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The fine art of recovery: Andy’s story


Melancholy pressured Andy out of the educating profession he’d loved for years. Then a problem from a pal revealed a hidden expertise – and opened a door to a brand new life

After seven psychological breakdowns in 16 years, what have I discovered? That the lows will be crushing; however that there’s additionally a tremendous skill to maintain going, to seek for one thing brighter. There’s been an enormous change of profession alongside the way in which, as properly. That is my story about hope, how necessary it’s to maintain speaking, and the way artwork rescued my life.

Once I began a images weblog in January 2011, I had no concept concerning the journey I used to be beginning. How only some years later, it might change into an enormous a part of my life and my ongoing psychological well being journey.

As a society, we’re getting higher at talking about mental health. And the humorous factor is that once you begin speaking, not solely do you make your self extra open and susceptible, however you make others round you open up and perceive that it’s OK to be susceptible, too. It’s a protected house.

I’ve had highs and lows in my psychological well being for years. I used to be a geography instructor for many years and spent hours drawing locations like Previous Harry Rocks and the Dorset Jurassic Coast to clarify erosion or rock strata. I now dwell on that very same coast and as a substitute of drawing rock strata, I draw for my new profession – as an artist with my very own gallery in Swanage.

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Throughout my time educating, I all the time discovered that as a result of I used to be open about psychological well being, my college students would come to speak to me. I all the time did what I may, and campaigned to get assist for college students. It’s necessary that individuals really feel believed and supported as soon as they’ve been courageous sufficient to talk up.

In November 2013, after one other section of melancholy, I used to be signed off work. I questioned if I’d ever return to the classroom, and what I’d do subsequent. I used to be on remedy and tried a web-based ‘Beating the Blues’ cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) course. I assumed: OK, remedy and meds, what else can I do? I went strolling, biking, and kayaking.

I felt like a hexagonal peg in a spherical gap and, regardless of my finest efforts, on the finish of September 2015 I used to be on the lowest I had been in a really very long time. I had all the time come out of occasions like this earlier than, however in that second, I used to be completely misplaced.

That October, I used to be signed off work and reviewed my remedy with my GP. I saved telling myself I might come out of it – I simply didn’t know when. However in that darkness, there was a bit of sunshine; a instructor pal set me an artwork problem, and I did my very own distinctive interpretation of ‘Balinese Woman’ by Vladimir Tretchikoff.

I despatched it off and eagerly awaited suggestions – which was supportive. I’ve all the time liked utilizing marker pens to attract, however I used to be delay artwork in school. However the reality is that artwork is for everybody, it’s not about being the most effective, it’s about having enjoyable and having fun with that second.

In Might 2016 I had an interview for a educating job in Dorset, and ended up transferring to the county. Sadly, six months later, after one other interval of melancholy, I did what I had thought unthinkable – I left educating.

I left in tears and drove and drove, feeling like I couldn’t go dwelling to these I liked as I believed I had failed them. My temper was lurching like a subterranean rollercoaster, often surfacing briefly earlier than plunging again into one other darkish, dank tunnel. I did, nevertheless, handle to get out to discover the shoreline, taking images and doing sketches.

It took time to grieve for the profession I’d spent 30 of my 52 years working in, however ultimately, on 31 January, 2017, I began my artwork weblog. I by no means considered myself as an artist, it was simply one thing I liked to do. However I grew to become engrossed, and accomplished a number of artworks a day. I may focus, and the racing ideas simply left for a bit.

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I drew a sketch of the seashore huts at Swanage and went to the native Vacationer Data Centre – they didn’t have something like them, so I instructed they stocked them. To my nice shock, they liked the concept. From there, I began doing completely different artworks based mostly across the space.

I signed as much as present some work at Purbeck Arts Week, and created as a lot as I may to fill the house. I even did an artwork set up the place I drew on boilersuits – the youngsters thought it was nice enjoyable!

Having constructed up my work on-line and thru my weblog, I took the plunge in November 2019 and, along with one other artist, opened The Courtyard Studio within the coronary heart of Swanage. I’m keen about encouraging folks to attempt artwork, particularly those that have been delay earlier than – you simply must have enjoyable!

Individuals suppose I’m an extrovert, with my loud boiler fits and hats, however I’m really fairly shy. When my depression is dangerous, I actually conceal. I’ll curl up beneath a quilt and I received’t depart the room. I withdraw into myself.

I’m now an expert artist, however that’s to not say that daily is simple. The final yr, with Covid-19 and the lockdowns, has introduced its personal distinctive set of challenges. However I do know now that if I can get out and stroll alongside the gorgeous Jurassic Coast, I’ll really feel higher.

January marked the fourth anniversary of my enterprise, and what a journey it has been. From not feeling like ‘an actual artist’, to opening my very own gallery, I really feel proud of what I’ve created. Drawing actually has rescued my life.

I can lose hours in my drawing; I’m so centered I not often discover folks watching. I now dwell a stone’s throw from the ocean, and life is nice. It’s up, it’s down, but it surely’s all the time a wealthy tapestry.

I’d prefer to say to anybody who’s going via this, please preserve speaking. Discover somebody you’re comfy with to speak to, somebody you belief. Attempt to be open to completely different remedy choices. I’ve been on remedy for 20 years, discovered CBT, and discover exercise actually helps. If it’s your factor, search for a assist group. Maintain an eye fixed out in your pals, particularly in the event that they go quiet – they’re typically those that want essentially the most assist. Be sort to your self. Keep in mind that to assist others, it’s a must to be in place your self.

Discover my web site at andyknillart.com, and I’ll hopefully make you smile. And if you happen to’re ever in Swanage, please pop by and say hi there!


Rachel Coffey | BA MA NLP Mstr says:

Andy’s coronary heart warming story reveals us that we’re all distinctive in our expertise and skills. In exploring his creativity, not solely did he assist his psychological well being, but additionally discovered a brand new profession.

It may be straightforward to attempt to make ourselves keep on with one thing that we’ve already put quite a lot of effort and time into, even when it now not fits us. There’s a concern of failure connected to ‘giving up’. As an alternative, give it some thought as transferring ahead. It takes bravery to make step one, the reward is freedom and true alternative.


To attach with a counsellor to debate methods to handle depressive episodes or emotions of failure, go to counselling-directory.org.uk



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