Lisa’s NHS Portraits: Professor Chris

Professor Chris: Lisa’s NHS Heroes

This week features the portrait of Chris Brightling, a Senior Investigator for the National Institute for Health Research Senior Investigator and Clinical Professor in Respiratory Medicine at Leicester’s Hospitals.

His wife, Michelle, contacted Lisa Timmerman to paint one of the leading researchers in trials for COVID-19 treatments during the pandemic. This included not only in hospital, but the ongoing care and understanding how this disease impacts the health of people in the long term, after leaving hospital. Lisa expressed an admiration for Chris’s pioneering project:

“I loved the way he has his sleeves rolled up ready for business & I made the background white to stress his clinical role & to emphasise the #redforresearch where people can read more about it.”

Professor Chris: Work in Progress

The hashtag, ‘#redforresearch’, was a fundraising campaign by the St. George & Sutherland Medical Research Foundation (SSMRF) in 2020. By incorporating the colour red into one’s wardrobe and donations, the proceeds would help support very crucial medical research.

This theme of red has been carried through Lisa’s art series of NHS Heroes. Although this portrait is more paired back in comparison, it carries a very strong message. Similar to this World War I recruitment poster, this portrait probes further research and involvement with this charitable cause. From both images, their confident body language and friendly smiles suggest a reliable and aspirational man. Both campaigns are persuasive through direct eye contact with the viewer, encouraging participation and unification in this effort.

Professor Chris: Posed with his Portrait

To paint someone’s portrait can often be an intimate experience, as one is studying another’s facial contours and details over an extended period of time. To meet the real face of your art subject and to see the similarities makes an extraordinary encounter:

“Having studied his face thoroughly some time ago it was bizarre to see someone whose face I knew so well but I’d never met before walking towards me! But It was so lovely to meet Chris & his wife Michelle, they’re chuffed to bits with the portrait which makes me really happy. Prof Chris has been working incredibly hard on the research which will benefit treatments of COVID-19.

Thank you to [artist] Tom Croft for the initiative and Michelle for making us aware of what a wonderful & essential job Chris & his team are doing.”

To view more of Lisa’s portraits of NHS Heroes and read their stories, visit her website.

Lisa’s NHS Portraits: Vanessa and Ariella

Vanessa & Ariella: Lisa’s NHS Heroes

Today we will be looking at Lisa Timmerman’s next NHS portrait of Vanessa and her daughter, Ariella. Vanessa is a midwife at Queens Hospital, Romford, Essex, which is one of the largest maternity units in the country.

Vanessa is a single mother, so her daughter, Ariella, had been going to the nursery on the hospital grounds while Vanessa worked during the pandemic. Due to COVID-19 and new mothers as a high-risk group, often their partners were prohibited from staying postnatally. By default, many mothers were without family or friends for that period, which one can imagine was highly distressing.

Lisa met Ariella through the hashtag and artist Tom Croft’s initiative, #portraitsfornhsheroes, on social media:

“Vanessa […] sent me a gorgeous photograph of herself with her little daughter Ariella. Vanessa is a single mother managing her young daughter and her demanding job during a really difficult time with Covid-19 patients and the surrounding anxiety. Their smiles in the photo she sent me say everything I need to know about their relationship”.

Vanessa & Ariella: Work in Progress

From the happiness and intimacy of their relationship, as shown by this photograph, Lisa wanted to capture the “love in their faces” without reference to the pandemic.

Using her classic red background, which has previously provoked a sense of foreboding, it draws us to their attributes of happiness; Sharing rosy cheeks, creased eyes and white teeth, it is clear that they are mother and daughter. Their physical closeness dominates the canvas, as their large smiles bring the viewer comfort in a time which was wrought with fear and uncertainty.

As their relationship appears almost aspirational, it seems fitting that Vanessa’s job and Ariella’s care enable the important monitoring of new mothers. From context, this duo often sacrifice their time together, as Vanessa heroically helps to birth and nurture new relationships between mother and child.

Vanessa and Ariella were ecstatic upon receiving their portrait, as a permanent reminder of their beautiful, unbreakable relationship even in the time spent apart during the pandemic: “As you can see, we are overjoyed.”

Vanessa & Ariella: Posed with Their Portrait

In a time where the world felt loud and chaotic, it also slowed everything down with numerous national lockdowns. In this time, it allows many of us to re-evaluate and find a new appreciation for simple things in life. In refining her craft and offering beautiful portraits to those who needed it most, Lisa Timmerman’s legacy will be carried through so many grateful families.

To view more of Lisa’s portraits of NHS Heroes and read their stories, visit her website.

Lisa’s NHS Portraits: Abbie

Abbie: Lisa’s NHS Heroes

Lisa Timmerman’s third NHS portrait of this series was Abbie, a neonatal nurse at the Leicester Royal Infirmary. When this was painted, Abbie was pregnant and wanted the portrait’s focus to be her relationship with her baby during her experience of the coronavirus pandemic. A pillar of strength in many regards, this included going to baby scans alone due to Covid-19 restrictions. Abbie’s friend, Kate, contacted Lisa and told her of a selfless and caring individual:

“‘[Abbie] is super motivated, kind & passionate in her work & her life in general. Even at her wedding last year she did a [charity] collection for a little girl who she supports”.

This photo, in which Abbie is smiling downward and lovingly holding her baby bump, led to a portrait which celebrates new life and motherhood. Whilst in her uniform, It also commends the modern working-day woman, and the stressful, potentially harmful situation Abbie places herself in to help others.

Abbie: Neonatal Nurse at the Leicester Royal Infirmary

Relaying her own personal experience, Lisa recalls that painting Abbie was an emotional experience:

“As an artist & mother I found this painting very emotional to paint, thinking of Abbie & how I felt 29 years ago, pregnant with my 1st child.”

Abbie also spoke of her mentality whilst working through the pandemic, stating:

“Covid-19 represents a time where I had to battle with my internal mother instincts to keep my own child safe whilst having my moral compass guiding me to care for other mummy & daddy’s babies.”

Abbie wanted the portrait to represent her strength during this time, coping as a nurse and a first-time mother.

Abbie: Photo vs. Painting

Whilst Abbie’s portrait captures her true likeness, it is ceremonially adorned with flowers, rainbows and balloons. These details were inspired by Czech painter Alphonse Mucha, known for his idealised female figures who were often painted in nature. Rather than capturing a crisis, Lisa hoped to “capture something beautiful in this painting for Abbie, her husband and their first baby”.

‘Precious Stones and Flowers’ by Alphonse Mucha (1900)

When Abbie came to collect her portrait from Lisa, she was thirty-four weeks pregnant. She worked at the Leicester Royal Infirmary, in the neonatal unit, until she was twenty-eight weeks pregnant. At forty weeks, she returned to the Infirmary and gave birth to her first child.

This series of portraits has allowed us the privilege of hearing stories of those working for the NHS, who truly embody the word ‘hero’.

Abbie and Her Portrait

To view more of Lisa’s portraits of NHS Heroes and read their stories, visit her website.

Lisa’s NHS Portraits: Sylvia

Sylvia: Lisa’s NHS Heroes

Following Lisa Timmerman’s first portrait, Ruth Nurse, I plan to talk about each artwork of this series in detail. The second is Sylvia, an intensive care nurse at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton. This portrait combines two photos sent to Lisa of Sylvia in and out of her protective clothing. Lisa’s initial thoughts of these photos were:

“Her expression is so honest & says so much about dedication, loyalty & drive, I hope I’m able to capture it. One photo alone didn’t tell the story, so I’m going to try to combine both photos.”

Sylvia: Initial Sketches
Sylvia: In Progress

Although the masked figure’s identity is obscured, we can easily link them to the centralised figure from the red marks left on Sylvia’s face. These indentations further signify the uncomfortable duration that this uniform is worn. In relation to time, shown adjacent to the seemingly endless hallway, there is a clock. With no clear indication of time, fortified by the artificial lighting, this portrait was painted at a time when the future was uncertain. Lisa’s inclusion of the clock was to hail the hard work of Sylvia and silence those impatient for results:

“I also thought it was important to have the clock in to signify Sylvia’s night shifts & as a reminder of the journalists constant ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ questions during the daily government briefings.”

Lisa uses her signature-red background, emulating the warning stripes in ‘Ruth Nurse’. Using the simple colour palette of red, white and blue, each colour contains symbolic importance; Often to capture attention, red suggests danger. The colour white suggests purity, which may be referring to the sanctity and sanitisation of hospitals. Finally, blue represents the NHS in their well-recognised uniform.

This series perfectly captures the sacrifice and troubling times that we have experienced in the past year, and admiration for the individuals working in a highly pressurised experiment.

To view more of Lisa’s portraits of NHS Heroes and read their stories, visit her website.

Lisa’s NHS Portraits: Ruth Nurse

Ruth Nurse: Lisa’s NHS Heroes

Over a year has passed since Lisa Timmerman’s art series of NHS Heroes began.

When the COVID-19 pandemic led to the first national lockdown in March 2020, there was a large emphasis on thanking and supporting the NHS. Whilst risking infection, hospital staff were leading the fight against what Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the “invisible enemy”. Masks and gloves, as well as other layers of protective clothing, were first worn by NHS staff before becoming the social norm that it still is today (pending post-lockdown). I imagine these images often lacked that human connection which is so vital in critical care, and the identities of those behind the vacant PPE lost.

The online campaign, #portraitsfornhsheroes, was a way for artists to truly express admiration. It was an initiative instigated by Oxford based portrait painter, Tom Croft, to connect artists and NHS workers through social media. Whether it was direct communication, or often through family and friends, it enabled artists to paint and gift portraits during this time. Not only was this movement a way to capture this strange and uncertain time, but also to learn more about the experiences of those behind the paintings.

Lisa has since painted twenty NHS portraits, which are currently exhibited at the Leicester Royal Infirmary.

Lisa’s NHS Heroes: Leicester Royal Infirmary Exhibition
Ruth Nurse (50 x 50cm)

Lisa’s first portrait, ‘Ruth Nurse’, was a day surgery nurse before she was required to work in intensive care during this pandemic. Her daughter reached out to Lisa via Twitter, so that the portrait would be a surprise gift.

The original photograph is clearly taken in the midst of the action, as seen by the frantic co-workers behind Ruth. This further emphasised by the diagonal brush strokes which appear to break through the background colour.

Ruth Nurse: Work in Progress

Typically, Lisa does use red as a ground colour for many of her paintings. However, in the context of an emergency room, this colour emphasises alertness to danger, with the yellow stripes appearing to caution the viewer. The rest of the colour palette appears muted in comparison, as the nurse is swaddled in monotonous protective clothing.

Due to the ballooned shape of Ruth’s body, we are drawn towards her defined hands and eyes. Only a small area of her face can be seen, which appears darkened by the fluorescent lighting reflecting onto the suit and visor worn. We can only imagine the amount of discomfort in her numerous layers and lenses from her glasses and hazmat suit.

With her identifiable features hidden within her uniform, she can only be truly identified by the small text written across her chest; Ruth’s name and occupation reveals her individuality, yet it is also comforting for her patients to know the person behind the vast amount of PPE worn.

From this portrait, we can see the true diligence of ‘Ruth Nurse’ and her ability to work under these hazardous conditions. To quote Lisa, “Words are not enough for these wonderful people”.

To view more of Lisa’s portraits of NHS Heroes and read their stories, visit her website.

The Long Walk Home

The Long Walk Home (40 x 40cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

My loyal companions are consumed by wanderlust.

My chickens are always on the move, their bobbing heads often thrusting their bodies forward, onto the next location. They never stay in one place too long.

But like any concerned parent, I always ask them to write, and they have always kept this promise.

I hear the whistle of the postman, and my letters brushing through the envelope slot, landing softly in the hallway. My pooch hears this sound and, wagging excitedly, fetches this for me. As I am finishing my morning coffee, I flick through boring bills and arid advertisements before coming across a postcard.

I see the billowing sand dunes, with the pointed blades of grass waving to me. I see the orange sands warmed by the glowing sunlight which is dipping downward at the end of another day in paradise. I flip the postcard over, and begin to read the next chapter for the chickens who left my garden two summers ago.

They tell me of their experience at the edge of the world, with many other humans present on that gorgeous summer’s eve. The air was smoky with family barbecues (vegetarian friendly they hoped!) and blue cooler bags and flying bottle caps as far as the eye could see.

They frolicked joyfully in the cold sea, before drying out on the warm sand as the sea air ruffled their feathers just as I would after bath times.

Their journey home was one through the most beautiful fields, full of freely overgrown flowers interspersed with passionately red poppies.

The chickens missed me.

I hold the card tenderly in both hands, yearning to join them.

When the next chronicle of their journey is sent in a postcard, I hope to be featured in such a tale.

**Article continued on Page Two**

Swimming into Summer

Koi Study No. 7 (50 x 50cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

Like most mornings, I walk to the bottom of my garden with a sense of purpose.

The winter garden has now thawed, and I feel the sun coaxing me out of my dormancy long before I step outside. I gingerly step as to not disturb the chatty birds or the wandering bees. I begin in my slippers, but the temptation to feel the grass underfoot soon becomes a compulsion. I enjoy the tickling sensation on the soles of my feet, and being connected to my surroundings.

I finally get to the fish pond and struggle to make out the dull, distant shapes. I too enjoy the immersion of the water, often thinking to my childhood summers of white sands and clear waters. My eyes scan the water’s surface, as I sprinkle a thin layer of fish food and wait. I watch the orange blur at the bottom of the fish pond manifest into the koi fish who snap up their breakfast hungrily.

The interaction is soothing for me, as a simple relationship which requires so little. In exchange, I receive a private performance of twirling orange bodies reflected in the tumultuous water. The tiny dancers are aware of their talents, and they never fail to parade their beauty for my own enchanted eyes.

**Article continued on Page Two**

Gentle Reflection

Gentle Reflection (60 x 60cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

The gentle reflection of the water, and of the mind.

Exercise has become so integral to lockdown life, with countryside walks becoming a social visit to those outside of family.

We walk for hours and chat along those canal paths, takeaway coffees and dog leads in hand. Our furry companions are so happy that we work from home, their need for affection and fresh air satisfied.

Most of us have struggled under the bizarre circumstances of a worldwide pandemic, often feeling like characters of a dystopian novel. Everyone has made sacrifices, but so rare is it that we share the same reason for doing so. There is a strange comfort in unity. Each begrudgingly slow step of the past year has now led to enormous leaps in modern medicine, and a new compassion within the community.

The end appears nigh, as we hope to throw our masks up like the graduation caps and celebrate a long, carefree summer.

As autumn returns, perhaps we should hold onto the masks from the bitter wind, and a bittersweet memory which we battled through.

**Articles continued on Page Two**

The Feeling of Neutral Buoyancy

Neutral Buoyancy (87 x 113cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

‘Neutral buoyancy’ is neither sinking nor floating.

Another world lies beneath the sea, its darkest waters as unknown to us as the unexplored galaxies. It is so quiet, your exhaled breath bubbles toward a yellow veil above the water’s surface. Each sound is muffled, so as not to break your focus. This balancing act, with your flippered feet in motion, leaves you with your thoughts.

Whilst remaining calm and focused on breathing, you also feel the silent dread of your own mortality creep into the vast ocean. But in this cushioned, anti-gravity sphere, you can fly slowly and capture your surroundings. You save the memory for later nostalgia.

The light above is safety, whilst the depths below are full of fear yet curiosity. As you continue to focus, those bubbles take with them your anxiety. You are a silent presence in a world far from security and comfort, but full of promise.

You allow yourself to explore, but with the scuba diving instructor still in your vision.

**Article continued on Page Two**

The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden (71 x 91cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

Often in a busy and bustling city, it is hard to find quiet.

As the Earth thaws, the public flock to the parks for a day of sunshine and socialisation. Shorter lengths and bright patterns, London is awash with summer florals and blue denim. I tend to avoid the crowds, in search of my own haven.

Along the illuminated paving stones do I find a Victorian-inspired, cast iron gate. The black metal is scorching as I tenderly allow myself into the garden patio. I see an inviting bench, almost as if the sun has two weighty hands on my shoulders. Before I reach the comfort of sitting down, I am swarmed by a small animal tribe: an unlikely trio of hens, entrusted as keepers of the garden.

I hold my breath as they circle my feet and peck at my laces. I am not sure how happy they are to have a foreign invader, but my silence quickly earns their trust. Over a shared lunch, we bond even more. All three sit with their feet tucked in, their feathered bodies as dense as bread loaves.

They rise to wish me farewell, as the heat of the iron gate subsided from the cool evening air.

This garden shall remain our secret.

**Article continued on Page Two**