An inspirational artist, who will be seen on national television this week, has spoken about living with two debilitating conditions. Sophie Wardle has become a full-time artist after illness meant she had to give up her career in the financial world.
And, despite having Parkinson’s disease and a problem with excess pressure on her brain, she manages to produce drawings and paintings that are good enough to sell. The 52-year-old, who lives in the Charlton Kings area of Cheltenham, is not shy and her relatively high profile led to her being invited to take part in an art competition on Channel 4. It’s called Drawers Off: The Big Naked Painting Challenge.
Presented by comedian Jenny Eclair, the first series involved amateur artists stripping off naked and drawing each other – with the person judged to have produced the best piece being awarded a cash prize.
READ MORE: DIY SOS’ Nick Knowles leads tributes to TV star Dennis Waterman
The second series, which begins today (Monday May 30) at 5.30pm, is not quite as cheeky but nevertheless has a nudity element.
This time, Sophie and the other amateur artists will be seen drawing professional life models. The half-hour programmes will air at the same time each day, with the winner being revealed on Friday.
Sophie, who took part in the filming in March, said: “This is going to be barking but should be fun. It had a series last year. It’s a life drawing competition and they’re launching it again today.
“For my sins, I’m in the first week of that series. We had to do a life drawing in an hour. It was really good fun.”
The series also features a male artist from Cheltenham, who is a self-taught barber. Sophie first came to Gloucestershire Live’s attention last week when she invited us to meet her and see some of her artwork at her studio in Charlton Kings. In a live broadcast that you can watch on our Facebook page here, she promoted the Art Rabble group that she belongs to.
It is a social enterprise that helps disabled people to sell their artwork. She also opened up about the challenges she has, having been diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s when she was 38.
She said: “It affected my life in a number of very radical and long-reaching ways – not least I had to give up my career in the city.” If having that disease wasn’t enough for the mother of two, who has a partner, Paul Backhouse, and two cats, Sophie recently had an operation to insert a shunt into her brain.
It acts as a valve to release pressure on her brain that is linked to her having eight benign tumours in it. She added: “Art actually helps you. You don’t do art despite your disability, you do art to help you cope with your disability.
“It allows you to get a lot of negativity out. It’s a coping mechanism. But it’s also a way of communicating as well, it’s a way of showing that you may be disabled but you’re still a normal person.”