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.

Inside Blues: 2020 Edition

Inside Blues (40x40cm with 3cm depth)

**Words by Amber L-J**

It is safe to say that this year has been like no other.

My home has been a haven from the invisible enemy which lurks outside these four walls. As a household of normally busy schedules, that chaos of general life has slowed down considerably. With Christmas approaching, this would typically be our annual moment of togetherness. But this year I am thankful, as this small moment has stretched over months of national lockdowns and tier systems. Whatever hardships have been faced, they have been faced as a family.

With no stressful commute each morning, I no longer rely on a booming alarm but wake up at the first sign of light. I love the peaceful innocence of mornings, and the potential of what the day may bring, however limited.

My festive and fluffy socks muffle the sound of my feet down the stairs, so not to wake my snoozing family. I see the remnants of the night before, and with the kettle at a dull roar, I fill the sink and get to work. My soapy hands squeak over the dinner plates.

As I lift the plates from the sink to dry them, I look upward and am dazzled by the golden sunlight seeping into my kitchen. I am half-asleep dreaming of the world outside, post-pandemic. The high whistle of a rather impatient kettle presses on for some time before I realise.

I sit down and switch on the television for company. As I watch the morning broadcast, I clutch the warmth of fresh coffee to my chest, lifting my once-heavy heart.

With the rest of the world awakening to the news of a vaccination, this has been the most memorable moment in a year that, to most, would be one to forget.

**Article continued on Page 2**