Press Day Speech

“It struck me the other day when I went up to my studio to clean my palette and wash my brushes that it felt pretty spacious!! So while it’s good to have my studio back it’s also left a bit of a hole now you have all left but the paintings are now in a great home and that’s why we are here today.

I worked out that I first painted Garth Banks back in 2013 whilst my husband was on tour in Afghanistan- six years ago!! I had no idea it had been that long.

The inspiration for WARpaint started when I was commissioned to paint Dougie Dalzell posthumously by the Coldstream Guards. It was my first experience of the wider service family and particularly the impact that conflict has on service personnel and their families but also the inspiration that can come from the most surprising places.

I wanted to create the same impact somehow and enjoyed telling a story on a personal level with my work.

I then met my husband who introduced me to Coops who ended up being the sitter for the first full length painting for the project. We had some good laughs back then – Coops looked at the lunch I had made him between sittings that day and said ‘What on earth is that?!’ I replaced asparagus with spaghetti Bolognese after that!! Shortly after followed an introduction to Andrew Jelinek. Andrew was rather perplexed and disappointed at first as to why I wanted to paint him sitting on a bus – not the heroic uniform and medals painting he had always envisaged! But once he saw that I was conveying his journey since leaving the Army and bringing light to his achievements today he loved the idea.

After some more visits from the sitters I decided to adapt the house and make it more user friendly – we installed a hand rail up the steep steps to the studio and I did other sittings like the one of Jack and Mary Perry at their home or even photographed them instead.

Jack was a special friend of mine and I would visit as often as I could to sit and have tea and soak up all of his phenomenal stories and watch with such warmth at them as a couple and how far they had come. I was welcomed in like part of the family and I am forever sad that Jack passed as I was packing up the paintings at the end of a posting in Naples. I had so been looking forward to introducing him to my 2 week old baby. Jack invited me on days out he’d organised for the Guinea Pig Club to the Poppy Factory or to The East Grinstead Museum where we learnt more about McIndoe (who was the pinoneering surgeon that worked on his burns injuries) and I took more photos and studied his face and hands.

With Martyn and Mark we had such fun too. Talking about their journeys but wow mostly about what they were achieving at that time with ‘Kartforce’ – they had just got Coldplay to sponsor them and they were off racing all the time. I later found out that DDMT support Kartforce as well.

Andy – you then joined for that spag bog lunch I remember! And you certainly needed the protein with all the live boxing moves I made you do!

Somewhere in the mix I think I got roped into skydiving or it was an opportunity to tick off something that was never even on my bucket list! Yes, Al, he said “well you cant bring your paints into the sky but the next best thing is to see it right?!” Anyone who knows me well knows I am prone to fainting….. but it was certainly a first mid air!

Johnson and I had some memorable times together too. We laughed so much in the sitting every photo I have of us is blurred. He drove ME to an art exhibition I was showing at in Salisbury and we had a lovely meal with his brother and my in laws. Looking back it was such a treat having all that time together with someone who is now torn in so many different directions with his duties.

When I met Cathy she was in the darkest place of anyone I know and was really struggling. We kept it simple, (but kind of large canvas wise, ) and will always call that painting ‘coming out of the darkness’. It is really brave to open up like you did Cathy and I am so proud of all the endless achievements you are accumulating today.

I don’t think James Hanbury and I will ever forget the time I was painting David Wiseman up in the studio and I said to James “let’s have a quick cup to tea  while I finish painting David” you got such a shock to see a half dressed man in speedos standing there! David had won so many medals we wouldn’t see any flesh if he wore them all! Your book is a pretty good read too!

Mac lives at Stoll just around the corner from me and is an active member of the Stoll community and taking on new initiatives to move it forward. It has been brilliant seeing how the funds WARpaint has raised is directly helping.

Bob sadly can’t be with us today as he recently had a stroke. He suffered PTSD for many many years following his time in a Japanese Prisoner of war camp.  whilst Bob often wishes the treatment for PTSD was available back then, he is grateful that the treatment he has received has meant that he can be happy living out the rest of his days in Brighton. I hope we get to have Fish and Chips again together by the sea.

Mark Ormrod is such a busy man I took photographs for the painting in the parking lot of a hotel somewhere in South London! Ever since I listened to your podcast on how you set goals for yourself each day at 5:30am and every New Year you plan out your year I have taken that on board too. Maybe not with the same times slots but thank you. The way you balance family life on top of the immense work load you have is simply incredible.

With Hari I remember hunting down a furry hooded jacket similar to the ones you’d be wearing climbing Mount Everest and wearing it in the summer in the studio wasn’t comfortable. You have reliance and kindness and I really enjoyed hearing of your many adventures.

Lee Waters has continued on and built a fulfilling life for yourself with your partner while still using Kayaking as a form of helping your PTSD but also others through the Royal Marines Charity. Thank you for lugging your paddle into London so we could use it in the sitting!

Simon Brown, you are constantly giving and being thoughtful towards others. You thrive being part of a team and are having such fun playing Rugby it is just amazing to me you’re doing that with such a destructive head and face injury.

Simon Harmer – you are so caring and determined to help others. You Set up Blown away which is a motivational speaking business when had a young baby and now have three children.

Mark Harding, you have been an inspiration to me in the way that you’ve faced your fears with public speaking.

Swifty, I remember first meeting you after watching the “Two world of Charlie F” play I saw a crowd of people I wondered what was going on and it was you in the middle in your stubbies holding court. You have been a mentor to others and have an infectious spirit.

The sketch of Jaco van Gass and Martyn Compton sold to the National Army Museum after being exhibited at the Armed Forces Art Society.

I wanted to paint everyone I met that was suitable for the project and help in some small way. I am overwhelmed by everything the sitters have been doing since I painted them. Everyone is moving forward. Many can’t be here today and that is because of the full, active and positive lives you are all leading.

Many many times I watched a lot of the sitters inspire others with their stories at various events and they kindly, sometimes very last minute spoke at ours too. That was a huge help in attracting corporates to lease the paintings so thank you for your time and efforts there.

Because the sitters were based all over the country and I didn’t want to interrupt their thriving busy lives I had minimal opportunities to paint the sitters from life as I usually would with my commissioned work. I have fond memories of using the NATO van in Naples where we were posted for 2.5 years, using Mail Boxes in the mafia ridden suburbs or rolling them up (trying to avoid cat hair permanently attaching itself in the process) in the attempt to save money sticking them on BA extra luggage in pipe tubes! A massive thank you to my husband James for helping me through these times and giving me the will to continue through many mental challenges!

I found out I was Pregnant a week before meeting Prince Harry kindly organised by WWTW

I later went  in to labour ten days early while in the middle of painting one of the sketches.

I am hugely grateful for Teresa and the staff at Stanford Hall hanging the portraits here. Someone recently told me it looks like they were commissioned for the space. I have a small idea on how hard they have worked to get Stanford Hall up and running and I hope arrival of the portraits have been a positive part of the process.

I’d like to take a moment to thank my committee. With out them none of this would have been possible. They have put in huge amounts of their own personal time with our many meetings and investor events. They have connected us with corporates all over the country that have leased the large paintings in return for a donation. This was far from easy but we had some significant donations and companies were very pleased to actually receive something in return for their charity donation. It was also a way of having the WARpaint paintings viewed by some of the general public.

Generous donations from Annington and Artemis to fund our expenses was crucial to WARpaint being able to pay for transporting the paintings to and from the offices.

We felt the paintings deserved to be framed even if cheaply and simply to look more professional and also help to protect them. We couldn’t have done this without Ian Schneider

So what have we achieved?

There were certainly times when I found the project challenging and I’m very grateful for your belief and enthusiasm in the project.

It has certainly changed my life working on this and proven the value of focusing on others and not just ourselves. I’ve made life long friends and have a new perspective on daily life by finding good in everything and being grateful for it and I hope many of you have experienced that too.

We have raised over £80k for our four main charities -DDMT, WWTW, Stoll and Combatting Stress.

Even if we hadn’t raised any money just having the paintings here have been the most important thing in my mind.

In a place where they are truly valued and to show people you are not defined by your injuries. You have all inspired me so much the least I could do was capture that to help motivate others.

So thank you Teresa for making it possible to have these paintings hang here and I am sure the sitters, committee, patrons and donors will hope they will be here for many years to come to inspire others to look beyond their injuries.”