Every very stroke of a paint brush causes terrible pain for talented young artist Clementine Marshall. But her long hours in the studio have paid off - one of her prints now hangs in the Hollywood home of oscar-winning actor Adrien Brody. Clementine (26) took up art to take her mind off the agonising arthritis that ended her career as a competitive rower.
Three years ago, the young Christchurch sportswoman was tipped as a top rowing talent. At 23, she had already represented New Zealand at a world championship and was a teammate of olympic medal-winners Georgina and Caroline Evers-Swindell.
During an international competition, Clementine noticed a pain in her foot. She tried to ignore it, even as it spread to other parts of her body. But, eventually, it became so sore she had no choice but to get medical help. The source of the pain was found to be a severe form of arthritis.
"It was devastating," she recalls. Clementine had assumed that arthritis was something that only affected elderly people and was shocked to find she had developed the illness at such a young age. "I was on the right track to reach my goal of being at the olympics. It was a double blow. I had to endure the physical pain of arthritis, plus my hopes had been ripped away from me. It was incredibly hard to deal with."
A keen artist at school, Clementine had to find a new focus to get through the ordeal. She found solace in art. "I was lucky to have art in my life. It meant that I could refocus my energy and my passion into something else," says the fine arts graduate. Clementine's talent caught the eye of Adrien Brody when she submitted one of her screenprints to an exhibition while the actor was in Wellington filming King Kong.
She was shocked to discover the star of The Pianist was one of her biggest fans. "The woman who ran the exhibition told me that she wouldn't normally reveal to artists who had bought their work, but she couldn't help herself when she saw who it was," she smiles. The news was a much-needed boost for Clementine and proof that she could still achieve great things despite her disabling condition.
The young artist further displayed her courage when, in oay, she embarked on a charity walk through Spain, raising over $70,000 for the New Zealand Arthritis Foundation. "We started in France and walked across Spain," says Clementine. Taking anti-infl ammatory medication to ease her arthritis, it took her just over 30 days to complete the 950km trek.
Now the walk is over, Clementine's will be focussing on her art again. She admits she still struggles to get her head around the fact that one of her works has been bought by a famous actor. "It's really quite surreal," she laughs. "Somewhere in Hollywood, an oscar winner has my painting on his wall!"
Although Clementine has achieved many things in her life, she gets a kick out of knowing a Hollywood star likes her artwork. "It's a hoot," she laughs. "It's my little claim to fame!"