Art has been a lifeline to me, says Silk
If Nick Silk hadn’t fallen ill, his talents might have for ever gone unnoticed.
He started sketching to fill the hours when he was confined to bed about 20 years ago.
Friends and family pointed out the obvious: he had talent.
“[They] said, ‘You can draw, why don’t you paint?’ It was a simple step to make, but it’s actually quite a massive one,” said the artist who suffers from severe chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis.
Mr Silk was “very active and sports loving” at the time of his diagnosis. He was in university at the time, studying Arabic and the Middle East.
Doctors advised “a change of direction and a paced recovery”. He decided Bermuda, the birthplace of his mother, Gillian Silk, offered just that.
“Generally with illnesses, people expect you to get well or die,” he laughed.
“People don’t always get it when you say you have ME. It is not always well understood. Bermuda was the perfect place for [my artistry] to come out. It certainly was the catalyst to turn a drawing skill that I had into paint.
“It’s been a great lifeline to me. It’s been a great thing to have that wouldn’t have come unless I’d had those circumstances, which would have been a shame in a lot of ways.”
Work he created in a class at Bermuda College got the attention of Horst Augustinovic, owner of commercial printers Print Link.
He was looking for Bermuda scenes — of landscapes and local architecture — that could be printed, and sold to tourists.
“Within six months I had work published, which was quite daunting at the time,” said Mr Silk.
“Going from not really doing much painting to producing six pieces for prints was a big thing. It was a great thing because I could then go around to hotels assigning and selling that way.
“I needed to be able to work for myself and when I was getting better it was key to my recovery. When you look back at things, at roads taken, the things that you’ve done in the past, that’s what you end up doing.
“Because I had a long period of ill health, I had produced prints for a local charity. They were just small things, but I guess they were signs of what would be.
“Even though I had no idea that I would be a professional artist, when you look back you see the signs.”
His favourite place to paint is St George’s.
“It has so many different elements of painting in it, with light colour and texture,” he said.
“The buildings fit so harmoniously with the landscape because you have the almost architectural palms and palmettos. Also the sense of history there.
“I think that’s why so many artists head down there.”
Mr Silk gives drawing and painting workshops at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art throughout the year and pens regular art reviews for The Royal Gazette.
“I’m an artist first, and that means I write with that sharper visual sensitivity that an academic critic might not have,” he said. “The everyday as an artist is not just producing paintings that you want to do, but it’s about paying bills and getting commissions, which comes with its own requirements.
“It’s a challenge, but I find it great fun meeting people and seeing that they like your work and they want you to do a special piece for them.
“It’s nice to hear their story, why they like a particular scene; what it means to them; why it’s important to their life.”
•Mr Silk’s work can be seen at Gallery One Seventeen, 117 Front Street.
About chronic fatigue syndrome
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the cause is unknown although there are many theories — ranging from viral infections to psychological stress.
The condition seriously affects everyday life and doesn’t go away with sleep or rest. It can cause long-term illness and disability but children and young people particularly, improve over time.
Treatment focuses on relief of common symptoms including fatigue, muscular pain, severe headaches, painful lymph nodes, poor short-term memory and difficulty finding the right words.