Having been covert about her stammer for 45 years, Wendy Ronaldson was known to some as 'the listener'. But through art she discovered her voice.
I have been a covert stammerer for 45 years and I am known to some as ‘the listener’. My journey became a creative one through frustration at not being able to have a voice. My hands became my voice, not just through a paintbrush but anything I could get hold of.
I joined a local art group and began painting. I soon found that mark-making could be very expressive and I began experimenting with colour and form. My work progressed into beautiful flora work: very detailed and realistic, although the imagery had different meanings. For me it is also about the line, curvaceous and free flowing.
I went to the group religiously for around a year but felt unable to mingle with the other group members as that meant talking and possibly stammering. Even though I enjoyed the painting, part of me was frustrated because I still found it difficult to communicate. So I stopped going and worked from home.
I sat down at the table and thought about what I honestly wanted to paint. I pulled out a brush and began painting. This time no flowers appeared on the canvas but instead letters, repeated until the whole canvas was covered. I sat down and sighed. I picked up another canvas and painted tiny figures, almost trying to hide them among the paint. I felt ashamed at what I had painted —
not because they weren’t picture plane correct, but because I had ‘surfaced’, so I hid them.
I began painting the garden shed. It transformed into something unusual, a representation of my ongoing frustrations — a bulging shed, not packed with rubbish but with words.
I love painting. One day I was sat on an old stone bench admiring all the beauty in the garden. I had taken out with me a pencil and sketchbook. I picked them up and began drawing — not the flowers, but the garden shed. This shed transformed into something unusual, a representation of my ongoing frustrations — a bulging shed, not packed with rubbish but with words. I continued along the same thread, words jumbled up and contained within a space, on a space.
I was covertly satisfied with my work but I still didn’t have a voice. “I need to go to speech therapy,” I thought. “Me? No, never.”
My speech and language therapist Christine was very patient with me. I just used to sit there and say nothing. This went on for quite a while and I used to go home and say to my husband Neil, “I have been to speech therapy today and I just sat there. I feel like I wasted her time.” Of course I hadn’t wasted her time so if anyone is thinking of going to speech therapy, don’t worry and just go.
It wasn’t a quick fix but it changed my life. I was able to confront my issues and get to know me and who I really am. It sounds strange when I say that but I have been in denial for a long time because I didn’t feel able to confront my own issues.
I was able to confront my issues and get to know me and who I really am.
Speech therapy gave me confidence and I felt I was able to explore it further within my artwork. This exploration took me to university and I can now proudly say I have just completed a Fine Art degree and I loved every minute of it. It had its challenges but that’s good as it took me out of my comfort zone. I have met some lovely people along the way and they are very understanding about me and my stammer.
My work is always related to communication, either from my life experiences, chance meetings or fleeting conversations with friends, family or the general public. For me it has been a long journey which is still ongoing. I am still working on being overt but I now feel I have a voice and can be ME.
To celebrate International Stammering Awareness Day, you can see Wendy's art on display at her exhibition 'Balancing Body & Mind' at the Sam Scorer gallery in Lincoln until Sunday 27th October. Find more details here.
See more of Wendy's artwork on her website: http://wendysart.co.uk/