It’s a truly inspiring experience to meet Stella Ann Ward and hear her story. She sits in her cabin at the end of her garden surrounded by her creative work.

Covid hit the Eastbourne General Hospital like all around the country and along with many, Stella, as a frontline NHS nurse in Psychology, terrified each night as she went to bed by the thought of another 12 hour shift the following morning. Walking in the nearby Hampden Park for lunchtime relief, she knew she had to find something to hold her sanity. Declaring to her husband Charlie “I am going to learn how to draw a tree!” and so she did.

Connecting on FB with a friend, Cheryl Foreman who had started a group called “Lets Create Art” to give creative people a place to stay connected and share their work, Stella began to share her work and from the start, members of the group would say how her trees and ‘Pencil People’ carry an unspoken story. Both Chery and Jacqui Stewart believed her work and story was so inspiring it should be out in the wider community and began to discuss the idea of an exhibition.

Towards the end of a hectic 12-hour shift, she was found by a colleague dazed and confused. All she could remember was her postcode. Stella had a brain tumour. Surgery, Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy completed; Occupational Therapy gave her the rehabilitating task of placing Duplo blocks onto a paper marked with the corresponding shapes. Incredibly, still holding to the ambition of drawing trees , Stella, being right-handed, sat on her left hand to force her right to improve. Uncontrollable and with a life of its own she slowly tamed it.

Stella produces beautiful macro style photographs and canvasses of insects and for a, pyrography on wooded items created by her partner Charlie, jewellery and of course, a prolific range of ‘Tree and Pencil People’ images.

The exhibition is set for 9-11 December in the Hut, located in Eastbourne’s, Beacon Shopping Centre. It will showcase Stellas work, raise money for Melanoma Focus and share her story in the hope of inspiring others.

Incredibly, Stella’s ability to guide others through their own difficulties continues in the form of ‘Bertie Bus’ their vintage VX Camper. Parked up on the seafront where she continues to draw and create installations for her photography, she listens, to the stories spoke from passers by about themselves and their friends and family and full circle, with not just the skill from her career, her conversations offer advice to stabilize anxiety, move forward and get creative!