second attempt at a poppy, still large scale.

Second attempt at a poppy, still large scale.

She demonstrated several pieces , kept us in cups of tea and coffee, made the whole atmosphere relaxed and enjoyable. Along with plenty of advice, hints, tips and little extras It was the best two days , the time and energy she spent on us was given generously, and I have come away from the experience more confident in following my own style.

The two days passed far too quickly. I came away copious notes, a few practise samples three pieces of ‘art’ on a larger scale than I would have dared to paint before, and a start on another to be finished at home… I may not be an artist, I may never produce an exhibition or sell my work … But more importantly I was inspired. I came home all fired up to keep painting … And enjoy it.

A new hobby was born this week.

I have to say a huge thank you to Kate Bentley.


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