Southend artist says stroke scare made him paint again

Tony Wates with a self-portrait
Image caption Tony Wates turned to art after suffering a stroke and said this was a self-portrait

A man who took up painting after suffering a stroke said it has "changed his life".

Tony Wates, 69, from Southend, Essex, suffered partial sight loss after the health scare in 2014 and turned to art as a comfort during his recovery.

He said: "I could have died and I just had the urge to paint, to leave something behind. A record of my life."

He held the first exhibition of his work last month and sold some portraits for the first time, for up to £500.

But he said: "It's not about the money. I just want to impress and it's a wonderful feeling when someone says they like your work.

"Because I'm dyslexic, I didn't get praise for much at school, except for art, but I hadn't done any kind of artwork for more than 50 years."

Image caption Mr Wates' health scare gave him the urge to pick up a paint brush for the first time in more than 50 years

The month-long exhibition, which ran at The Forum gallery in Southend, featured about 50 of his paintings.

"The great feedback from people was a real confidence boost and made me think 'I've arrived' and made me definitely wanted to put my work on show," he said.

One of his first subjects was his son - a soldier who was on tour in Afghanistan.

"I found it comforting to paint pictures of him while he was away. I felt closer to him," he said.

"I don't think I would have got into painting had I not had a stroke.

"A health scare makes you think about your mortality and focuses your mind. It's changed my life."

Image caption Mr Wates said he found it comforting to paint pictures of his son, a soldier, while he served in Afghanistan

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