How Swifty the bird inspires Grant’s art

Tucked away in a quiet cul-de-sac, Grant Waddell’s home is surrounded by bushland and the sounds of nature. On a glass table in the backyard, looking over bushland, is where Grant and his support worker Vicki create magic.

For the past few years, Grant has lived in Supported Independent Living on the Sunshine Coast, while attending the local Learning and Lifestyle hub.

The walls of Grant’s home are lined with his art. Vibrant canvases bring life to the hallway and his bedroom is decked out with some of his unfinished pieces. In a corner of the dining room is an old surfboard, reliving its glory days thanks to Grant’s paintbrush.

“This has sharks,” Grant said. He proudly showed off his work and explained the piece. “There is a fishy.”

“Grant really leads what he paints. He will talk about what he wants to paint, I’ll draw the outline and he’ll add to it,” Vicki said.

Grant has painted two more surfboards, which are on display at his Learning and Lifestyle hub.

Grant talks excitedly about the surfboards and his work. “It makes me feel happy,” Grant said.

“The surfboards are a pretty big achievement. When they put them up at the Learning and Lifestyle hub, Grant was really proud,” Vicki said.

Vicki has been supporting Grant for five years and she has noticed some significant changes in how Grant expresses himself.

“I have noticed a big difference. When Grant does art, it makes him feel like he’s accomplishing something.” Vicki said.

“Since I have been supporting Grant, he talks more. He’ll say what he is feeling and if he is upset about something. If he has an issue, he’ll say, ‘I’m not happy with that.’ He never used to speak up for himself. He’s grown a lot.”

Vicki supports Grant with his art by helping him get started on his masterpieces. With her support, Grant is able to bring his ideas to life.

“The feedback he gets makes him feel happy. His art is fun.” Vicki said.

“For me as a support worker, I have helped him with his art. I draw the picture for him but I ask him ‘what theme do you want to draw?’ We go from there.”

Grant shares his artwork with his family and friends. Last Christmas, he created multiple pieces of art as Christmas presents for his brother and sister.

“When we did the Christmas presents for his family, they really loved those pictures,” Vicki said.

“It took a bit of time. We knew Christmas was coming up, we started end of October and we chipped away. Grant did three paintings for Christmas.”

Vicki has learnt from Grant’s artistic expression and says he has inspired her in her own artistic practice.

“He likes changing the paint brushes and changing the strokes. There are no rules with Grant,” Vicki said.

Art isn’t Grant’s only passion; he also has a deep love for animals. Growing up with his veterinarian father, Grant was surrounded by horses and other animals.

Grant’s companion bird, Swifty, brings him out of his shell even more. Perched on his shoulder, Grant talks softly to the bird.

“Hello beautiful boy. Gimme kisses,” Grant smiles.

Grant takes great care of Swifty, cleaning out his cage regularly and giving him fresh water. They often spend time on the couch, watching Formula 1 racing and hanging out with housemates. Grant has good banter with his housemate, Steve. Vicki says they talk about traffic, cars and records they like.

“The two enjoy having a laugh together,” Vicki said.

Swifty isn’t the only animal in Grant’s life. Vicki’s dog, Oscar, is a regular visitor, joining Grant and Vicki on their Friday morning walks. Vicki says the animals have made a big difference in Grant’s life. “When I am here with Oscar, Grant cuddles with him. He is really close with the dog. When the dog isn’t here, it upsets Grant.”

“To be in a house without animals, you miss it. Swifty has enhanced Grant’s life.” Vicki said.

Grant says he is happy with his art and Swifty, “I like him.”

“He’s always happy,” Vicki said.

Together, Grant and Swifty continue to the transformative power of art and endless possibilities.

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