ACROSS the centuries, artists have found inspiration in stunning views and beautiful models.

But few have found inspiration in a converted Westlea potting shed, nicknamed the “Puffin Shack”.

It’s where you’ll find Swindon artist Marilyn Trew – a former air hostess whose colourful pictures of life in the town will be on display at Swindon Open Studios next month.

Marilyn, 73, has enjoyed making art since her childhood.

“I failed my 11-plus exams,” said Marilyn. “At 13, I was asked, ‘would you like to go to art school?’”

She jumped at the chance – relishing the relative dearth of maths lessons to work through.

“I wanted to be a fine artist and starve in a garret.”

But, her dreamy bubble of artistic penury was burst by her parents, who suggested she enter the world of work.

She went on to work as an air hostess and spent 20 years as an emotional counsellor – before returning to art three years ago when she retired.

“I wanted to do something that I really wanted to do, after working all my life.”

Marilyn describes painting as an almost therapeutic experience.

“I have a little shed in the garden – it’s called the puffin shack. I kind of go into my own little world. It’s a world of imagination.

“Sometimes the art doesn’t work out, but most of the time I enjoy myself.”

She’s often painting canal scenes, recently finishing a new sign for Wiltshire and Berkshire Canal Trust’s boat dock in Wichelstowe.

Marilyn said: “I have always had a connection with water from my dad. He was in the Merchant Navy and the Royal Navy. I used to live at South Cerney. I think that’s where it came from.”

But her connection with the trust began earlier this year, when the Stratton art group she runs together with friend Ruth Wintle designed a charity calendar for the canal trust.

Marilyn and Ruth run a community art group in Stratton’s Grange Leisure centre. There are 27 artists on the group’s books, with 18 regularly attending the Monday morning sessions.

“Some of them had never held a paint brush before,” she said.

The group walked the canal earlier this year, taking pictures for works that would appear in the trust’s charity calendar.

This year, Marilyn will be exhibiting a selection of her work at Grange Leisure Centre as part of Swindon Open Studios, alongside friends Ruth Wintle and Lisa Lane.

It is the fifth year Marilyn has been involved in the annual scheme.

“I can remember really wanting to visit the artists a few years ago and now I find I am one of them.

“Being an artist is quite a solitary occupation, so it’s nice to be sociable for a change.”

See Marilyn Trew’s works at Grange Leisure Centre as part of Swindon Open Studios on September 10, 13, 16 and 17, 11am to 5pm.

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