My seven secrets of survival

JENNY Matthews, painter

1 I have been fortunate in having some wonderful teachers, both at school and at Edinburgh College of Art. Mentoring is invaluable when you're learning a subject and I feel privileged to have received their help. Having said that, I was cast adrift after graduating in 1986, and, although I immediately embarked on a career as an artist, I've learnt hard lessons on the way. I doubt, though, that one can really shine without some adversity.

2 My exercise routine is a priority. I'm at the gym two or three mornings a week at 6:30am and back home in time for the family getting ready for school and work. I also enjoy road cycling and running. I do the latter instead of hanging about at dance classes or football matches waiting to collect children. Exercise gives me confidence and keeps my mind alert. Hopefully it will keep me young too.

3 I am a hard worker, tenacious, dedicated to my painting and I like to be organised. Despite walking to and from school twice a day, keeping up with the hobbies of my two young daughters and the culinary expectations of my French gourmet husband, I'm in the studio every weekday and have learnt to adapt to time restrictions. I have a deep-rooted desire to achieve and am very competitive. Rejection for me is like a red rag to a bull. Despite inevitable periods of disillusionment and self-doubt, I always bounce back, perhaps due to my underlying desire to achieve my dreams. I don't think I could ever stop painting. It's my way of communicating, and is therapy as much as a job.

4 Support from family and friends is invaluable. My husband Pierre works in a completely different field and is very driven, so he understands my mindset and we can support each other in our endeavours. My daughters have benefited from me working at home. I am always around for them, and I don't have the stress of arranging childcare. They used to think that when mothers left their children at playgroup it was in order to get to their studios.

5 I love creation and creating, and search out inspiration in the countryside and in gardens. I try to convey my wonder at the natural world through my work and hopefully enrich people's lives as a consequence. There's a connection between the gift I have and what I can give to others.

6 I now have a comfortable loft studio at home, where I am cocooned from the rest of the house. It's time-efficient to work from home, and I'm much happier with a designated space than with the dining room table or the garage.

7 I enjoy learning new things and genuinely believe that each day offers new and exciting experiences.

Jenny Matthews' latest exhibition Flowers in Full Colour will run from 21-26 March at the Colours Gallery, 41 Dundas Street, Edinburgh, tel: 0131-557 4569, or visit www.coloursgallery.co.uk