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: 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.