Windsor widow finds new life through art

Nantanaa Mutharasu
By Nantanaa Mutharasu May 1, 2017 21:48

Windsor widow finds new life through art

Amanda3Amanda Dupuis writes her name on a nametag sticker, slaps it on her white blouse and checks herself on the mirror. She inhales deeply, exhales and pulls herself together.
She has laid out all the paints, brushes, canvasses, crayons and miscellaneous art scraps on a long rectangular metal table. She’s expecting 25 students from Grade 11 to 12 to walk in to the studio room located on the second floor of the Art Gallery of Windsor. She will be teaching ‘faceless self-portrait.’

Five minutes into the session, the room bursts into a creative chaos. Dupuis has opened the door to the realm of art and her students are fully engaged in her class. Students are walking back and forth to the metal table to pick art scraps that connect with them, brushes are being dipped into watercolour paints and canvasses are splattered with ideas.
One hour later, the students’ tables are filled with original and creative portraits of art.

Dupuis’ ability to get her students to connect their heart and mind to the brush and canvas is a gift she earned through pain. In fact, her love for art stems from a time of great loss.
“I had a nervous breakdown three years ago in June and that’s when it finally hit me … and that was the start of my depression,” said Dupuis.

Both Dupuis and her husband’s lives changed when she developed an eating disorder and he was plagued by diabetes. Their personal suffering caused their marriage to hit rock bottom and live separately.

Seven months later, tragedy hits again. Dupuis gets a call from her father-in-law.

“He was found two days after his death in his basement home,” Dupuis recalls painfully.

“If only he took care of himself, he’d still be here,” she said. “But Rick gave up.”

Dupuis spent her days being strong for her kids and her nights crying.

“It got really bad to a point where I had to keep reminding myself that I had kids and I couldn’t just give in and take the easy way out because suicide crossed my mind quiet a lot at one point of time.”

But she couldn’t, for the sake of her two boys.

They were too young to understand what had happened since the last day they spent with their dad right before his death was wonderful.

“To explain to your child that they’re never going to see their father again… it’s a very hard thing to do,” said Dupuis as tears rolled down her cheek. “It was the worst day of my life… telling my kids that their dad died.”
Of the hard times she herself was going through, seeing her kids hurt was the hardest.
Her kids’ pain coupled with her own depression prompted Dupuis to find an outlet. She was determined to get out of it.
“I wanted something new in my life,” said Dupuis. “I never thought I could do any kind of art at all. So it started with a trip to Michaels’ craft store and I bought a beginner‘s guide. It came with first steps of learning how to draw with two different graphite pencils, an eraser and a shader.”
Dupuis came back home, flipped the pages of that little book and began her journey into the world of art.

Her sketching opened her up in ways she hadn’t realized. For Dupuis, her goal is not to create masterpieces but to enjoy the ability to create, to have an image in her head and put it on paper.
Amandaaa“I liked that I could use things that I was going through as an idea…or things that I love or things that I hate, whatever it may be and try and put it out in a way that helps me work through it.”
She found comfort in adding lines, shading, erasing and re-working her sketch work. The process did not frustrate her because she was able to give her full attention to the picture and block everything else in her mind.
And she did it with her eldest son, Douglas. Both mother and son would sit together and sketch their feelings out. They started off drawing about their children’s dad and as Douglas got better, his drawings evolved. Today, he draws what any 12 year old would draw, from Titanic ships to army tanks and Zentangle Transformers.
As the saying goes, when one door closes another opens; Dupuis’ path was about to change for the better with a chance encounter.
At the beginning of this year, she followed her son to a field trip to the Windsor Art Gallery. As both mother and son explored the stories and colours behind each paintings, she locked into a conversation with Jessica Cook, the education program coordinator who was leading the group tour for that day.
Cook’s mention about volunteer work at the gallery sparked a new light in Dupuis’s eyes. She was ecstatic at this opportunity to become a studio instructor and a docent, giving tours at the gallery. For Dupuis, it was not going to be just teaching children to put some lines on a piece of paper. It was her chance to show what art did for her and her sons.
“It’s like every part of me expressed on a piece of paper what I can’t express in any other way and it just helped me so much,” said Dupuis. “And that’s why I love the fact that the art gallery has given me the chance because yes, I want to help somebody else.”
Dupuis’ personal experience with art has helped her help her children to come out of their darkest times. So helping other children, was just the right way to go for her.
But as much she wants to return the favour, she knows at the back of her head that her time is ticking.
There are days when Dupuis can’t do art and it’s not because of the remnants of depression that she’s still battling. It’s because her hands just don’t work. She can’t hold a paint brush or flex her hands the way she wants them too.
Dupuis has psoriatic arthritis, an autoimmune disease. Her elbows and knees have fallen victim to it.
“Eventually at one point in my life, it will cripple me and it will put me in a wheelchair… there is no cure for it,” she explained. “So there are days, the hardest things is getting out of bed and I meant that literally, and I have to sit and fight with myself every morning to tell myself you have to get up.”
But Dupuis will not give up on herself, not anymore. Her journey with art has helped her see life in a different perspective.
“That’s why I Amanda4enjoy doing art every day because it reminds me of who I am now and what I’ve come through and where I am now in life,” said Dupuis. “I’m just not Amanda anymore, I’m Amanda the artist. That’s who I am… and it’s a very big part of my life. It’s just not a piece of paper and a pencil to me…it’s a passion.”

And she is determined to pass on the passion that is nourishing her.

So when Dupuis is in the studio room, writing her name on a sticker and slapping it on her blouse, as she takes in a deep breath, exhales and smiles, she knows what will happen today. She will be changing someone’s life through art.

Nantanaa Mutharasu
By Nantanaa Mutharasu May 1, 2017 21:48

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