A mum paralysed by a freak wave has become a successful ‘Wonky Artist’ – after learning to paint SIDEWAYS while bed-ridden.
Rachel Smith-Ruffle, 46, developed a way of creating incredible paintings while lying on her side – which she now sells around the country.
She only has feeling in the top half of her upper body and reverts to using two hands to hold a paintbrush due to her hands being paralysed.
Rachel was just 23 when she broke her neck while swimming – after a wall of water smashed her into a sandbank.
She was told she would never walk again but she got married, had a baby, worked and travelled – all from her wheelchair.
But in January 2018, she was dealt another blow when she developed a pressure sore – common in wheelchair users.
Her diagnosis meant that Rachel would no longer be able to use her wheelchair, leaving her bedbound for 15 torturous months.
The mum-of-one from Manchester was left struggling with depression and also unable to spend quality time with daughter Amelie, 11.
But after seeing his wife struggling – Rachel’s husband Ian, 51, bought a simple set of watercolour paints – to alleviate her boredom.
It was then that Rachel discovered her hidden talent for art – all while lying horizontally flat in bed.
A few years later and the ‘Wonky Artist’ is now in full swing – with Rachel, back upright and fully recovered, running her own business selling hand-made paintings for people up and down the country.
“I never planned to paint anything, never knew I had this talent – it was quite a discovery at 43,” Rachel, a former languages tutor, said.
“My mental health went down the drain while I was bedbound. I was alright for a little bit but once you realise how severe it was, there was no end in sight.
“Having a daughter who as only eight at the time – you feel rubbish about everything. I couldn’t concentrate on anything I was really low.
“But then it turned around very unexpectedly – through paint.”
She added: “What I painted was never straight – hence the name the ‘wonky artist’. So, when I sat up, we all joked I needed to be called the ‘not so wonky artist.’”
Rachel started to sell paintings in late October 2018 via her website – the Wonky Artist.
She then created a Facebook and Instagram page to showcase her work, educate people about the issues she faced and reach out to others who might need help.
Her Facebook page now boasts 13,000 followers.
“I have people all the time sending messages from all round the world – saying I’ve spurred them on to do it,” she said.
“I give a lot but get a lot back – you spread positivity and it’s a good vibe, good reception.”
Rachel, who says pressure sores are common for people in wheelchairs, spent three months in hospital back in 2019 to have it removed via plastic surgery.
She was able to pass the time, though, by turning her ward into a mini art gallery.
“I turned my room into a gallery and people in the hospital came to see it,” she added.
“You’ve got to pass the time somehow. It was the talking point of the hospital.”
Rachel’s issues with pressure soars are now under control – and she can now sit back upright and enjoy living the fulfilling life she was before being forced to bed.
“Thankfully, it’s all behind me now – the painting is still there but the health issues have been dealt with,” she said.
“I do sometimes lie down and paint when it’s horrible outside, and sometimes I do still paint in bed. But that’s out of choice which is nice.”