Finding art through struggle: Justine Martin uses paintbrush to escape MS
Justine Martin considers herself to be a turtle – always moving forwards, rarely looking back.
The Marshall-based artist, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in March 2011, has come up against a number of health challenges.
She has had three primary cancers at once, a journey which has cultivated her optimistic outlook on life.
The 48-year-old mother of two has also had three major heart surgeries, pericarditis and lives with livedo reticularis (a condition which causes the skin to go purple) and lipedema.
But Justine is adamant she’s not an “inspiration”, as many people tend to label her.
She’s an ordinary human being – much like the rest of us – who has risen from an insurmountable run of bad luck to become the best possible version of herself.
“I went from a high-paid, good job, career woman to being stuck at home in four walls; my whole world had crashed in the blink of an eye… it’s done that a few times to me now in the last eight years,” she said of her MS diagnosis.
“Life was really, really tough. I’d lost control of everything overnight. And when it’s all gone, everything set in – anxiety, panic attacks.”
It wasn’t until Justine’s neurologist suggested she take up a hobby that she discovered painting.
She says she took to the craft like a duck to water.
“Within five months of starting painting, I sold my first piece for $300 at the Drysdale Rotary Art Show. I thought ‘there’s some money to be made in this stuff’.”
Fast-forward eight years and Justine is an award-winning artist with an impressive display of recognitions, each of which can be seen inside her home studio.
It’s also here that she runs art classes for people with disabilities, a method of meditation she’s glad to share.
“If you’d said to me nine years ago when I was diagnosed that I’d be an award-winning artist teaching people with disabilities, I would’ve laughed at you,” she said.
“I’ve been very fortunate with my art journey and what it’s given me and what I can give back to other people.”
Justine has been an ambassador for MS for more than five years and volunteers regularly in the art community as well as for Barwon Health.
This year she won the Barwon Health Volunteer of the Year Award for consumer representatives and the Women in Community Life Living with a Disability Award.
She is now working towards becoming a public speaker on resilience in-between writing a memoir.
“If I can help other people, it gives me some normality, I suppose, and some sense.
“I don’t want to say I’m fortunate that I got MS because that’s not the right word, but I would never have picked up a paintbrush until I retired.”
She lives every day as if it’s her last, whether that’s achieved by wearing her “good perfume” or using the expensive dinner set when guests come to eat.
“None of us know how long we’ve got on the planet, and I try to put as much into my day as I can, to the detriment of my health,” she laughed.
“It takes more energy to be grumpy with the world and negative than it does to smile and be happy. I’m selfish, I want to walk the planet for a lot longer yet.”
Justine operates a gallery out of Café Zoo in Drysdale. A selection of her artworks will be exhibited at Surf Coast Art Space in the coming weeks.
For more information on Justine’s art, head to facebook.com/justinemartinartist or follow @juzt_art.