IN the unlikely setting of ­Hamilton Academical's stadium yesterday, a familiar-looking figure was cheered and applauded as he cut a ribbon to open a community facility.

Peter Howson, the internationally renowned Scottish artist, spoke enthusiastically of the Children's Escape and Serenity Art Garden, describing it as a "great project and vision".

The pioneering, multi-facility garden, which includes a beach, a wishing well, a wall of murals and a recording studio, was created by Hamilton Academical Community Trust and ­Blameless, a charity that aims to provide "happy memories" for children directly or indirectly affected by addiction or alcoholism. Howson is to create a mural for the wall.

Howson said he was on the mend and spoke of a "gradual relaunch" of himself as an artist.

In interviews in February this year, he had referred to his year of hell in 2012, when he was treated in various Glasgow ­hospitals for severe depression and other ailments. He was finally discharged before Christmas.

Yesterday he said: "I've had a pretty bad six years health-wise but I made a comeback at the beginning of the year, when I had sold-out exhibition at the Maclaurin Art Gallery in Ayr.

"I got myself better at the beginning of the year and then I got really ill again.

"I couldn't understand what was happening, or why. They did an exploratory operation and I finally found a surgeon who discovered what was wrong with me: it was a physical ailment, not a mental ailment, but it has neurological consequences.

"So we got that sorted out, and I'm on the mend. I'm on the mend now. This is a kind of ­gradual relaunch or reinvention of myself. I've been through the wars and I've been battered about. But this project with the ­children means a lot to me.

"I'm in the same boat. These kids have got alcoholic or drug-addict parents: I'm an alcoholic and drug-addict parent."

He described the garden as incredible, adding: it's an ongoing thing, it's developing all the time. It's a living energy and the people that work here are all incredible".

"A lot of people have put in a lot of effort into it for nothing in return," he said. "This is something for the ­children, and the parents will benefit as well. The hope is that we can help the ­children. I've seen the bodies of ­children in Bosnia: it has always affected me."

The mural he will paint will be on the theme of hope. Howson smiled as he said that. Colin McGowan, a key figure at Hamilton, and a Blameless trustee, had forbidden him from doing "anything nightmarish to frighten the kids". He added: "So it's going to be a happy one. How can I do a happy painting? I will try."