Art provides escape from living in constant pain

Monday, 30 September 2019

Trish Jackson is a survivor. Born with no arms, she learnt from a very young age to use her feet for any task her hands would typically be used for.

Although her body has adapted to her needs, she lives in constant pain because in her words: ‘feet weren’t meant to be hands’.

Expressing herself creatively has been something Trish has done since she was a teenager.

Passionate about photography, she describes her skills as being terrible to start with. However, as with everything she approaches, Trish did not give up. She kept practising and went on to win many awards. As she holds the camera with her feet, Trish often sees things through the lens from a different perspective than most people.

“Through photography, you can show how you look at the world, how you see beauty and the tiny things that a lot of people miss, such as a bee on a flower. You can capture the essence of that split second.”

In more recent years, Trish turned to drawing and painting as an escape from living in the constant pain of having to use her feet as hands causes.

“I was living on my couch 24/7, and I needed to get myself out of the headspace I was in,” Trish said.

“I started drawing, and I was quite amazed at what I could achieve. Then a friend encouraged me to try painting. But paint brushes have a mind of their own, so it was much more difficult to master.”

Trish is a self-taught artist, using YouTube videos as an educational tool after her requests to join several art classes were rejected.

“They said I was a health and safety hazard because I have to sit on the floor to paint. It’s been very frustrating.”

Artist Trish Jackson sits on the ground holding a paintbrush with her foot. A canvas painting is in progress.

A few weeks ago, she found an organisation that was happy to adapt to her needs, and she was able to attend an art class run at Birrunga Gallery (formerly The Henderson) in Brisbane, which took her out of her comfort zone.

“It was very daunting, having never painted in public before. I’d also never painted on such a large canvas, so I didn’t really know what to do with it at first,” Trish laughed.

“It was wonderful to be included and not seen as a problem participant. I loved being pushed out of my usual painting restraints.”

Trish is exhibiting a piece of her work publicly for the first time at EPIC’s upcoming fifth annual art exhibition, Shifting Perspectives. She explains how the painting of her dog Blitz (featured above), is very close to her heart.

“Blitz isn’t with us anymore, but he was a one-in-a-million dog,” Trish said.

“He never trained as an assistance dog, but he knew when I was down and would come and sit at my feet. On good days, he would come fishing with me. He was a colourful character, that’s why I painted him in a rainbow of colours.”

Exhibiting her work for the first time brings out an array of emotions.

“It feels amazing, unbelievable and nerve-wracking! I can’t wait,” Trish said.

Art has allowed Trish to express herself in ways that can sometimes be difficult verbally.

“When I paint, I forget about the pain in my body. It’s good therapy and it takes me out of my zone.”

This year’s art exhibition theme, Shifting Perspectives, resonated particularly strongly with Trish.

“All of my life, I’ve had to put up with people’s perspective on me that I’m a nobody because I have no arms. I’m still fighting people to change their perspective about me.

“Why can’t people just accept people no matter how they look? We need equal playing fields and we won’t get acceptance until accessibility is the norm,” Trish said.

When she’s not painting, Trish is inspiring school children and community groups through her public speaking. She shares her life story and how she has coped with negativity, bullying and body shaming her whole life. Many of the children who hear her speak send cards to thank her for being an inspiration.

“I can’t believe that I can make such a difference to kids. It amazes me and I love doing it,” Trish said.

Trish’s positive attitude has been the driving force behind all that she does.

“Life has been hard but still worthwhile. The dark days make you stronger. Maybe not at that time, but down the track, you’ll be stronger.”

Shifting Perspectives is open to the public from Wednesday 30 October- Sunday 10 November at Graydon Gallery in New Farm, Brisbane. Visit the gallery in person to view artworks from more than 60 talented artists with disability.

To view more of Trish’s work, visit her Facebook page.

Related articles