Artist Tina Martin talks about art and living with essential tremor.

I have drawn since I was a young child, and was always aware that I have ET as my hands shook lightly, and I was taken for a nervous child.  My grandmother, mother and uncle all had the condition, so it was very much something that was accepted, and didn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary as it was part of the family.

I went on to study for a B.A.(Hons) in Fine Art, and have painted and taught painting since that time.  When I was 40 I did notice that the tremor had developed and went to see a neurologist just to check that it was ET and nothing else, which he confirmed.  When I reached 50 I had a series of stressful situations, and my ET has progressively worsened since that time.

I now paint with my left hand.  This happened slowly as the tremor developed, gradually I had to attempt more things with my left hand, and often now people think that I am left handed.  My art has meant the world to me throughout my life, and I could not imagine what it would be like without it.  Whilst my left hand is not as good as my right, and less able to do detailed work, I have managed to keep teaching, with the support of the centres that I worked at who created support materials to help me, as certain tasks and writing are tricky.  My adult learners are very supportive, and I am grateful that I have been able to keep giving to others.  I practice meditation and mindfulness, as these are very good to help keep as calm as possible.

Whilst in lockdown I had been working on a continuing series of paintings featuring urban trees.  I became interested in their place in cities, often overlooked yet providing a habitat for birds and the beauty of their natural presence, while enduring constant noise and light, plus things hung on them and their roots squeezed through tiny holes in the concrete.  That seemed a fitting image for humans shut in in lockdown, and gave a fresh look to the subject for me.

So when I saw that the Counterweave Gallery in Rome was having an online exhibition entitled Art Under Lockdown I decided to enter the painting entitled St Ann’s Lights.  This depicts St Ann’s Square in Manchester, with the Christmas market in progress.  Above the shadowy figures of shoppers stand the trees bedecked in lights and the street lights glowing through them.  I was delighted when the Gallery accepted my painting and featured it in their exhibition.

For anyone out there with ET who struggles with simple tasks, I encourage you to keep trying to pursue the interests you have, find other ways to keep achieving.  Some tasks will always be difficult, but it is worth fighting to do the things you love.

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