Artist Bonny Snowdon, who has built up a £1m pet portrait school after overcoming debt and divorce, is supporting domestic violence and sexual abuse charity IDAS with free scholarships for women seeking help.

Bonny, 52, from Ripon has built up a huge following with her online academy which has 2,500 members and her pet portrait business, which has a waiting list of 1,500 people.

Amazingly Bonny, who left school at 15, only took up drawing again in her 40s after her daughter bought her a colouring book and pencils at the height of the adult colouring book craze in 2016.

She says she is only too well aware of how domestic abuse can undermine people after battling mental abuse during her 19-year marriage, as her husband struggled with depression following the death of his father.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Bonny has over 2,500 online subscribers and a waiting list of 1,500 for her animal portrails

Now the artist is offering free scholarships to her academy with a year's membership and all art related material for five women seeking help from IDAS as well as running a solo exhibition to raise funds for the charity.

She said: “Creativity is a portal to another world. It allows us to disappear from our everyday life - and if you don't lead a very nice life that is just the most amazing thing.

"It quietens the mind, busy hands, quiet mind is the saying and it's so true. Creativity in any form is in my opinion essential for healthy minds. I know myself how helpful it was, disappearing for hours with my colouring book.”

Darlington and Stockton Times: Bonny in her studio at Ripon

She said her former husband had always had anger issues but they became much worse after his father died. She added: “He took the death really badly, he became depressed but wouldn't get help and things would swing from being okay to really awful.

"I lived on eggshells for years, not knowing when he was going to blow up. It got to the point where I was scared of talking about certain subjects, money was the main one, I could never talk about it and that's the main reason I got into debt, I was too frightened to talk to him about needing to pay off a phone bill, that I ended up taking out credit cards and over time, the debt ballooned to over £22,000.

“In the end, he started talking about suicide. I tried so hard to support him it was a really dreadful time.”

The couple split up and she says despite remarrying her husband sadly took his own life.

With three teenage children and three dogs Bonny says she felt sick all the time but built up her business after a friend asked her to draw her dog and put it online. She also launched her online subscription site. Bonny now has a team of three and after turnover of £450,000 last year she is set to make £1m this year.

See and for details.