Moving to Wanstead four years ago was a creative turning point for Art Group Wanstead Member Leila Skye, who takes inspiration from local scenes
I was born in Forest Gate 72 years ago. I come from a creative background and very much lived under the shadow of my father’s artistic family. My Uncle Maurice was an artist in Whitechapel in the 1930s. His sketches appeared in the Evening Standard and his paintings are in the Cardiff Museum, highlighting the miners’ plight during the war years. His commercial work also appeared in the comics Eagle, Bunty and Judy in the 1950s and 1960s.
My life as a young artist, from the age of nine, was disrupted many times due to my parents’ own restless lifestyle, until the age of 16. I had been to eight different schools by the age of 15, with undiagnosed dyslexia.
At 17, I followed in my uncle’s footsteps and enrolled in evening classes at St Martin’s School of Art. My charcoal life drawings were very well received. But life took over and in those days I had to work. I feel I never found my voice educationally until 1994 when I was in my late 40s and gained a BA Hons in social and developmental psychology with the help of a scribe. After bringing up my daughter, I returned to work, but encountered mobility issues by the time I was in my late 50s.
I dipped in and out of the art world, but never found my way creatively until 2017, when I moved to Wanstead. My life, I guess, was character building.
Since living in Wanstead, I have revisited my interest in art. During lockdown, I enrolled in mixed media painting online courses and that kept me busy whilst still learning. I’m also on the patient panel at Whipps Cross Hospital, my way of giving something back over the last 14 years because of what I gained in mobility through numerous spinal surgeries and hip replacements there.
Lockdown had a silver lining for me. I have since found my creative voice and a distraction from my chronic pain conditions. It’s been – and still is – a marvellous therapy. I’ve undertaken virtual courses and workshops to develop that voice. Despite my life’s challenges, I love experimenting with painting.
Much of my art is of the High Street or other local areas. I’m developing a body of work in expressive and intuitive mark-making as a way to respond to my surroundings. The local community may see me around on Tarzy Wood or in Wanstead Park, sketching.
I sold four paintings in two weeks when Lillies of Wanstead kindly allowed me to use their window to display my work during the last art trail. The experience gave me the confidence to continue well into lockdown. I also enjoy designing greetings cards for family and friends.
I’m now a grandmother as well as a mother, and am pleased to say both generations have a stable lifestyle, unlike mine. But since moving to Wanstead, I’ve never been so happy. I’m coming out of the shadows. And sometimes, that takes a lifetime. And now?… I’m staying in one place.