Arts + Entertainment

Kent Artist Profile: Peter Rushton

FORCED TO GIVE UP A HIGH-FLYING CAREER AFTER HAVING A STROKE, BIRCHINGTON-BASED ARTIST PETER RUSHTON, WHO HAS USED HIS LOVE OF ART TO HELP REBUILD HIS LIFE, PREPARES FOR HIS FIRST EXHIBITION OF HIS POST-STOKE COLLECTION.

You have been on quite a journey to get to this exhibition, what happened?

I was working as head of corporate communications at a major bank in Bahrain in the Middle East and whilst playing with my son Digby, then aged 11, I was bitten by an insect. I suffered an allergic reaction and was given an adrenaline shot to treat it, even though doctors knew I had high blood pressure.That night I suffered a stroke in my sleep. But neither my wife Julia nor I realised until the morning, when our son came in to see how I was he noticed that my face was drooping and I couldn’t speak, move my right arm or walk – I’d had an ischaemic stroke – caused by a blood clot – on my left side of the brain affecting my speech, my right hand and arm was paralysed and my right leg was weak.

How has art had an impact on your recovery?

I was devastated by a number of things, the first being that my young son was the one who discovered that I’d had a stroke. The second was that I was head of corporate communications at a bank and suddenly overnight I couldn’t even communicate my own name. And the third was that I was an artist and I couldn’t even pick up a paint brush, let alone paint. It absolutely rocked our world.

But art became my therapy. 

I have been an artist for almost 40 years, with my main medium being oil and acrylics on canvas and painting with my right hand. After my stroke, my right hand was paralysed and I still have difficulty in holding a brush as I used to. My creative side of the brain, however, was intact so initially I started to paint with my left hand after my stroke, whilst I was working on my painting again with my right hand; through physio, determination, persistence, and a lot of pain – both mentally and physically. 

I was determined to get back to painting with my right hand as soon as possible and over the months and years following my stroke I have, to a degree.  

Describe your art?

I went to art school were I studied illustration and air brush which is a very tight and precise style of painting – almost photographic. Over the years I have explored a more contemporary approach to capture my subjects that can vary from lifestyle to inspirational. Therefore my artistic talents and subjects are incredibly broad. 

I find painting very therapeutic, unfortunately it’s a constant reminder to where my talent used to be and where I am now – pre and post stroke. Whilst this can be frustrating, it is an outlet that allows me to communicate how I feel.

What’s next on your artistic journey?

I’m delighted to be exhibiting at the Lombard Street Gallery in Margate this month, where both pre and post stroke works will be on display. I’ve held exhibitions and sold a number of paintings plus had commissions. My ambition now is to have a major art exhibition in London, showing that there is life after stroke and if you set your mind to it you can achieve anything.

Where can we see your work?

My collection will be exhibited at the Lombard Street Gallery, Margate 3-8 January 2020 and you can see more on instagram @peter.rushton.artist 

For more information about stroke and the support services for survivors and carers in Kent visit www.stroke.org.uk or call the Stroke Helpline on 0303 3033 100.

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