Leyland artist Michael Ashcroft on how art can save your life

PUBLISHED: 22:22 12 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:58 20 February 2013

Artist Michael Ashcroft at his studio in Worden Park

Artist Michael Ashcroft at his studio in Worden Park

MICHAEL Ashcroft is an inspirational man. Many would struggle to handle the shock of being diagnosed with a brain tumour at the age of 28. In his case, it led to him to rediscover a passion for painting.<br/>Amanda Griffiths reports

MICHAEL Ashcroft is an inspirational man. Many would struggle to handle the shock of being diagnosed with a brain tumour at the age of 28. In his case, it led to him to rediscover a passion for painting.

Ten years down the line, his talent is burning bright. Sadly, so is his illness - a recent diagnosis revealed another tumour - but he won't let that keep him away from his easel.

While Michael admits that he uses his art as therapy he is now recognised as a real Lancashire talent, selling his work and winning awards.

'Painting is my passion,' says Michael from his home in Leyland. 'Without that and, of course, my wife Debbie's support I don't think I'd have got
through the last ten years.

'Some people get very down. Don't get me wrong I've been depressed at times, but painting has given me something else to focus on and I've
met some fantastic people and friends along the way.'

In fact Michael's tumour helped him look at life in a different way. Until then he and his wife had been putting off having children but within a year daughter Jessica, now nine, was born followed by Jamie two years later.

Growing up in the picturesque village of Croston, Michael was surrounded by artists from an early age and was encouraged to paint by his mother, a watercolourist

'When I left school I was thinking about going to art college but my dad said I had to get a trade and so I got an engineering apprenticeship, 'he
says. 'I did it for years and hated it with a passion.'

Things were to change when his illness was first diagnosed. 'It wasn't cancerous but I had to go to Manchester Royal for a 12 hour operation to
remove it,' he says. Thankfully they managed to get it all out but the operation left the left side of his face paralysed.'Michael has recovered well but he has speech and hearing difficulties.

He was off work for 12 months and that is when he rediscovered his love of art. 'The poignant moment for me was in hospital after the operation. I remember looking at my reflection in the window. One side of my face was lit by the light the other was in the dark. It was as if the light side was the healthy side, the dark side the ill side and I remember thinking that was just how I'd been feeling.'

That light and dark revelation is probably the thing that defines Michael's style. As an artist he describes it as 'realist in an impressionistic' way, but
the defining characteristic is the interaction between dark and light whether it's a view of Preston at night or countryside bathed in sunlight.

'It's not so much about the subject,' he explains, 'but the shapes, the colour and the light. As an artist, the one thing I'd hate is for them to be
described as twee.'

Working for Leyland Trucks, on reduced hours because of his medical condition, Michael, is now beginning to reap the rewards of his oil painting.

'2007 was a major year for me,' he says. 'I won the South Ribble Open Art competition and also the Blue Ribbon trophy. That's a big thing because
nobody has ever held both titles at the same time before.

'In May I got a first at Brownedge Festival, which is usually for professional artists and after being named as one of the top ten artists in
International Artist Magazine in August that year they asked me to do an eight page article for them.

I got a lot of emails from that saying how I'd inspired people to pick up a paintbrush again which was nice.' Galleries in Colne and Ambleside are selling his work and he's a regular exhibitor at the Harris Museum in Preston. Life is so busy he has taken a studio in nearby Worden Park.

The news that he's got another brain tumour, this time inoperable, doesn't seem to have put Michael off his stride. He'll be undergoing tells
how doctors have discovered a faulty gene that he shares with daughter Jessica.

'If I've not painted for a few weeks I get very frustrated and start snapping,' says Michael. 'I'll never be able to give it up. 'Van Gogh said to his brother on his death bed "at least I won't have to paint tomorrow" and, in a way, that's how I feel. It's an obsession, a passion, my therapy, something I have to do, and I enjoy it.

'Would I change things? Of course it would be great to be healthy and be painting but without being diagnosed with the first tumour I might never have started painting again and who knows what else wouldn't have happened?'

For more information on his work log onto his website at

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