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Art and M.E. – Meet Plymouth Artist Lee Stammers

Lee has lived with M.E. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) for over 20 years and in this article, by Made in Plymouth Community Reporter Dave Cook, he discusses how his art has helped him to cope with this debilitating, unseen condition.

Dave Cook: Hi Lee, how did you start with your art?

Lee Stammers: I did a little bit at Secondary School, as we all did. I was never very good at school; I always felt a bit intimidated. I don’t think we were taught to be free and creative. I did do a GCSE, and got a D grade!

DC: When did you re-discover Art after School?

LS: I took it up again when I was first diagnosed with M.E. in my early 20’s, when I was off work, living back home with my family. Just as something to keep me occupied. I first started with watercolours, all self taught – back then there wasn’t so much internet! A lot of it was trial and error.

DC: Did you use books to learn from?

LS: Yes, I borrowed books from the Library and also on TV I used to watch a show called ‘Watercolour Challenge’ as part of my daily routine to cope with my M.E.

DC: Did you find that doing your art was beneficial in coping with your M.E.?

LS: A bit, it was giving me an outlet. It helped me feel as if I were producing something and gave me a sense of achievement.

DC: I’ve done a little bit of art, but personally found watercolours to be really hard!

LS: I think that because I started with them, I found them easier to use. I didn’t really have the money for loads of materials, so I stuck with doing watercolours

DC: What was the Watercolour Challenge TV programme like?

LS: I just used to draw things from books, from photos. No camera phones back then, it wasn’t as easy as it is now! I did enjoy sitting down and doing the art, whether it was 10 minutes or 1 hour, taking up all of my Mum and Dad’s dining table!

DC: Were you quite young at the time?

LS: not that young, 22 or 23

DC: I’ve known you for over 10 years now, and the first art I saw of yours was in the Pointillist style?

LS: Yes, I still do Pointillism. I don’t really know if I have a style or a genre that I’m fully committed to. I’m still trying to find my path. I still do Pointillism, still do watercolours. I’ve also got a bit more into pen drawing.

DC: I really like your Watercolour self portrait, can you explain a bit more about this picture?

LS: Yes this was done in 2017. I want to do more things as a project about how M.E makes me feel, and about how it makes other people feel. It’s my first ever self-portrait, and it encapsulates a lot of frustration. Pain and anger…I’m pleased with it.

DC: I think it expresses it well…..it’s a powerful picture.

LS: I was experimenting with how I put different marks down. I was wanting to create some different angles, quite harsh lines, but also quite soft on the edges as well. I think sometimes that it may look better using a different medium. Acrylic paints might have given it a bit more vibrancy. I’m happy with it. There’s a lot more that I’d like to do regarding different works but unfortunately my M.E. prevents me from doing this.

DC: Which artists inspire you?

LS: Years ago I used to like the classics, like Da Vinci, the simplification of LS Lowry-it kind of teaches you that there are no rules, it doesn’t have to be life like

DC: I love his matchstick men! Hehe

LS: These days there is so much on Instagram and Pinterest, I like James Jean. I like too many different things. 

(DC looks at one of LS’s pictures} That’s Esher, I like the illusion type thing, I’m intrigued by people who can use their imagination and put it down on paper. I might have it in my mind, but I might struggle to put it down on paper. I’m forced by my brain and M.E. to be more realistic.

DC: I’m looking around this room, and my eyes are drawn to a kind of canine pop art style picture……who’s that?

LS: That’s Buddy! (Romanian Rescue Dog) I think its marker pen and other pens and ink. That’s a print

DC: Behind me there’s more dog art?

LS: That’s a pen drawing of my first dog Diesel.

DC: When I draw I might do a rough outline in pencil then fill it in.

LS: When doing the Pointillism, or dots and pen you can’t take it back, you just have to keep on going

DC: I like that idea, you just do it and don’t worry about any so called mistakes.

LS: That’s my Pointillist style fish, part of my Series in Blue, of pieces I did to publicise M.E. about 5-6 years ago. The global colour for M.E. is Blue. I completed a challenge of doing a little blue sketch everyday for a month. I’ve also dyed my hair blue to raise awareness as well. I did sketches of people’s pets and different images. It was tiring but I tried not to spend too long on each piece. I managed to sell some pieces and it raised some money which was good.

DC: I remember some of your pictures of nautical and marine themes?

LS: Yes that was the year after. I did lots of different marine life, birds and sea life. I sold more of the sea life pictures because obviously not everyone wants a picture of somebody else’s pet dog! If it’s a random subject, puffin or seal and penguins I think sold pretty well. I spent a lot of time going back to the Art Shop to make the necessary prints! It raised quite a bit of money. I’ve been part of an Art exhibition at Leadworks CIC in Plymouth, done by people who have disabilities and hidden health conditions who have taken up art for whatever reason. I have also exhibited my Art at Prime Cafe in Ebrington St, Plymouth for 1 month.

I’ve also painted the murals at Yoga Blend Yoga Studios on Mutley Plain, and some of my art was displayed there too. I’m not fully committed to promoting myself via a website due to the nature of my M.E. illness. I might do an Instagram page soon. I don’t mind doing the odd piece here and there.

DC: Thanks Lee, and finally what are your favourite pictures that you have done?

LS: I do like my self portrait. It was actually selected to go on the TV programme Sky Arts Portrait of the Year, but unfortunately I couldn’t participate due to a bad flare up of my M.E. It was nice to have been judged as being worthy, good enough to go on the programme. I forget what I’ve done now! I like the pointillism portraits I’ve done of famous Artists like Banksy and Salavador Dali. The dot work can take up to 30-40 hours. I’m proud that I’ve done it and completed it. It is meditative to a point, however I don’t really find that I get into a ‘flow’. It can be frustrating and a bit boring.

DC: You’ve also just started some writing too? You are getting into more mixed media? 

LS: Yes, I’ve just started to commit some words to paper, it might be poetry? Expressing myself has helped me, it is cathartic and therapeutic. It might make its way into some of my future Art!

Lee has lived with M.E. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) for over 20 years and in this article, by Made in Plymouth Community Reporter Dave Cook, he discusses how his art has helped him to cope with this debilitating, unseen condition.
Lee has lived with M.E. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) for over 20 years and in this article, by Made in Plymouth Community Reporter Dave Cook, he discusses how his art has helped him to cope with this debilitating, unseen condition.

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