Artwork is helping stroke victim’s recovery

Alan Farndon   Picture by Louise Adams C130457-3
Alan Farndon Picture by Louise Adams C130457-3

ALAN Farndon was sitting at his computer at home, in Oving, when he realised his left hand had stopped working.

“I moved my hand off the computer and it fell,” he recalls now, aged 54, more than two years after it happened in March, 2011.

Elephants at waterhole, by Alan Farndon

Elephants at waterhole, by Alan Farndon

The idea that two years 
later he would be having his artwork exhibited, when he 
had never previously drawn, would have seemed inconceivable at the time.

As his hand dropped off the desk, he realised straight away he had had a stroke, and rang for an ambulance.

“At that stage, I was in the kitchen, and all the doors were closed,” he remembered. “I went to unlock the doors and fell flat on the floor. I realised my left leg had gone as well.”

He was treated at hospitals in Portsmouth and Chichester and following scans it was established his stroke was the result of a cerebral bleed.

Calm Down Dear, by Alan Farndon

Calm Down Dear, by Alan Farndon

After a time, he was transferred to the Donald Wilson Rehabilitation Centre in St Richard’s Hospital, Chichester.

It was at the centre that Alan first picked up a pencil and began to sketch.

“As far as I’m concerned it’s one of the most incredible facilities that’s available in the NHS,” he said of the rehabilitation centre, and especially praised the nurses.

“They’re incredible, in terms of people going into that facility – in many instances not being able to move and coming out able to cope with life.”

While there, he said he was given a couple of pencils ‘just for me to have something to do’.

“I started drawing and I started copying images that I had seen in some of the books I had seen there and then people saw those images and liked those images.”

He added it’s the minute detail of the drawings which he enjoys – which in turn has helped his rehabilitation.

“What art has done is it’s given me a state of mind that says that I’m getting over this.

“The way I draw, everything is in minute detail.

“As a result my mind looks at everything in minute detail which is how it creates the greater picture.

“That’s how I get my body 
to work.

“For example I will move my toe and by moving my toe and thinking ‘I’m moving my toe, I’m moving my toe, I’m moving my toe’, my toe over time will start coming in again.

“If all you say is ‘my leg doesn’t work’, then it won’t work.”

A lot of Alan’s drawings capture aspects of animals’ characteristics, which he said helps bring them to life.

While in the rehabilitation centre, other patients gave him pictures of their pets for him to try to draw to capture their likenesses and unique characteristics.

“It’s a wonderful way to express yourself,” he said. “If you can get the humour into it that’s what I find very good fun. I’m not a good enough artist to be able to do serious portraits of people. I’ve done portraits of people, but I find it much more difficult to capture the essence of a person’s character rather than the essence of an animal’s character.

“I start with an eye and work my way around the face. It can take me up to a month, or it can take me up to a week. In some instances it’s substantially longer.”

Prior to his stroke, Alan had never been especially interested in art. “My background was advertising and marketing. I set up a couple of companies, and I moved into selling mortgages,” he said.

He said he used to doodle, but it’s only in the past two years that sketching has become a much more major part of his life. His two children, James and Sarah Jayne, who are both in their 20s, and his wife Dawn have all supported him.

He said Dawn had ‘provided incredible support’.

“If you imagine having a situation where one day, within a millisecond, your husband turns from someone who is basically a normal human being into someone you have to care for 24 hours a day, and to still have the sort of fun-loving nature she still has is quite unbelievable,” he said.

His art was recently exhibited in Chichester, as part of the nationwide Brush Stroke Exhibition, staged by the Stroke Association, which visited the library around Easter.