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.
Smoke was billowing from the blackened shell of the Grenfell Tower, its interior alight with fire, as I travelled past on the London Overground towards Shepherd’s Bush. At East Action tube, the smell of burnt plastic and the hum of helicopters filled the air as I approached Hammersmith hospital. Maura, the head nurse, and her team were on high alert and emergency plans in place. Television monitors kept patients informed.
Could art be made in the midst of such horrific devastation and tragedy? Michael and I thought we should try. Art is an affirmation of life: a creative force to restore, replenish and renew, a way of belonging to one another and to the world.
He decided to draw a building with his newly acquired skills of perspective and I found a photo of the former Victorian building at No 1 Poultry in the City of London. Placing the key vertical lines and then the horizontal eye level, Michael was able to gauge the perspectival lines receding into the distance to mark his two vanishing points. His outline structure was in place.
I fetched a plastic beaker and we looked up inside to see how the curves of the lip changed shape as we moved it around. Could he apply the same principle to the building’s curves? Once these were drawn, he was able to fill in the details: windows, arches, doors and more. Then he shaded key features. Could he see the darks and lights? Perhaps use the pencil to shade the darks and the eraser to reveal the lights? And maybe consider a variety of marks to make an interesting sketch: were there certain lines to accentuate?
We looked at the drawings of London buildings by Leon Kossoff and Jeanette Barnes. ‘So you don’t need to draw every line accurately to make a good study’, Michael mused.
We’d been keeping an eye on the news while drawing and now it was almost 12.30pm with only five minutes of dialysis remaining.
I caught the London Overground home and found myself in a carriage with a young man still wearing a face mask who’d helped rescue victims. He and his mates had tied eight bed sheets together freeing those trapped and they’d bought every bottle of water in the local Tesco and as many towels as they could find. His account was harrowing. A woman two seats down from him was weeping; two family members of her family had perished.