featured artist: paws4recovery
favourite type of dog?
I love all dogs, but I have a penchant for Hound Dogs.
what do you do?
I struggle a little with this question, as for years I allowed a job title to define me and found it challenging to remain authentic and be me; I am a corporate escapee! After a successful career in client facing roles, I moved into people development, specialising in leadership and behaviour change. I left employed life as an executive coach and thinking engineer, in February this year, rather abruptly with nothing to do! Put in simple terms I am a relationship builder and connector; whether that is with ourselves or others. I’m on a mission to get us talking and thinking about taking care of our health and happiness in our careers. I’ve just qualified as Mental Health First Aid Instructor and I am a currently studying animal assisted therapeutic coaching. I am curious about the lessons of love and compassion we can learn from animals. My artistic talent, for painting dog portraits, happened by accident as a distraction from the stress and anxiety during the global pandemic. I have a vision to provide an initiative way for professionals to create healthier environments to achieve their ambitions, whilst putting their wellbeing first.
when did you start paws4recovery?
Paws4Recovery started one Saturday night in September 2020. A client I had been coaching bought me some watercolour paints and paper, as a thank you to the work we had done, which had unlocked her creativity. Long term loneliness was starting to impact on me and I was really missing companionship and my Rhodesian Ridgeback especially, who had passed 5 years ago – he’d been my rock and somehow creating him on paper, warmed my heart and brought me joy, amongst the emotions of loss. Paws4Recovery is a shiny example of the creativity that can be born when we honour the space to heal.
why do you paint dogs specifically?
I am fanatical about everything dogs. I find their faces so expressive and I enjoy recreating their essence. When someone sends me their favourite photograph of their dog I get a rush of positive emotion from that special bond that you can detect the dog has with its human.
biggest source of inspiration?
My Rhodesian Ridgeback, Rugby.
what work do you most enjoy doing?
I absolutely adore engaging with audiences and delivering strategies to directly inspire intent into action whether it’s expressed physically, mentally or creatively.
what piece have you created that you are most proud of?
The wonderful responses from owners of the dogs I paint makes me proud of all of the images I create; however I think the pivotal moment that made me realise I had a talent was of the portrait of a 4 year old golden retriever, commissioned for a special birthday gift.
is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
Far from it, I have found that connecting with myself artistically has helped me get lost in moments of joy. I don’t pressurise myself to paint and allow it to happen organically. That way it remains a healthy distraction and not a chore.
how do you look after your mental health?
I rely on the basics of movement, good nutrition and connecting with the created world. I am really blessed to live opposite the gates to Bushy Park and spend a lot of time in there. I find moving and being in nature really nourishing and love observing how it adapts with seasonal changes. I’m a volunteer ranger for The Royal Park so spending time with other volunteers that have become friends and engaging with visitors about the richness The Park’s have to offer is the most rewarding role. I am also fortunate to spend time with an amazing herd of horses, as part of my studies, and that is really grounding. Plus, I have literally just got a puppy too, those early weeks are really full on and certainly diverts my mind from some of the stressors that I’ve been focused on of late and helps with my sleep.
what’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Happiness is hiding in plain sight.
what advice would you give to aspiring creatives?
Be kind to yourself with whatever your output. It might not be what you had expected but see it as an experiment and a learning curve. So often I get obsessed with attempting for the finished article to be first time perfect and then frustration creeps in, if what I create is not how I’d imagined. Better done than perfect.
what dog breed most resembles you and why?
From what I have read, possibly that of my new puppy who is a Pointer/Retriever Cross; Affectionate, even tempered, amiable, kind, loyal, active, hardworking – although at the moment I am experiencing more of my wilful and challenging traits!
why are you interested in partnering with paws in work?
I am inspired by the purpose of Paws in Work of improving workplace well-being, combat stress and encourage team compassion and cohesiveness. It’s very aligned to the vision I see for the way I will work with dogs and horses and I have high hopes puppy Hugo will be a dog for good, using his healing compassion as a future therapist.
For more of Sandra's work please see Paws4Recovery website.