hidden disability

Autism and dyslexia: using art to express myself and promote disability awareness

Mark asked me to write his story after I interviewed him so I’m including it here.

Mark Noble is a professional artist who has dyslexia and autism, which means he is very sensitive to light and colour. Describing himself as very observant, he tries to break down boundaries and raise awareness of disabilities through his art. Mark says, “Some of my art has centered around the struggle of being ignored and misunderstood.” This is his story.

Hello there! My name is Mark Noble and I’m a professional artist based in Somerset, specialising in romantic/impressionist-style landscapes and seascapes.

Fellow artists have given me the title ‘Turner of the 21st century.’ I call myself the ‘painter of light’. I’m currently producing and promoting environmentally-friendly art and raising awareness of dyslexia and autism.

I was born in Southampton and moved to Somerset in the early 70s. I love being by the sea and exploring the beautifully diverse landscape of the South West.

Mark Noble

Becoming and working as a disabled painter

While I found it hard to concentrate and learn through traditional teaching methods at school, with some assistance, I did manage to gain some good qualifications.

However, people noticed that I had a rare artistic gift. For the most part, I taught myself how to paint.

I paint with passion, use natural colours and try my best to capture the little details that are often overlooked.

My main motivation is seeing others react positively to my work: people have told me that my art has triggered an emotional response – they may spot something that reminds them of childhood, for example. This fills my heart with joy.

My techniques vary from painting to painting. Most of the time I use washes of warm colours and thick paints to build up paintings. I have many different tools at my disposal – paint brushes, pallet knives, etc.

Winter Fields

As a rule, I never use black or green straight from a can. Black kills the canvas and green paint is usually man-made. Instead, I prefer to mix natural colours to form green, it seems to work well!

My main medium is acrylic on canvas, but I’ve recently been experimenting with painting on all kinds of recyclable materials, including bark, tiles and tabletops.

When I can, I prefer to use a simple colour palette. In my opinion, the two most important things are to a) enjoy creating art and b) keep things as simple as possible.

Since finishing my studies, I’ve sold art to clients all over the globe, taught people of all ages how to paint and take part in many exciting exhibitions.

One of my biggest achievements was being selected by the government to display art at an exhibition in Westminster, celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Disability Rights Act.

I’m also proud to say that I’ve raised money at several exhibitions/arts events for charities, such as Children’s World and SANE.

I continue to receive help and guidance from some close friends who help me to organise, catalogue and promote my art, update/maintain my website, social media and apply for funding.

My art during the Covid-19 pandemic

I’ve just finished painting a large mural – a sunset seascape – on a wall in my spare bedroom. I painted abstract paintings that expressed my feelings during the first lockdown. They were quite explosive!


The pandemic helped me to appreciate the important things in life. I revamped my studio, became more active on social media and showcased my creative art via online galleries. I also participated in online interviews and shared positive messages.

The pandemic has shown that ’the arts’ (painting, sculpture, music, literature etc) are more important than ever. We need to protect artists and the industry to ensure that everyone can express themselves freely.

Art plays an important role in today’s society, especially for the wellbeing of disabled people. Painting helped me get over alcoholism a few years ago.

In March 2021, I became an ambassador for ‘Outside In’. It is a British charity dedicated to assisting and promoting disabled artists. I’m very proud to be a part of the team.

Last month, I secured funding to paint with children at a school in Glastonbury with local artist Julie Lovelock. I am keeping my mind busy and doing my best to stay flexible and focused.

My family are always been a source of inspiration and motivation. I’m creating unique, beautiful art; working on new projects; meeting new artists and exhibiting in physical galleries once again!

Moving forward, I want to continue raising awareness of climate change and engage with a wider audience. I would also like to do more to expose discrimination against disabled people, whenever and wherever it occurs.
Round Mark Noble.jpeg

My advice to other disabled artists

My advice to people with a disability who want to paint would be to try to get as much support as possible. Research different charities, be inspired, be creative and most importantly, don’t let it get you down!

Technology helps too: text to speech services, audiobooks, etc. Many organisations are willing to provide funding if you can show that your work benefits others or it spreads a positive message.

The most important thing is to believe in yourself and your own creative ideas.

Take ideas/inspiration from other artists and visit as many galleries as you can. Travel the world if you are ever able to. Respect your fellow artists. Look beyond a canvas and ask yourself what an artist may have been thinking when they were producing their work.

My best technical tip is to keep your paintbrush clean with warm water. Seems simple, but many people forget. I use a large range of different tools and always encourage others to be inventive!

By Mark Noble

Find out more about Mark and his work by visiting Mark Noble’s website, and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

More on Disability Horizons…

Autism and dyslexia: using art to express myself and promote disability awareness Read More »

Dare to Dance: Strictly’s Amy Dowden hosts her own dancing show.

Strictly professional Amy Dowden has become a popular dancer on the BBC hit show and is now hosting her own TV dancing show, Dare to Dance. in which she teaches people to dance for special occasions. 

Who is Amy Dowden?

Amy joined the Strictly family in 2017 and has been part of the Strictly Live Tour since 2018. She headlined her own tour in 2019 entitled Here Come The Girls and she documented her life living with Crohn’s disease in May 2019. Amy was born on August 10th 1991 in Caerphilly, Wales. She is married to Ben Jones who is also a professional dancer. Together they run a dance school called Art In Motion, located in Cradley Heath, West Midlands. Amy started dancing when she was eight years old. Amy and Ben became British National Latin Dance Champions in 2017. They were the first all-British couple to win the title in 30 years. Together they also became the British Dance Federation Champions, English Closed Champions and Welsh Closed and Open Champions. Amy has been a British National Finalist four times, a World Championship semi-finalist and she remains one of the highest-ranking Ballroom and Latin American professional dancers in the UK. Her documentary Strictly Amy: Crohn’s & Me won a BAFTA Cymru award in 2021 and, in doing so, has raised awareness of what living with the condition is like. This month she posted on Instagram asking for advice on dealing with her latest flare-up of the condition, which caused her face to swell up. Amy Dowden Amy in a sparkly short sleeve outfit when she appeared on Strictly

Amy Dowden hosting Dare to Dance

On her show Dare to Dance, Amy teaches people to dance for a special occasion in their lives. Amy teaches the participants and then they perform the dance in front of their family and friends. Amy is very proud of the show and said:

“It was a really emotional journey full of happiness, happy tears, excitement, pride. It was a real journey and it was so lovely to get to know them and their families and for them to have their moment.”

The participants in the show are trained at the Shappelles Dance School, which is where Amy learnt to love dance when she was a child. Amy added: “[It] wasn’t about creating the most special, best dance routine or dance ever, it was about creating their moment to celebrate them and their lives. It wasn’t a competition, it was just something to celebrate them.” Amy Dowden in a black top In the introduction to the show Amy states:

“Dance is my life, when I dance I feel I can overcome anything.”

Having shown her enjoyment and passion for dance Amy wants others to feel the same as it can change lives. In the show, which was all filmed in Wales, as well as being as a dance teacher Amy is also the presenter, an experience she said she “loved” when talking to the BBC about her show. She said:

“It was all a learning curve with presenting, I absolutely loved it…I really loved that it was about other people and not myself…I would love the opportunity to do more presenting.”

Dare to Dance participants

The four episodes of series one aired on the 14th January exclusively on BBC Wales TV. All episodes are available for everyone to watch via BBC iPlayer. The show follows four people, all of who have special occasions they want to mark with a dance. All of the participants have never danced before so the lessons with Amy and the Shappelles Dance School are the first time they are taking to the dancefloor.   Behind each dance is a story or a message. A way to say thank you perhaps or a chance to make a dream come true. Throughout the nerves, doubts and celebrations, Amy and her dance family will be there every step of the way throughout their dance journey.

Episode one – Sian

In the first episode, Sian, a 69-year-old grandmother learns a dance to celebrate her and her son’s next birthday. Dancing has been a lifelong dream of Sian’s since being told by family members growing up that she would never dance.

Episode two – Charlotte

The second episode follows Charlotte who wants to surprise her husband as they both turn 50. Charlotte was petrified of dancing but determined to make this a birthday to remember.

Episode three – Emily

In the third episode, Emily wants to dance for her rugby team. Emily played rugby instead of going to ballet classes but is always the first person on the dancefloor when out with friends. She now wants to show them what she can do with Amy’s tutelage.

Episode four – Suzanne

The fourth and final episode of the series features Suzanne and Roiyah who wanted Amy’s expertise to help them mark 20 years of friendship. The ladies were nervous but excited to dance for their family and friends. Although they’ve organised a big party together where they make their dance debut they have told no one of their dance plans. Dare to Dance is a heartwarming and compelling programme. Let’s hope there is another series commissioned so that more people of any age or ability will be inspired to take to the dancefloor. Watch the whole series of Amy Dowden’s Dare to Dance on BBC iPlayer. By Lucy Currier. More on Disability Horizons…

Dare to Dance: Strictly’s Amy Dowden hosts her own dancing show. Read More »


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