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Lucy O'Donovan

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Lucy O'Donovan

Lucy O'Donovan

When I finished the canvases I used to feel a certain satisfaction that I'd achieved something

I have drawn and painted all my life. When I was little I loved nature and would spend my summer holidays painting the animals I saw as well as the pets I kept. I used watercolour until I was at Uni and took the plunge into oils, which became what I loved.

Another of my passions is my fascination with the brain. This drove me into scientific research and whilst doing my PhD I read several books that made me see I could spend my time finding new things out about brain diseases. I researched schizophrenia in my home city of Glasgow for several years and then landed a position at University of Melbourne looking at brain injury and stroke.

I will never get over the irony of what happened 11th September 2008. I was on a works night out and suffered a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) when I fell down a few small steps at a bar in Melbourne. I remember nothing about it which I think is a good thing. I was put in a medically induced coma, had the front half of my skull temporarily removed to allow swelling and was in hospital for three months. Over that time my Mum sitting at my bedside, taught me to speak, read and write again. I then went to the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre to live for a while and then attended daytime programs for various types of help. I came back to Glasgow in 2010 and have lived there ever since.

Since my TBI I lost my career as a neuroscientist which was of course really upsetting as it was a passion of mine. However it left me lots of time to pick up a paintbrush and try to paint. The first thing I did was during art therapy, several months after my injury, where I painted a self portrait from a recent photo. The front of my hair was re-growing after surgery and I called it Rehab. It has taken a long time for me to be comfortable looking at it, as it reminded me of when I was in the beginning of recovery.

When I returned to Glasgow though, I used to sit down and explore the colours and textures of the paint and try to copy photos as exactly as I could. That was because I damaged my eyes in my injury and I was scared I could no longer paint. I felt this was quite therapeutic. It helped me to concentrate entirely on one thing and get used to the rhythm - pick up paint with brush, apply to canvas, wipe brush on rag, pick up more paint... When I finished the canvases I used to feel a certain satisfaction that I'd achieved something. This meant a lot to me as I was unemployed at that point and felt as though I was unproductive and a little bit useless really. It made me realise too that my career had been very important to me and had played a large part in the self esteem.

Visit to see more of Lucy's work, and find out about cRxeate, a new forum created by Lucy and a friend to help support and mentor doctors, dentists and vets in their creativity.


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