A debilitating stroke left grandad Ian Simm struggling to write his own name, but remarkably the gardener turned artist now has his own art exhibition after becoming a superb painter with his weaker hand.
Ian from Eye is enjoying his brush with success after his oil paintings went on display at the Norman Cross Gallery last Saturday.
And incredibly the 67-year-old former RAF technician has managed to complete all of his artwork without using his stronger right hand which he struggles to lift following his stroke in March 2009.
Recalling his recovery from the life-threatening episode, Ian said: “In 2012 I went on a cruise to the Caribbean for three weeks. They had a watercolour class on there being taught by an artist.
“I said to my wife ‘I will have a go at that’. She said ‘you can’t, you’re right-handed’.
“I said ‘okay, I will have a go with my left’. By the end of the course I had produced a painting that was half decent.”
Ian returned home where he continued to paint in his conservatory, starting with watercolours before moving onto acrylics, and now oils.
His work caught the eye of a neighbour who contacted the teacher of a watercolour class. She in turn suggested Ian get in touch with Derek Lopez who co-owns Norman Cross Gallery off the A15, near the A1M, which has led to his first solo exhibition going on display until August 25.
Explaining his work, Ian said: “I paint anything. I don’t have a genre - I don’t even have a style. Each painting I do demands something different.
“I have done portraits, pets, landscape, bikes.”
Ian suffered a stroke while at work. But fortunately a man came to his aid and was able to tell his sister-in-law, who had called Ian, what had happened.
The medical episode left him wheelchair-bound and unable to speak, but he has recovered well enough to regain his voice and walk a little, although writing remains very difficult. Ian had previously tried painting when he had a motorcycle accident in 2003, but as he recalled: “I was rubbish. I knew nothing about the technique of colour mixing.”
Ian had taken art at O Level and achieved a Level 6 pass, and he has now progressed so much at the skill that people are now paying him for his work. But the exhibition has been another step up.
“It has been hard work,” he said. “For three to four weeks I was pushing myself to finish the paintings. It’s a big thing.”
One person who will definitely be visiting the exhibition is Ian’s wife Sandra.
“She is my biggest fan,” he said. “She went and told the dustbin men the other day.”
As for visitors to the art gallery over the next month and a half, Ian has a simple message: “Don’t forget to bring your wallets!” To see Ian’s work, visit: www.ims-art.com/.