In conversation with

In Conversation With: Amy Godfrey

For today’s In conversation with, we have a special interview with Amy Godfrey, one of the artists of Sonshine Art. Read below her inspiring story about how she creates art with her two sons to fundraise a local charity that directly supported her family.
29th April 2021 | Image Curators Advisory
Patchwork, Acrylic on canvasA2 (42 x 59.4 cm / 16.5 x 23.4 in)Painted from one of my favourite photos of nature's magnificent colour and texture in the Buckinghamshire countryside. Courtesy: The Artist
Amy, You Have A Degree In Animation And Then You Worked In A Financial Services Company. What Made You Start Dedicating Your Time Again To Creating Art?
Yes, I have an Animation Degree from Farnham College For The Creative Arts. I graduated in 2006. I also got married that year and when I graduated I tried right away to find a great intro-level job within the animation/TV/film industry. Sadly I was unable to find a job with a company I liked who had a paid place for me. While I was searching for that work I worked in pubs, bars and restaurants and eventually I found work - just to earn some proper money really - in a financial services company working with spreadsheets on pensions and annuities and honestly it was just vile! I hated it! I was thrilled to bits when in 2008 I became pregnant with my Maximus AKA Eldest Sonshine so that I could leave!

My husband and I agreed that I would be a stay-at-home-Mummy with Max, at least for the first year then see about me returning to work if I wanted to. Turns out I didn't! And when Max was just under 2 we started to notice developmental differences in him. The visit with the health visitor for his 2 year old check-in confirmed what we suspected and we were entered into a wonderful 6-week assessment programme; at the end of which Max got his diagnoses of Autistic Spectrum Disorder and learning disability.
Zoom-in of Easter Egg printing eggsplosion of Spring colour by Eldest Sonshine, age 12. Courtesy: The Artists
I continued on with being a stay at home Mum and during his early years we had a great time learning at home together and I discovered I was quite a natural at teaching him and that I almost always had a creative slant to our activities. When Max started at preschool he got a diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder added to his Special Education Statement and following on from that Max's Dad and I made greater efforts to include sensory integration along with creativity to his play, because this was the way he learned best and was happiest.

Some years later, when Max was 5, his little brother Tristan was born. We discovered early with him also that there were some developmental delays and differences and he too got the same diagnoses as his brother. So here I was with 2 Autistic, learning disabled boys with sensory processing needs. By this time Max was already in a wonderful Special Education Needs school and we needed to find a nursery for Tristan that could support him and that's when we found Autism Early Support and The Circle Centre - which is the name of the nursery. Tristan spent a transformative year there. They are a charity that relies heavily on sponsorship and fundraising. They ask all the parents to have a think about how we could help support them. The only thing I could think of that could be successful was to use what I already knew; my kids' and my own creativity. And so Sonshine Art was born!
What Is Sonshine Art And When And Why Did You Found This Platform?
Sonshine Art’s tagline is “Art From The Heart Of Our Autism Family.” I created it as a fundraising endeavour and we still focus heavily on that but over the last year the business has evolved and I have come to realise that we were capable of more. I wanted to be able to offer the community I welcomed not just beautiful images to buy for their homes and gifts but also to inspire and educate and entertain! We really have so much fun here with our creativity and our sensory play and I knew that we could have a positive effect on many lives doing what we do.
Jen, Abstract painting created by Eldest Sonshine, age 12. Courtesy: The Artists
You Work Together With Your Sons, Maximus And Tristan To Produce Art Pieces, From Paintings To Sculptures With All Sorts Of Materials. Re Producing Artworks Together. How Does A Day Look Like In Your Creative Home?
What does a day look like in our house? Well it varies a lot! Usually the boys are at school during the week so when they get home they tend to flop on the sofa with their screens as they so tired, but we do squeeze in some creativity some afternoons if they're up for it. Of course during the madness that has been Covid when we all stayed home for SUCH a long time we had creative days almost every day!
Creativity for my boys often has a different purpose and outcome for each of them. They've the same 3 diagnoses but they're very different children and have different needs and skills.
So a typical creative day? First thing to say is that I gather a bunch of ideas and resources that I think my boys will enjoy and be excited/curious about then when the time comes they are given a choice of available activities; would they like to paint, draw, build with Lego, craft, do a nature trail, take photos, build a den, play dress up, make puppets, trace shadows, make slime?! You get the idea! (I make sure I have the supplied required before I offer anything of course to avoid disappointment.) Then I prepare the area to make sure the sensory needs are taken care of; for example, Max, the Eldest can be sensory avoidant and needs to have towels available at all times to wipe his skin clean and Tristan is a seeker and like to make a mess! Once the activity is chosen there's quite a bit of winging-it involved honestly! Sometimes I start a creative play session thinking we're going to create self-portraits or create monsters and we end up making maps or abstracts! So we go with the flow of their creativity..
Mauve Clay Nature Print, Nature print created by Youngest Sonshine over the Easter break, various sizes. Courtesy: The Artists.
Art And Autism Go Often Hand In Hand, Especially Because Art Can Improve Our Health. How Does Creating Art Help Maximus And Tristan?
Creativity for my boys often has a different purpose and outcome for each of them. They've the same 3 diagnoses but they're very different children and have different needs and skills.

For Max creativity - painting particularly - is therapy. Some of the most beautiful paintings he's done have actually been done when he's been suffering from pain and stress. The process of painting is grounding and soothing for him and often I have watched the discomfort melt away from him and physically see his face and body relax and soften. He gets lost in painting - or as I prefer to think of it; he FINDS HIMSELF. He's also made a lot of paintings in fits of giggles as it brings him such joy!
Sometimes I start a creative play session thinking we're going to create self-portraits or create monsters and we end up making maps or abstracts! So we go with the flow of their creativity.
For Tristan creativity is FUN! He is my sensory seeker and he is really curious and imaginative and thrives with challenges. He likes to be set a challenge or given a prompt for his creativity then let loose! Sometimes Tristan creates in a calm, zen state but for the most part he is full of energy and creates quickly and with intention. As opposed to his brother who is often slower paced and more intuitive.

When they've had enough we stop. At whatever stage. And if they change their mind when we're about to start, we stop then too. I absolutely never make them participate in anything they're not completely into. The energy would be all wrong and the result would show that. The art that we have on our website and social media pages are created with joy and full consent. That is extremely important to me. I talk about his on the website as well; that the purpose of the creativity we engage in is not the result; it's the process, the learning, the exploration and most importantly it's the connection we have in those moments. That's why we do it and why I'm so passionate about sharing it.
Zoo, Acrylic on canvas (plus googly eyes!) (25 x 30 cm / 10 X 12 in per canvas). Painted by Youngest Sonshine Artist, age 6. Courtesy: The Artist.
Where Can People Buy Your Work And How Can They Help You Support Autism Early Support?
People can find us on social media on Facebook and Instagram. Facebook is our primary social media home and the place we go LIVE for our Create With Us and Play With Us sessions and also where we hold our fundraising raffles.
For our gallery shop and my neurodiversity blogs go to www.sonshineart.net
Are You Working On Any New Projects At The Moment?
Oh yes! We have a lot of new things coming up! I have a new collection I'm launching to the website next week and there will be a discount promotion on that collection for all of May! Also later this year I will be introducing my Sonshine Art Play Cards and Subscription Boxes. The Play Cards are going to be released as downloadable PDFs for people to print at home or I can print and post hard copies within the UK. These will have Creative and Sensory Play Ideas, their required resources, How-Tos and how they help various neurodiversities and sensory sensitivities.

The Subscription Boxes similarly will be tailored to various different sensory processing needs and include play and creativity resources to suit your child. I'm so excited about these.
The Sonshine Artists