A YOUNG artist who used painting to improve her life after being bullied about her weight has sold a painting at auction to help an eating disorder charity.
Bids closed on the painting of Olympic triathlete Hollie Avil by Amber-Lauren Ballantyne-Styles, 18, on Sunday night.
The painting was auctioned for £100 to help eating disorder charity B-eat, which is supported by Miss Ballantyne-Styles and Miss Avil, who say they were both “harassed” about their weight by gymnastics instructors.
Miss Ballantyne-Styles, from Garsington, was 13 and had just won a silver medal for Great Britain in the European Championships when she started facing pressure from an instructor.
She was 5ft 7ins and nine stone, an average weight for a girl of her age and height, but she said she was called fat during training sessions and said the constant comments and weighings were too much to take.
She started to binge-eat and suffered from night terrors and sleep-walking as a result of her unsteady diet.
Miss Ballantyne-Styles, now an art student at Oxford and Cherwell Valley College, said: “It’s devastating. I was only 13 at the time and for an adult to tell me I was fat was very hurtful.
“For any person of any age it’s a horrible thing to go through, but to go through that as a child put me under a lot of pressure.”
Although her initial sketches for art college were of skinny malnourished figures, Miss Ballantyne-Styles soon realised that painting curvy women made her feel better.
She said: “I wanted to build on the idea that although some people are naturally thin, women are supposed to have voluptuous curves.
“I wanted people to accept themselves as who they are, not what the world thinks they should be.
“It’s definitely helped, in fact I would say that art has saved me. It’s such a good way of expressing myself in ways I wouldn’t necessarily say out loud.”
She added that it had been “an honour” to paint Hollie Avil, 22, who retired from sport after suffering from an eating disorder. She too had been bullied about her weight by a coach.
Miss Ballantyne-Styles said: “She went to the Olympics, which is an incredible achievement. To be able to paint her was an honour, and I hope she likes the picture.”
Her mum Cherry-Ann Ballantyne, 54, said: “She didn’t deserve to be treated that way. If you see your child being bullied, you want to step in and do anything you can to make it stop. Eventually I said she had to make a choice, and she said ‘I don’t want to do this any more’.”
She added: “The art has been a fantastic way for her to deal with it.”
Miss Ballantyne-Styles, who is considering whether to do a fine art degree in September, is also making wearable versions of some of her work, including scarves.