Work of art: Gardner discovers hidden talent

World Cup winning allrounder turns her hand to painting during the global pandemic – and even the 'actual artists' are impressed

Ashleigh Gardner is ‘the least artistic person’ she knows – but judging by the response her new isolation hobby is receiving, the masses don’t feel the same way.

Since the global coronavirus pandemic saw Australia’s tour of South Africa cancelled last month, Gardner has been bunkered down at home in Sydney with her mother Katherine.

It was there one Saturday night when Gardner, who turned 23 on Wednesday, found herself inspired to try her hand at dot painting.

"I said to my mum, if we’re going into self-isolation, I’m going to need a hobby because I know I get bored easily – and then I thought, why not try painting?" Gardner told reporters on Friday.

"Having an Aboriginal background, I have a connection with (dot painting), I’m not an actual artist but it’s in my blood.

"I’m the least artistic person, I can’t draw … it’s something I’ve just picked up purely out of boredom and I’ve realised I really like it.

"It’s a therapeutic thing. It’s so different to what I do (normally), I think that’s why I’ve enjoyed it.

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"For so long I’ve had a schedule and I’ve been told what to do day-to-day and it’s something I can do off my own back and it’s quite relaxing.

"It’s going to be tough to do when I go back to training and playing full-time but now while I’ve got the time, I can enjoy it."

Gardner shared her exploits on social media and admits she was surprised by the positive response she received.

The commissions also came flooding in – from the likes of Moises Henriques, Mel Jones, Nicole Bolton and Alyssa Healy – meaning Gardner has been kept busy since.

She drew inspiration from the T20 World Cup final at the MCG for the piece she produced for Jones, while Healy’s request was an ocean-themes artwork.

"I did a piece for a guy that works at the local golf course," she said.

"He came to pick it up and he was walking out to his car with it under his arm and the guy next door yelled out to him, to ask where he got it from.

"(The neighbour) then came and knocked on the door and he’s an actual artist, so it was quite shocking he actually liked my work – he said it actually gave him goose bumps, I genuinely couldn’t believe it – then he messaged me on Instagram wanting to know if he could get a piece."

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Lockdown life has been a dramatic change of pace for Gardner – who is currently meant to be on holiday in Bali with friends – and her Australian teammates after what has been their busiest ever 12-month period on the road.

The path ahead remains uncertain, with social distancing and travel restrictions leaving a cloud over upcoming series against New Zealand (September and October), India (January) and the 2021 one-day World Cup, to be played in New Zealand in February and March.

Working without a plan does not come naturally to Gardner, but she is determined to make the best of the situation.

"Personally for me, I hate the unknown, so not knowing what’s coming next or when things will start again does bug me a bit,” she said. “But I guess you’ve got to look at the bigger picture.

"I think we’ve just got to play it by ear and go day-by-day and do things individually (at the moment) to stay on top of stuff."

To keep herself active, Gardner has started exercising with her mum, with the pair taking on one-on-one boxing sessions in a local park.

"She’s loving that I’m home at the moment," she said.

"I’m here for some motivation for her but also for myself as well.

"Boxing is something I’ve never done before, but she’s enjoying it and it’s something different to running and doing gym for me."