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.
I bought a couple of apples from the stall next to the Overground on my way in, thinking they’d make good subjects for Chantelle’s first art session. Arriving, I wanted to set up Michael with his paints but found him lying in bed nursing a chest infection and temperature with little energy for painting. However, he liked the idea of drawing one of the apples and we laid out paper and pencils in front of the fruit on his table bed. He was quickly absorbed and I left to find Chantelle. She was asleep and Irving awake, so he and I took the opportunity to talk and to read these blogs. Irving remembered Josephine and we shared our sense of loss.
I returned to Michael and found he’d painted the apple with his own box of watercolours brought from home. Here was a lovely impression of an apple rendered in gorgeous colours and with sensitivity. I suggested he make another, this time adding some shade to form a 3D object. ‘Use the complimentary of the colour you wish to shade, for example, mix green with red to add shadow to the apple’. He began.
I sought the advice of the nurse: should I wake Chantelle? He disappeared and returned to say that she had woken, and I wheeled my trolley over to begin our workshop. Would she like to draw an apple? Very much so, and we began to sketch with pencils and paper, exploring the fruit in front of us: what shapes could we see, where was the direction of light falling, where was the position of the stalk and its hollow in relation to the whole fruit?
We began by drawing simple circles and boxes, then tilted the tops of the boxes to see how the perspectival lines changed. We transformed our circles into balls with judicious shading and used our pencils with outstretched arms to measure proportion. Then we put all these studies to one side, and began. Using her eye, Chantelle sketched in the overall shape and modelled form by adding shade. Revisions were made as she honed the drawing to resemble the apple. It was a complex form, comprising lumpy curves and narrow shapes; the position of the stalk and its hollow played tricks with our eyes, and the ward lights rebounded off its glossy skin from all angles revealing abstract marks which competed with the underlying pattern of the peel. At intervals, I held the drawing at a distance to allow Chantelle to review it before corrections were made. Highlights were achieved by using the eraser to remove graphite and reveal light areas.
Time whizzed by and I went over to see Michael’s rendition of the apple with shade. What a good study. A doctor approached to see him, and holding up both apple studies, I asked, ‘Look at these, what do you think?’ Yes, he could see the modelling well. Michael let me share his apple studies with Chantelle; I wanted to show her a different approach to depicting an apple. She had chosen to draw realistically.
We discussed the position of the stalk which needed moving. Although she had spent time refining it, Chantelle rubbed out the stalk and its hollow and chose a new site. Happy with the revisions, she used the eraser to reveal more highlights before calling it a day. The drawing, Chantelle’s first, succeeded in depicting a recognisable apple. Would she like to take the fruit home? Yes, please, and she would make more drawings during the week. I gave her a sketchbook, pencils and rubber from the trolley.
Bidding farewell to Michael, he exclaimed that the apple, now consumed, had tasted very good indeed. He’d like to paint buildings next week and I offered to take some photos of London and bring in a selection of images.
Akos was awake and receiving treatment from a nurse as I wheeled my trolley back to the store. I couldn’t resist asking if she would allow me to use her completed Sudoku puzzles in an experimental transfer drawing. Yes, she smiled, amused at my suggestion.
As I approached Olive, she greeted me by singing softly, ‘Don’t Walk on by’. How important it is to talk. As we began, a group of medics, keen to see Olive, interrupted us and I took my cue to leave. We will spend time with each other next week.