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.

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**

Lavender-Scented Hens

Lavender Scented Hens (30x40cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

This is a scene that I hope to wake up to each morning. When my eyes are closed, I can transport myself to sunny days in the British countryside.

There are white beams of light through each window, not ceasing until late into the evening. The days are long and sleepily warm, as not to exert yourself; Whether that is from the sunbed with a book, or a picnic on the bright gingham tablecloth, or a dinner party where champagne flutes clink in celebration, you so often find yourself outside. As your skin browns, it seems as if your physicality absorbs your surroundings.

There is nothing better than that feeling of opening the door and the strong waft of French lavender, vibrant and quick to flower, greeting you. Its calming influence subdues the mind.

The hens of my garden are happy little souls, strolling up the gravel path, hoping to explore inside further. But I will be leaving my house to meet them, to follow their forked footprints from their morning venture.

I think of this memory all year round, appealing to my weary, wintery soul until the snow melts and the flowers flourish.

Coming home is so safe and familiar, but I am excited to go, to step out into the exquisite unknown.

**Article continued on Page Two**

When Spring Calls

New Beautiful Day (61 x 61cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

White roses are traditionally associated with new beginnings, as white as a bridal gown. They may not be as loud as their coloured counterparts, but their understated beauty flaunts in their layered tones of white, playing with light and shadow.

On the first day of Spring, there is no overcast to be seen, but rather an empty sky and a scorching sun. The artist sees this from her studio and, after a long winter, is eager to capture the changing seasons. As if stealing a palette from the sky, her background is sapphire. In her ever-flourishing garden, the muted white roses provide that dramatic contrast that the artist desperately seeks. With a bed of sun-lounging roses below, only the fighting few climb upwards, their tightly closed buds unravelling, their faces exposed. She uses a thin brush to trace their intricate stems, before sculpting her white paint into oval shapes on the canvas.

When the seasons change once more, and we return to shorter days and colder nights, these white roses are a gesture of remembrance. A farewell to summer, but a promise to return, their purity expresses a quiet optimism for the future. This painting says, ‘I’m thinking of you’.

**Article continued on Page Two**

Reunited Once More

Paula & Chris’ Village Wedding (70 x 100 cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

A joyous wedding scene, with no masks or social distancing in sight.

A historical scene from our lives before the life-changing pandemic that has eclipsed 2020 and 2021 (so far).

The invisible enemy, which dominates all media coverage and conversation, has often left us feeling as if there is no end in sight.

England has made incredible leaps in medical science with a vaccine, the chance for the most vulnerable in society to be protected from the unpredictability of COVID-19. There is a steady progression, with the government hoping to vaccinate fifteen million people by mid-February.

A small but growing light shines in the dark.

Hopefully there is an end in sight, and with that lots of celebrations to be had. Whether that is the revival of a lockdown birthday, or a wedding without a restricted guest list. There may be no special occasion in mind, it may be as simple as hugging your loved ones without fear.

On our hands and knees, lost, our eyes have adjusted to the darkness. On our feet now, we slowly follow a guiding light to the door of the future.

Normality will no longer be something taken for granted, but something that is cherished.

**Article continues on Page Two**

Winter Wellies and Hens

Winter Wellies and Hens (30 x 30cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

I look through the frosted window of my front door, to see a blanket of snow resting on the chickens, soft but icy. Only their red beaks peak through, contrasting to the perfect white, as bright as the blank page of a new chapter.

Once the door is opened, the warm air is sucked out of my home into my glacial surroundings. The cold air pinches my cheeks, and rises in pearl clouds from my mouth with each breath. My wellies greet me at the doorstep, offering to protect my feet from the cold and slippery ground. Like Cinderella, they perfectly fit for the occasion.

The clean slate from the snow is marked with my brown boot marks, as I gingerly walk toward my velvety-plumaged companions. The hens look up and see me, with their fluffed-up feathers shielding the cold. They gather around my feet, and I lean down to pet them with my gloved hands.

I am reminded of snow days as a child, listening eagerly for news that schools were shut and the day was ours. I scoop a handful of soft snow, pressing my palms together until I have created a solid white globe. I throw aimlessly, as if in the midst of a snowball battle, and it lands in the white abyss. It is a day of quiet bliss, with only the muffled creaking of snow underfoot.

**Article Continued on Page Two**

White Roses, Whispering Shadows

Whispering Shadows (30 x 30cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

Occasionally, I have been allowed to see a magical world, which disappears as quickly as it arrives.

I am not able to predict when the light shines through the cluster of trees outside the landing window, and it’s beautiful outcome: a dramatic silhouette across the mauve wall. For a moment, the whispering shadows are able to speak, exclaim even, over the idyllic roses. For a moment, they seek desperately to come to the forefront; They no longer wish to be the understudy, but the main spectacle of my viewing.

I am astonished to discover a new element of these roses, purely by coincidence. I was once gifted these flowers: a timeless ritual and a kindness that will always be rewarded.

The amorous rose always speaks to someone special. The sentiment is then treasured for some time, as the flowers open themselves to us and reveal mother nature in her glory. I cup one of the roses to my nose, breathing in its pale, snowy petals.

Their purity proves to me the sincerest of intentions. I feel their loving and tranquil presence just steps from my bedroom, in the hallway.

I am also eager to get my timings right, and to see the theatrical shadows cast once more.

The pleasure of fresh flowers in my home is the gift which keeps on giving.

**Article continued on Page 2**