A TALENTED teenager who has a string of complex health problems has found a new focus through his love of art.

Travis Watson, 17, has Asperger's and a genetic condition which causes tumours to grow.

As a result the youngster had a difficult time at primary school and found it hard to mix with other people his own age.

But his passion and talent for art has helped turn his life around, through the encouragement and support he has received at Arts and Mind sessions run by Rig Arts.

Travis, a sixth year pupil at Notre Dame High, said: "I feel I'm able to get more from my art now and to take it to a higher level.

"I have made friends and I would like to go on to art school.

"I felt a little bit on my own before I came here, as there aren't many people at school who have the same interests as me.

Travis started coming to the classes just before lockdown and his confidence has soared since.

Travis said: "Art interests me as you can use paints, brushes and paper and turn it into something beautiful.

"It's helped my confidence.

"I've been coming here for quite some time and I've got to know everyone.

"I feel it like a freedom, like I belong.

"I am more open and easy going.

"It's changed my life and I feel more positive about the future."

The teenager's condition - Neurofibromatosis Type 1, or NF1 - can be painful at times and there is always the fear that the tumour could become cancerous.

The tumours can cause bumps under the skin and they also cause bone and hormone problems which means sufferers can be smaller in height than their peers and have scoliosis.

Travis lives in Curlew Crescent with his mum Liz and his big brother Manzoor, 21, and he also has an older sister Maxine, who is 34.

Liz, 55, said: "He finds if difficult to mix in social situations and the arts classes give him the chance to be with other people who can share his interests.

"He has very specific passions, including Soviet and Russian history, which doesn't hold a lot of interest for his peers.

"He's not into the normal everyday football which isolates him a bit.

"But he has built relationships through his art and gets to explore his interests within the classes.

"It really helps with his mental health.

"NFI causes tumours on the nerves and Travis struggles if he finds a new tumour, he fears it could be cancer."

Liz says she couldn't be more proud of her son's achievements.

She said: "It's been a lifeline for me, seeing him going in and being able to mix with an amazing group of people who share a love of something with him

"It's given him a real confidence boost."

Artists Jim Strachan and Louise Carr, who run the sessions, can't praise Travis highly enough.

Louise said: "He is amazing and so talented.

"Travis can do anything, if you show him once, he can do it."

Jim added: "He has a real God-given talent.

"Older folk come into the classes and ask 'who did that? and they can't believe that it is a 17-year-old boy.

"When he came to us we didn't get a peep out of him for three or four months, then his confidence started to grow as he felt a valued part of the class."

Jim is keen to keep Travis with RIG when he goes to art school and would like him to come back as a volunteer or paid tutor.

Jim said: "We would love to keep him as part of the RIG Arts family."