Marilyn Trew, 73, is among the artists preparing to exhibit their work at Stratton’s Grange Leisure as part of this year’s Open Studios event. Former counsellor Marilyn, who is married and has two children and two grandchildren, lives in Westlea

“I THINK the value of anything creative, not just art but anything creative, is that it brings people together,” said Marilyn Trew.

“It enables them to grow, both in their emotional resilience and the way that they look at life.”

Marilyn has seen proof of this among some of the people in the art groups she runs or helps to run.

“Some were shy and not very socially adept. Since coming to the groups they are chatting, joking, teasing, all the things that they have not been able to do,” she said.

“That actually includes eating in public for one of the girls.

“She couldn’t eat in public but because we all take our sandwiches in she now can.

“That’s quite a major step forward for her – and everyone has a story like that.

“I think because of my background as an emotional counsellor in Swindon and because of my artistic skill that brings both of those things together.

“I can keep them safe in the group and make sure that they’re being challenged to do a little bit more.

“I think art makes you relax when you’re physically painting or drawing, concentrating quite hard. It makes you relax and not think about what else might have gone on or you have going on in your life.”

She also believes there are other benefits “I think it can give you new eyes to look at things that you might not have,” she said.

“There are things that you see now that you might not have seen before – the beauty in a flower or how the land looks after the rain.

“It gives you a confidence because when you’re making a painting everyone else is saying, ‘Oh, that’s fantastic, that’s marvellous, that’s wonderful!’”

When work sells or draws admiring comments from the public at exhibitions is also a confidence-booster, especially if the artist first picked up a pencil or brush in earnest only a year or two before.

Marilyn is originally from Wimbledon. Her father served at sea in the Second World War and later worked at a sailors’ home.

“Then he decided he would become a signwriter. He was always creative, he was always bringing things home to do – lino cutting and stuff like that,” Marilyn said.

“One of his friends was a signwriter and he decided to learn it from his friend.

“Then he started a screen-printing business, and I used to help him do that.

“That’s where I think I get my creative side from but, on the other hand, my mum was quite a homebody and was good at embroidery, making clothes, gardening, those sorts of things.”

Marliyn failed the 11-Plus exam, which she counts as the best thing that happened to her. Instead of going to a grammar school, she enrolled at place called Sutton East School, which was two bus rides away.

“It was a special school which dealt in art. I don’t know what it would have been called. It wasn’t an art school because I was only 13,” she said.

Marilyn vividly remembers the selection process.

“I had to sit in a room with a hundred other people aged 13 and paint a picture for three hours. They chose 28 of us to go through.

“One of my first memories is of going out to draw trees – just being sent out to draw all day – go away at nine o’clock and come back at four, having drawn two or three trees.

“The freedom of that was fantastic. I learned ceramics, I learned engraving, I learned lino-cutting, oil painting, acrylic painting, watercolour painting, drawing, everything.

“So I think I was very lucky not to pass the 11-Plus.”

Marilyn’s career included stints as an art stewardess, in human resources and as a counsellor and counselling teacher, but on retiring five years ago began to produce art again.

She began tapping half a century of artistic urges which she had been unable to address through a lack of time and mental creative space.

She soon joined Swindon Artists’ Forum and other groups.

She relishes not just the creative aspect but also being part of a thriving art scene, something many people don’t realise Swindon has.

Her advice to people who want to explore their creative side but lack confidence in their abilities?

“It doesn’t matter, because it’s just for your enjoyment,” she said. “I did one lesson where I said to them, ‘At the end of this you’ll all go away with a watercolour painting.’

“A lot of them had never used watercolours. They used either crayons – that’s generally how people start – or they might have used acrylic paint, but they’d never used water paint because they were so scared of it.

“They thought that once you put watercolour paint down you can’t change it.

“I said they would go home with a watercolour painting after one and a half hours and they did. They were amazed by that because they’d been so scared before.

“When people get confidence in that, it might give them confidence somewhere else, in another area of their life.”

“For example, if they’re with a doctor who says, ‘We’re going to stop your tablets now because of this, this, and this,’ they might have the confidence to challenge that.”

Marilyn finds bring involved with art groups, some of which provide calendars and other items for local good causes, constantly satisfying.

“All the time I’m there with them I feel that.

“Then “I just take a moment to have a look around at them chatting or nicely criticising each other’s work or praising another person and I think how lucky I am.

“I seem to have found what I really want to do.”

“We’re giving of ourselves freely, which is nice. That’s what I like about a lot of the artistic community – it’s unselfish.

“It will share what it knows and be proud of what it has achieved. When I see that going on I like it.”

The Open Studios website is, and Marilyn can be reached on 07768 442393.