War veteran finds peace with a brush and easel
PUBLISHED: 10:00 16 January 2011
SCHOOL lessons, art galleries and even Mother Nature are among the things which inspire up-and-coming artists.
But for one Gulf War veteran living in Banwell, sketching maps for artillery bombing turned out to be the influence behind his new portfolio of eye-catching work.
Stephen Bartlett, of Littlefields Avenue, says his talent for drawing has helped him control post traumatic stress following months of hard conflict in Iraq and Kuwait.
Having endured scenes too desperate and bloody to describe, the 44-year-old says he finds it easier to express his emotions using brush and paper.
He said: “Many people coming out of the armed forces suffer flashbacks and guilt when they come back home.
“You wake up in the middle of the night in sweats thinking about the innocent people involved in the fierce fighting which went on.
“For me, it was extremely difficult and it took a while before I found art as the channel to release the strain and control the distress I went through.”
Stephen has suffered a failed marriage and a major breakdown in the years since leaving the army in 1992.
Three years ago he hit an all-time low when he broke down while fitting a kitchen on a job for his own business.
Unable to cope with society, he spent four months camped in woods near Banwell before being encouraged to come back into Weston by the Royal British Legion.
First living in a bedsit in Weston, he then moved back in with his girlfriend in Banwell, the village where he grew up and went to school.
But for the past three months Stephen has been unable to find work, partly because he is disabled due to burns he suffered while serving in Belize.
So, rather than sit watching daytime television, he has been using his spare time to build up a collection of oil-based pictures.
Now his work is to be put on display and up for sale at Clevedon Pier next month.
He said: “Funnily enough I found I had a skill in drawing when sketching out maps for artillery raids in Iraq. The commander would always tell me off for drawing too much and maybe giving away our targets to anyone who seized the map.
“Then, after leaving and going through treatment for distress, the tutors said I should try my hand at art again, so I have.”
Stephen, who also served in Northern Ireland and Hong Kong, said he hoped art would help him get his life back on track and provide a small income.
His work will be on display as part of a special display on the pier from February 1-27.