Igniting connections across the globe.

Laura Bayliss: Health, Light & Paint

Laura Bayliss
By Women in Lighting
Laura Bayliss

I’ve been diagnosed with various neurological, muscular and autoimmune disorders over the years. I didn’t used to talk about my conditions as I didn’t want to be treated differently or defined by them but when asked to write this, as it may inspire others, I thought I should be brave enough to do so.

I remain happy, positive and grateful for what I have in life as opposed to focussing on what I don’t have, but ultimately, it’s been tough.

When I was fifteen, I was a sporty, academic and sociable girl who loved all aspects of school. I had to take a year off school when I became bed/house bound for a whole year. I was in constant pain all over my body, I couldn’t walk, it affected my muscles, nervous system, spine and brain. I didn’t ‘make energy’ properly so I’d sleep for days but never felt rested, some days I couldn’t even lift my head off the pillow, light and sound was too much for me. Simple cognitive tasks were a struggle and the only thing I could do (on a good day) was draw. It was my escapism.

Aged sixteen, Doctors told me I would never be able to hold down a nine to five job but this just made me even more determined to prove them wrong… so I did. I made a slow gradual recovery, I followed my passion and went on to get a First-Class Honours in Fine Art Painting. Instead of working with paint I began to use light as my medium. ‘I painted with light’. In the late 90’s I made site-specific interactive light art installations, using both artificial and natural light.

I left University knowing I wanted to be a Lighting Designer, I didn’t know if such a job even existed in those days, but if it didn’t then I intended to be the first!

I spent the next decade working with light professionally.

I continued to call upon my artistic background to inform my architectural lighting, aesthetics were more important to me than number crunching and I ensured my schemes had conceptual integrity.

Even when I considered myself ‘well’ and was working full time, I would often need to sleep all evening/night before returning in the morning. I had a key for the sick room at school, college and work so I could have a nap on my lunch hour or in the life drawing room at Uni. Not when the models were in though! I managed my health struggles in my own time so they did not affect my work. I never wanted to be given any special dispensation or sympathy so I knew everything I achieved was on my own merit.

I won several awards in London, then in Manchester; where I moved to build an amazing team. We became the largest lighting design practice in the North of England. I loved my job and was proud to become BDP’s youngest ever Director in 2008.

I appreciated my life and health more than anything and never took it for granted. I was so happy to be able to walk let alone work, I made the most of every minute both professionally and personally. I was well enough to play sport again and I remember saying to my Mum on the way home from netball that I finally felt like a ‘normal healthy person’. I know I’ve never considered myself ‘normal’ on any other level but perhaps in this context I’d spoken too soon…

In 2009, I was forced to give up a career that I loved due to my conditions returning, it was gutting. Once again, I lost my independence, I was in constant pain, reliant upon a wheelchair and carers.

My wonderful husband proposed to me (at my worst) saying “even if you never get better I want to marry you anyway”.

At this point I struggled to lift my arms to hold a brush, so physically it was too hard for me to paint. My health and pain improved massively during both of my pregnancies, so I was able to start creating again. My work was exhibited alongside other international Light Artists in Paris for Lumières – Play of the Brilliants in 2015 and I was recognised as one of Lighting’s 40under Forty in 2017 despite being ‘out of the game’ for eight years.

I relapsed again in 2017. I have been in constant pain in every part of my body and reliant on my wheelchair ever since but I will continue to keep creating in whatever way I can. My mind’s determination and desire to create remains no matter how much my body tries to tell me I can’t. I may not be able to do as much as I’d like in the way I would like but I will always find a way.

I continue to use my professional experience as a Lighting Director to inform my work as a Light Artist. My art combines my passion for paint with my love of light as I use these two mediums in conjunction.

Laura Bayliss

Laura Bayliss
www.laurabaylisslight.com
@laurabaylisslight

Published in Collaboration with: Women in Lighting

Women in Lighting

Also by Women in Lighting:

The Accidental Feminist: One Man’s Story

Lighting and Your Mood: Is There a Correlation?

Join TheatreArtLife to access unlimited articles, our global career center, discussion forums, and professional development resource guide. Your investment will help us continue to ignite connections across the globe in live entertainment and build this community for industry professionals. Learn more about our subscription plans.

The Market

Love to write or have something to say? Become a contributor with TheatreArtLife. Join our community of industry leaders working in artistic, creative, and technical roles across the globe. Visit our CONTRIBUTE page to learn more or submit an article.
Share

Read more...