"The role of art is to make a world which can be inhabited." - William Saroyan

Stepping Stones to Success

by Sandra Braznell


I had a simple childhood, being born in Croydon, which is now part of London. We soon moved to the country, in Kent. My life may not have been endowed with things that money can buy, but it was rich in experiences. We moved regularly and I attended a variety of schools in England and abroad; in Aden and Kenya. My father was an engineer attached to military establishments. Being the only child I enjoyed my own company, and inevitably developed interests that lend themselves to solitary pursuit. I learned to read at an early age and have always loved books. I have drawn and painted for as long as I can remember, and I have made things for years. I was forever making models, or working with textiles to add to my wardrobe. I enjoyed glass engraving too, and my parents encouraged me in all my pursuits. I still enjoy working with things other than paint or canvas; to craft individual gifts for friends, or to fashion things for my home, brings much pleasure.

Having to live in various different places because of my father's occupation, gave me a fairly rounded view of life, I worked reasonably well and got myself into college to train to teach art, to children of secondary school age; teenagers. This I did until 1997, when I burnt out and took early retirement. I had married in 1969, but we had no children, my teaching was my life and I took promotion as and when the opportunities arose. When I left teaching I had risen to become the Head of a Creative Arts Faculty, in East Sussex. This had involved undertaking administrative responsibility and leadership for Art, Drama, Music, Dance and Media Studies, although my own classroom teaching was always art based.

After that, there was more time for me! We left Sussex and went for a downshifted existence in Cornwall, where I enjoyed reading, writing and of course, painting. Life was idyllic and easy, but my husband yearned for the Highlands of Scotland he had known as a boy. Eventually we moved in 2002, to fulfil his dream . . . alas, it was short lived. He only had seven months, had a heart attack and died, leaving me alone, no family, few close friends and in a new environment! Gone was the windswept moorland of the far west of Cornwall, now I was faced with majestic mountains, lush green hills, trees by the acre, valleys and glens with crashing watercourses, burns and waterfalls, and a real cornucopia of wildlife. These are the things that my husband had loved, and especially the sheer scale of it all. He was not a mountaineer or a winter sports activist but there is something so awe inspiring about the ancient landforms which were crafted by the Ice Age.

I could have fallen apart at the seams, having no one but myself to help me through life. Being a fighter, I fought back! I gave myself a makeover; the grey-haired little old lady found there was a blonde inside her aching to be released! I took up painting with a new passion. I decided that although it was going to be a different life . . . at least it was going to be a life! I am now busy from morning to night with all sorts of projects. I am beginning to get recognition for my work, and, among other things, I have published my website: http://www.braznell-art.com.

If you visit the website, you will see how I view the Highlands, with colour and texture and a passionate enthusiasm. Life is not always easy or idyllic, but it is worth clinging to. This is not a rehearsal . . . it is for real; therefore I am trying to make the most of it. Can many people earnestly say that about their lives?

I love stimulating conversation, and I have embraced the new technology. My greatest friends are my telephone, my computer with its internet connection, and my car. They give me the freedom to keep in touch with the world from my rural home; in fact I do so more than ever before. It would be easy to pack up and leave, but the wildness of these Scottish Highlands stimulates my painting, my digital photography and to a lesser extent my textile work. It has got under my skin. Sometimes I can feel cut off from ‘civilisation’ when wandering along a loch side, trekking up a forestry trail or meandering on a lonely beach. Those are the times when I can return to my home and reach out to other parts of the world. So I would love to hear from you . . . but not if you are a time waster.  I just haven't time to waste!