We met with Trevor Richardson, an artist and long-time supporter of Charco, about his Parkinson’s, paintings and charity work, and his reaction to the CUE1.
A man of many talents
Charco was first put in touch with Trevor in 2020, when he asked us for more information about the CUE1 and how it could help him. He told us about his great passion for wildlife painting, and shared a number of his fantastic works via social media through the years. As the pandemic began to lift, and things began to reopen, Trevor was kind enough to let us come and hear his story, and finally see his artwork in person.
Trevor and his wife Sue were warm and welcoming from the very first moment we met, inviting us to sit down and relax as their little terrier Bess stood alert by the window.. As we sit down to talk, Trevor and Sue make every accommodation to make us comfortable, and their strong bond is evident. She affectionately calls him “Ginge”, though his hair has since lost its fiery tint. They’ve been together for many years, with their golden anniversary set for this year, and it’s clear that the magic that has held them together for half a century hasn’t diminished in any way. The two are very family oriented, with many pictures on the wall showing them, their children, and grandchildren. The art gene is strong in Trevor’s family; one of his cousins was an art teacher for many years before going on to do art full time. His two children, a son and a daughter, are also involved in the arts, and drawings from his grandkids displayed proudly around the house show that the talent is continuing on through the generations.
Trevor has led a diverse life, and worked in a number of fields. He started as a bouncer, then later went on to work as a builder with his Dad and brothers. “I used to have 21 inch biceps, though they’re gone now!”, he says, though his former strength is still there in part. He also has a way with animals, as evidenced by Bess’ obedience and good manner. Trevor smiles knowingly; though he’s not one to brag, he’s evidently a man of many talents.
Wildlife in acrylics
It’s somehow unsurprising, then, that this former bouncer and builder is also a talented artist. His work is hung around his living room, with sparrows sitting on fence posts, a pheasant walking on a lane, and an inquisitive red squirrel just some of the marvellous pieces that decorate their house. Trevor recounts that he first became interested in art when he was just six. A teacher noticed his talent and encouraged him to try more and to keep honing his artistic abilities. “She got me to draw and got me interested in nature and suchlike. And she was a mentor” he says emphatically. “I illustrated a book for her about flora a few years ago… I paid her back for her support and illustrated that.”
He has experimented with various styles, from pencils to pastels to oils, but has found that his best work comes from acrylic paint. The detail in his painting is incredible; each bird has feathers that you could almost touch, and they’re painted in such a way that you almost wouldn’t be surprised if they suddenly flew off of the canvas. “I got to the standard that I want” Trevor says, “but an artist is never happy anyway!”
The art itself is amazing, though it’s interesting to note that the majority of his works are of birds, and every piece is of an animal or of wildlife. Trevor used to go out for walks often, usually accompanied by a dog, and would catch glimpses of the beautiful wildlife around him. In the case of his painting of the sparrows, he recounts to us how he saw the two little birds sitting on the fence post, and came home and began to paint them from memory. This fleeting moment stuck in his head, and he faithfully reproduced it in great detail. Trevor’s memory is impressive; he’s able to describe the exact location of the fence post they were sitting on, and the differing angles of light in all his paintings suggest that he’s also able to remember the animals perfectly, right down to the time of day that he saw them.
His reason behind choosing birds as the subject of so many of his works reveals another interesting part of his personal history. “My grandfather kept birds, canaries and such like, and my dad kept racing pigeons, so it’s always been part of the family. I also used to do some conservation work up at the estate”. Trevor’s knowledge of local wildlife is clear, and shines brightly in his works.
The patience and determination that it takes to produce just one painting also speaks to Trevor’s dedication. “Some pieces, like the one I have in a gallery in North Norfolk, take months… 300 odd hours, I put into that one.” With such effort being put into every piece, many people may expect that he’d want recompense or some form of payment for his time. Trevor, however, gives many pieces away to charity, in order to raise money for a variety of causes. “I’ve done some work for East Anglia Children’s Hospice. I also used to raise money for cancer, anything local, just raising some money.”
Why has he spent so much of his time making paintings for charities; was there a catalyst for this altruistic aspect to his art? “It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do… The money side of it didn’t come into it” he says. Trevor’s efforts have undoubtedly been appreciated by the people that have benefited from them, and it’s amazing to hear that he’s been working tirelessly for many years simply to help people.
A tough few years
Four years ago, Trevor was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, which came as a great shock to him. He found it difficult at first to go into town, as he feels anxious that his symptoms are obvious to those around him. “I felt like people were all aware”, he recounts. “There were two or three women who looked at me as if to say, ‘You’re drunk’.” Things have, however, improved; the people of Trevor’s local town, now aware of his Parkinson’s, are more considerate. Still, it’s clear that his confidence has been understandably shaken. “I think I look worse than I do… I often think, ‘Did I stagger?’” He can also become frustrated by the difficulties presented by his symptoms, such as his tremor. “I’ll get angry with myself for it happening, which makes it worse and worse.”
The pandemic has also greatly affected Trevor. “It’s been a couple of years since I’ve painted now”, he remarks. We ask if it’s because of his Parkinson’s, and he nods. “It’s taken away my motivation to do things. I get up in the morning ready to paint, but by the time I sit down to do it, all my motivation is gone.” For someone as family-focussed as Trevor, the isolation caused by lockdown would have already been difficult; the addition of Parkinson’s has clearly made it a very difficult period, which Trevor himself acknowledges.
Things are, however, looking up, and as we all look towards life post-pandemic, Trevor too is optimistic about returning to art. He plans to do another painting for charity, returning to the fundraising that has been such an important part of his life. “If that’s for Parkinson’s or cancer or children’s hospice, who should say, but I intend to do one. That might help with the motivation.” For someone like Trevor, who is so altruistically motivated, this may just be the impetus needed to return to creating his brilliant works of art.
Trevor’s experience of the CUE1
Our trip to see Trevor had two focusses; the first part was to see his art and ask him about his life story, while the second part was to carry out CUE1 tests. Trevor quickly shaves the hair away from part of his chest in preparation for the CUE1, before sticking an adhesive to his sternum. Our tester then helped attach the device to Trevor’s chest and switch it on, its green light gently pulsing. Trevor looks slightly shocked at first, the sensation of the CUE1 clearly not something that he had experienced before. He looks down at the CUE1 and smiles, a happy grin spreading across his face. “That’s amazing, I can actually feel it.”
Team Charco’s tester remarks that his reaction may be the quickest adjustment to the CUE1 that he’s ever seen, and Trevor nods. “That’s amazing. That’s the first time I’ve smiled properly in two years” he says, and Sue smiles too. “Any improvement is a big help”, she sagely explains, to which Trevor agrees. All the necessary tests to assess the CUE1 are done, including one to see how his micrographia (small or cramped handwriting caused by Parkinson’s) is affected. The fine detail in Trevor’s painting is part of what makes his art so amazing, and we hope that by using the CUE1, he will regain the confidence and control needed to continue painting and helping the charities to which he has so generously donated his works through the years.
Recently, we heard from Trevor again, and learned more about how he’s been getting on with his CUE1. Two weeks after our visit, he’s positive about the effects that the CUE1 has had on him. His test scores have improved, and Trevor has felt more optimistic and upbeat since wearing the CUE1. He’s also been proudly showing it off to his family, with his grandsons being particularly impressed. “ I showed them the CUE1, and they said ‘Wow, grandad is Iron Man!’, so that’s going around the family now!” We were glad to hear that Trevor is satisfied with his CUE1, and that his status as a superhero has been affirmed.
A parting gift
As we pack up to leave, Trevor has one last surprise for us. He brings out a signed print of one of his paintings; Two robins standing on a long branch dotted with small, beautiful white flowers. One of the robins is singing, his beak wide open, while the other watches on. He gives it to us to hang in the office, which the team at Charco are incredibly grateful for; it now sits in pride of place. It’s a fitting end to our meeting, and only serves to reinforce what we had learned about Trevor; his great artistic skill, his kind and generous heart, and his great love and appreciation for wildlife. He and Sue wave us off, Bess standing guard in the window. We hope that he returns to painting, and that the CUE1 can help him, just as he’s helped so many through the years.
Thank you to Trevor for sharing his art, and for his amazing gift to us. You can find his Facebook page here, where there are many more examples of his work.