Fay Ballard – Wednesday 15 March 2017 – Auchi Dialysis Unit, Hammersmith Hospital


Artist Fay Ballard is leading a weekly creative workshop with dialysis patients at Hammersmith Hospital. She is writing a weekly blog in response to her experiences. 

Keen to see Olive, I wanted to know what her granddaughter had thought of the bookmark. Smiling, she explained how Deyanah had loved the present. There’s nothing better than receiving a handmade gift from a loved one; grandmother to granddaughter. We spoke at length and then I went to fetch my art trolley from the store.
Josephine was looking fearful and preoccupied, anticipating her operation scheduled for tomorrow. ‘Pray for me and I will pray for you’, she whispered as we greeted each other.
Akosua was fast asleep and I didn’t want to disturb her peaceful slumber to offer more Evening Standard Sudoku puzzles which were tucked into my rucksack. Nor did it seem opportune to attempt a conversation about Robert Rauschenberg, the American 20th-century artist, and his technique of transfer drawings. That would have to wait until another time.
Michael was up for more watercolour painting but first we opened my iPad to find these blogs and his pictures, enjoying the pages and Michael being his modest self.
Finding a seascape on google images, we quickly set to work covering his bed table with paints, water, sponges, kitchen towel, brushes and paper. There was so little room to manoeuvre but he managed to work swiftly and fluently, mixing colours, laying down washes and sponging out. We spoke about his former job building sets for film and television, such as ‘Where Eagles Fear to Thread’ and ‘EastEnders’. And how he created the illusion of brick walls using hessian, plaster and paint, or the patterns of granite and marble by painting large areas with emulsion using thick furry rollers, and then small brushes to create thin detailed lines. The watercolour was taking shape and we noted that applying one colour wash directly over another dried one, say, a pink over a dried blue to make purple, offered pleasing colour translucency. Sometimes this was more effective than trying to premix the colours beforehand on the ceramic plate. Where did the time go? Michael would be going home soon and we packed up agreeing to return to the unfinished painting next week.

Before leaving, we reminisced about Tony Hancock and his film ‘The Rebel’ in which the actor plays an artist, and then I left Michael to move aside for a nurse. She drew the blue curtain around him, a sober reminder after the pleasure of painting and being alive in the moment, that this was the acute dialysis unit.

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