AN ARTIST who lost the use of her legs and arms due to the devastating onset of multiple sclerosis (MS) has told how she learned to paint using her mouth ahead of her first exhibition.
Veronika Verden-Anderson, of Balquhidder, Perthshire, was diagnosed with progressive MS in 2000 which ravaged her nervous system, leaving her unable to walk.
The 53-year-old has slowly taught herself to construct the colourful works using a paintbrush held between her teeth, while friends position the easel and mix her paints.
Verden-Anderson hopes to showcase works from before and after she became ill to demonstrate that the disease has not held her back.
She said: “I am happy with the ones which are done with my mouth, as I think they are more powerful.
“I have to be quite clear in my mind about what I am going to do so, as time is limited, so I am very focused. That concentration has become quite important.”
The mother-of-two moved back to Scotland from London in 2004 to find a simpler, quieter life which she credits with halting the progression of her MS. The colourful images are inspired by African and Aboriginal art, as well as Verden-Anderson’s long-standing love of soul music.
Verden-Anderson, who also worked as a DJ while raising her two daughters, said: “I had to make some big changes to my life. I decided to move back to Scotland, as I thought it would help me to be somewhere quieter, so I could slow myself right down.
“My health had always been quite good, but I think I had been pushing myself so hard and I had been very stressed before I was diagnosed.
“It took me years to slow myself right down. I had to really still myself, as that was what was required to slow the progression of my illness.
“I spoke to an MS nurse the other day and she told me that the spread of my illness seems to have slowed right down.”
Scotland has one of the highest incidences of MS in the world, with more than 11,000 people with the condition.
Verden-Anderson vowed the condition would not stop her working, and urged others not to allow MS to define them.
She said: “MS is obviously a terrible thing, but I have realised there are positives to be found. I like my art to feel spontaneous and fun.
“I want to show other people with MS that whilst it is a massive thing to deal with, it is still just another part of life.
“It’s not all bad, and you can enjoy life still. I never let it stop me from doing what I want to do.”
The grandmother-of-three will give a speech at the launch of her exhibition on 28 September at the Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centre in Edinburgh.
Her determination was hailed as “inspirational” by the charity, which hopes to share her example with others living with MS.
Operations manager Nancy Campbell said: “We thought Veronika was quite inspirational as she did not give up on her art but learned how to work around it.
“We are supportive of people who are living with MS, particularly through self-management of the condition. There are a range of things people with long-term health problems can do to help themselves, such as exercise which is geared to their level.
“We offer a range of activities and services to help people manage their symptoms.”
Verden-Anderson will give the talk at 7pm on 28 September to kick off the week-long exhibition at the Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centre in Edinburgh.
To find out more visit https://www.facebook.com/events/1483551338622475/.