A former north-east gamekeeper has described how a local art group has provided “amazing help” in dealing with his mental health issues.
Bill Stewart is a member of the Garioch Art Group (GAG), which has met for nearly 40 years in Inverurie since being set up by local painter Julia Metcalfe.
Members work together in tutorial groups and workshops to support each other’s creative work and increase their confidence.
After working in Brechin and Fyvie as a gamekeeper for around 45 years, Mr Stewart was forced to retire due to poor physical and mental health, and has battled with suicidal thoughts.
But since joining GAG, the 63-year-old has been able to develop new friendships and skills, and says he is “so engrossed in the work that bad thoughts just go away.”
He said: “I used to be very depressed and had to quit my job due to both mental and physical problems.
“Being able to paint is a form of therapy for me, it gets me away from all the bad thoughts.
“The people are at the group are so helpful and understanding – it’s extremely supportive.”
Mr Stewart’s artwork focus on animals and other aspects of nature – inspired by his time as a gamekeeper.
And next week, he and other members of GAG will get the chance to showcase their work at an exhibition running in St Mary’s Church in Inverurie.
GAG chairman George Donnelly said: “Bill’s story typifies the major influence that painting can have on an individual’ s mental and physical health.
“Study after study has confirmed that the country could massively reduce its NHS and care costs by getting individuals to participate in the arts.
“Depression, anxiety, loneliness, grieving, operations, mental breakdowns, trauma recovery, alcoholism, drug dependency, social isolation, alienation, can all be helped by suffers getting involved with others in artistic pastimes.”
The Garioch Art Group 2019 exhibition and sale will take place in St Mary’s from August 10-17. Admission is free.
More information can be found at www.gariochartgroup.org.uk