Arts

18 NHS Portraits Over Lockdown

I was inspired by an artist who had painted a nurse as a tribute to her involvement in the stalwart efforts of the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic. This seemed to be a great way to fill in the long hours of self isolation. It would give me, a self isolator by virtue of my age, an opportunity to contribute in some small way towards the ‘war effort’.
Filled with anticipation, I texted Jess, a friend of mine who works as a night nurse at Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare (HRCH), and suggested I paint her. She liked the idea but had reservations in being singled out from the rest of the team and asked if I could maybe include others, per chance the team. Slightly thrown by this unexpected response, I asked her to send me a photo, which she did, of four jolly nurses. I felt that was within the realms of possibility.
On further enquiry, I discovered that the team comprises 18. In a moment of extreme optimism, or complete insanity depending how you view it, I agreed to do 4 full figures and the rest as floating heads. I chose to do the work in pencil as this is what I have been using for my ‘lock down sketch a day’ so was in that zone.
I have worked on this for around six weeks, on and off, oscillating between panicky angst and great enjoyment.
Tools of the trade
Portrait of the artist halfway through the project

There are three other tools without which this project would not have been possible.

  1. The smart phone to which the photos were sent and from which the portraits were copied, sittings not being possible under the circumstances.
  2. Pilates, an exercise to counteract the constant sitting at a table easel.
  3. Finally, but by no means least, the fabulous Jessica Smith. Without her, this would not have been possible, for being so quick and efficient in rounding up everyone for photos and sending them on with many a useful annotation. She has also been constantly encouraging which has meant a lot whilst working on one’s own in lock down.
So this is for you, the indefatigable nurses of HRCH, a tribute to your stalwart work on a day to day basis but particularly in this time of the deadly and unexplained Covid-19 virus. You are much appreciated for your dedication and sheer unerring hard work in upholding the code of the NHS to care, respect and communicate by putting yourselves in the line of fire at this unprecedented and dangerous time for the most worthy of causes, saving lives. Long may you and the NHS continue. Keep safe! And continuing big thank yous!
What projects have you been working on through lockdown? Let us know.