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.
Josephine, you’re alive! I was elated to see her sitting up in bed smiling and wearing a pink lace blouse, looking relieved that the operation to update her pacemaker had gone well. She had feared for the worst for weeks. Showing the livid bruising which had developed around her left side, Josephine asked me to bring in ‘The Queen of Heaven’ so we could look at a painting of the Virgin Mary with St John the Baptist and choose another image from the book for her to take home. Yes, next week we’ll do this.
Olive was suffering from bad toothache, waiting to hear from the ward doctor if she could safely take her dental prescription. She brought news that her granddaughter had added to the bookmark two butterflies cut from fabric. Deyanah had matched the exact pink chosen by Olive for the bookmark. Delighted, Olive had asked if she could bring it in to show me but Deyanah had declined. Quite right; too precious to be out of sight.
Michael was sitting in bed reading a letter confirming an appointment later in the day at his local hospital to arrange a cataract operation. His world was in soft focus. I asked if he’d like to finish last week’s seascape and holding it up for him to judge against the original image on the iPad, Michael felt the watercolour was complete. Would he like to start another one and, if so, what scene came to mind? Settling on a highland landscape, we scanned google images and he selected an ambitious one. Within minutes, his bedside table was transformed into a mini studio and he set to work, carefully pencilling in the foreground, middle ground and far distance. Soon he was working with a limited palette of dark blues and greens, employing a variety of brush marks, sponging away harsh lines until he had modelled a scene of freshness, harmony and beauty. Experimenting with removing colour to create form, he fashioned out of nowhere a path and some trees, and we added a few last minute strong vertical lines to suggest a man-made tower, adding a pleasing contrast to the organic forms and horizontals. Tired, it was time to stop and we laughed, joyful that we were alive and going strong, and not in Michael’s words ‘brown bread’ (dead).