‘Curious Chicken’

Art can be a trans­for­ma­tive form of ther­a­py, so Lyla Har­ris-Quinn found when she put brush to paper and devel­oped a whole new tal­ent.  

As told to Miran­da Wilkin­son

At the begin­ning of 2020 I was going through some­thing in my per­son­al life that was very trau­mat­ic and would result in a long and ardu­ous work-based issue that would last through most of Lock­down.  I was signed off with stress and anx­i­ety just a week before the whole coun­try ground to a halt.  I knew that my men­tal health would take a nose dive if I didn’t do some­thing to occu­py my mind. Not being able to see my loved ones, espe­cial­ly my mum, dur­ing this time of high anx­i­ety could have sent me over the edge, so I looked for a dis­trac­tion.  I instinc­tive­ly felt drawn to the untouched palette of water­colours my moth­er-in-law had gift­ed me a few weeks ear­li­er.  

I always knew I had a cre­ative side, but for one rea­son or anoth­er I nev­er real­ly had the head­space or the time to do it. Plus I didn’t know what I want­ed to cre­ate and I didn’t have the self-con­fi­dence to try.  I dab­bled with art when I was younger, and made a few pen­cil sketch­es and acrylic can­vas­es many years ago, but I’ve nev­er had any for­mal train­ing in art.

For inspi­ra­tion and moti­va­tion, I start­ed fol­low­ing some water­colour artists on Insta­gram.  I final­ly put brush to paper around May and was real­ly pleased with the out­come of my first ever water­colour paint­ing, enti­tled “Curi­ous Chick­en”. This sur­pris­ing suc­cess spurred me on, and I began paint­ing almost every sin­gle day.  I found I was nat­u­ral­ly tal­ent­ed — espe­cial­ly at paint­ing ani­mals — and with the encour­age­ment and sup­port of my lov­ing hus­band and two boys, I became more and more con­fi­dent in my abil­i­ties.  

I soon start­ed to dab­ble with resin and poly­mer clay, mak­ing jew­ellery and coast­ers.  Using my hands to actu­al­ly phys­i­cal­ly cre­ate some­thing felt so good, and the process of cre­ation was, and still is, extreme­ly ther­a­peu­tic.  I had final­ly found my “thing”. 


One evening as I was soak­ing in the bath (anoth­er of my ther­a­pies, so much so, the boys are con­vinced I am a mer­maid) a notion entered my head and I decid­ed to set up my own art page on Insta­gram.  I remem­ber doing it real­ly quick­ly as I knew the self-doubt might start to kick in – what if no one fol­lows me, or if they think I’m not that good?  It was at that point I knew I had a shift of thought.  I had gone through so much in my life, what’s the worst that could hap­pen? I knew I need­ed to do some­thing dif­fer­ent to take my mind off not being able to see my friends and fam­i­ly, and to also fill my time with some­thing while I was sit­ting at home doing noth­ing but watch TV all day every day and wor­ry about the work issue.  This would hope­ful­ly help fill the void.  

Soon I began to get a few fol­low­ers and a lot more likes than I ever expect­ed.  I was even begin­ning to have friends and fam­i­ly mes­sage me pri­vate­ly and ask for com­mis­sions!  Of course I hap­pi­ly oblig­ed.  What I realised then is that peo­ple might actu­al­ly buy my stuff, and a lit­tle seed was sown in my head, which would even­tu­al­ly lead to me open­ing an Etsy shop.  

After the first Lock­down end­ed I saw an oppor­tu­ni­ty to have a mar­ket stall in a local arts fair – I applied for a place, and was giv­en it…I couldn’t believe it!  The day was so much fun and such a suc­cess, the local Church asked me to come back a few weeks lat­er for anoth­er sale, and I was again asked to come back for a Christ­mas Mar­ket, which took place last week (with social dis­tanc­ing rules in place). 

I have made so many new friends dur­ing this cre­ative process, the com­mu­ni­ty on Insta­gram is so sup­port­ive and friend­ly and wel­com­ing.  Friends I hadn’t spo­ken to in many years got in touch with me to con­grat­u­late me or even ask for com­mis­sions.  My world has expand­ed, in such a pos­i­tive way.

The inves­ti­ga­tion at work end­ed in June and the right­ful con­clu­sion to the issue was upheld. I got the clo­sure I so great­ly need­ed.  Return­ing to work was very dif­fer­ent because I am now work­ing from home.  Whilst I miss some of my col­leagues, I don’t miss the trav­el time as it gives me time to spend on my art.  I have been so busy in the run up to Christ­mas – I’ve had a lot of pet por­trait com­mis­sions and I’ve also sold some jew­ellery, hand-paint­ed Christ­mas cards, and some resin coast­ers with a tray.   

I love to make jew­ellery and resin bits and pieces, but my true pas­sion lies in paint­ing people’s pets. The fact peo­ple trust my skills and think I am good enough to paint their beloved ani­mal makes me so hap­py.  The thought that some­thing I cre­at­ed will be dis­played on a wall for all to see is just fan­tas­tic.  And I am mak­ing back some of the ton of mon­ey I have spent on art sup­plies now too!  

This ven­ture of mine got me though a very dif­fi­cult peri­od of my life, which was exac­er­bat­ed by a glob­al pan­dem­ic.  I am so glad I found the con­fi­dence to do it, and effec­tive­ly change my life for the bet­ter. The sense of achieve­ment is just awe­some and I am grate­ful for this sil­ver lin­ing in an extreme­ly tough year.

Etsy Shop