Crashing to a new life
AS VISUAL artist and brain injury survivor Scott Trevelyan walks to his studio, his 10-year-old alsatian-cross scrambles eagerly towards us with his front paws, his now-useless back legs dragging behind.
"See! Even the dogs here are disabled," says Scott, with notable affection.
He's made Bear-Dog a trolley, which the canine loves to use, a testament not only to the dog's adaptability but to his own determination to overcome life's interruptions.
Ten years ago, the 46-year-old had a serious motorbike accident on Coolamon Scenic Drive near Byron Bay.
Scott suffered eight broken vertebrae, a dislocated femur, two broken ribs, a punctured lung, broken scapula (shoulder blade) and what was assessed as a severe acquired brain injury.
"My brother Jim was riding behind me and watched it all happen," he says of the accident.
"I wasn't breathing and he had to resuscitate me."
He remembers little about events surrounding the accident or the subsequent time in Byron Hospital, Lismore Base Hospital or John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle, 10 days of it in intensive care in an induced coma.
But I do recall that at one stage I was obsessed with egg and lettuce sandwiches and thought I'd make millions out of them, he laughs.
"I told everyone who visited me."
Despite the seriousness of his injuries, one month into his treatment, he discharged himself. "I felt Western medicine had served its course."
These days yoga is his therapy, as is his prolific vegetable garden and the orchard that sits on his 4ha Alstonvale property.
He's also used his increasingly recognised artistic talent first as an outlet for his trauma and later to rebuild his life.
His brain injury means he's hypersensitive to his environment, especially noise; at times suffers from serious
fatigue and has trouble with short-term memory.
Nevertheless, his art work is prolific and institutions such as the State Library of Queensland, Arthur Boyd's Bundanon Trust and numerous international collectors have acquired his work. Most recently his cathartic sculpture Brain Bucket that features parts from his Ducati motorbike has been lent to Sydney's MCA.
A self-confessed adrenalin junkie
Delve into his past, and you'll find that Scott has always preferred to operate outside the box.
He's a self-confessed adrenalin junkie who used to jump out of planes and, like most people with serious passions, he can be intense and obsessive. But his sense of humour is never far from the surface, especially when it comes to laughing at himself.
Growing up in Pennant Hills, Sydney, he had an early passion for motorbikes, starting with trail bikes and moving onto Ducatis. (It was a 916cc Senna replica of the Italian motorbike that changed his life.)
He did three and a half years of a printing apprenticeship after he left school, but the commercial style of work "bored me to tears".
(Scott still uses printmaking techniques to create artist books, sculpture and ephemera.)
Subsequently he imported orchids from Singapore, worked on Dunk Island, rebuilt cars, ran the farm at Wollongbar TAFE and did building work in hospitals in Sweden, where he lived for two years.
At the time of his accident, he was halfway through a Visual Arts degree at Southern Cross University. He's since completed that and an Advanced Diploma of Fine Arts at Lismore TAFE.
His other lifelong passion, that has now crossed into his art, is honeybees.
They call me the Alstonville Bee Whisperer.
His current body of work portrays the honeybee, Apis mellifera and its struggle for survival.
For the past five years, he's also been investigating what could possibly be a world-first technique of inserting his artwork into active beehives on his property. Scott has developed a method in which he encourages the bees to build honeycomb onto the face of artworks that he calls "hiving the art".
It's weird but also kind of cool and he loves the way the bees choose exactly where they are going to add value to his prints and painting.
Showing the way
Having always been proactive about his own recovery - "it took me a year of hard work to teach myself to walk
again" - it's not surprising that Scott also wanted to share his experience.
He currently runs art therapy classes for acquired brain injury survivors at his studio and he's also built a relationship with the NSW Attorney-General's Department, using his studio to provide young offenders of motor vehicle infringements the chance to come face to face with accident survivors from similar actions.
Scott is on the Tasmanian Arts Advisory Board that assesses grants for artists with disabilities each year and recently was selected by NSW Family & Community Services as Ambassador for the 'Don't DIS My ABILITY' Campaign.
The campaign celebrates the diversity and ability of people with disability with 100 events held in November and December each year. (December 3 is International Day of People with Disability.) For more information go to www.dontdismyability.com.au
He's also president of a Ballina based brain injury support group known as BISSI, a position he has held since 2006. While, for some people, an accident of the magnitude Scott suffered may have been the equivalent to pressing the stop button, for him it seems to have merely been a pause.
He's moved to a place where he now has an artistic refuge; he has a new partner, teacher's aide and artist Lisa Knight, whose children Zac, 7 and Lilly, 10, live with the couple; he has the time he craves to pursue his passions, including inclusion in society of people with disabilities and the plight of the honeybee; and he seems serene.
There's a menagerie too - Bear-Dog, kelpies Indy and Bundy, a few guinea fowl and a couple of roaming ducks adding to the organic-ness of his life.
"Most people refer to ABI as a disability. I almost see it as a gift.
"To experience near-death and be able to view life from a new positive perspective is something I've found ABI survivors have in common."