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.
What a joy to find Michael painting away with his own box of gouache colours, brushes and improvised water pot made from half a plastic bottle. He was absorbed in his new picture and making great progress. I swapped his pot for a sturdier jam jar, refreshed the cloudy water and offered a wider selection of brushes. Feeling much better today, he settled back happily and painted for the rest of the morning.
Deborah was eager to continue her collages and I handed over some new staff portraits and a couple of herself to include, inspired by Hitchcock’s cameo appearances in his films. Her bed became the focus of laughter and fun. A nurse caught me at the photocopier; she’d heard about the collage and was keen to discover her new persona. Later a driver came over tickled pink by his new curvy body and sequinned gown. ‘Everyone on the ward should be making these!’ he exclaimed, his eyes smiling at the hilarious compositions.
I left Deborah holding scissors and glue, her bed covered in collages, paper and magazines and made my way to Concerttina who had been calling out.
‘I want to paint Tutankhamen!’ She felt her way with the pencil, trying to conjure up the pharaoh before referring to a mobile phone image, and then began a new picture. Working quickly and decisively with pencil and watercolour pens, despite poor eyesight and sore hands, a strong image appeared on the page. We chatted about Italian food – the thinnest salami, Pandora panettone (less fattening than the one with plump raisins), cep risotto and pasta with toasted pine nuts and olive oil. ‘Elizabeth Taylor was always on a diet’, she said, recalling Cleopatra. I showed Concerttina pictures of my two long haired Jack Russells and she told me about her childhood dogs, Remo and Luigi. Bursting into song, she asked: ‘How could Italy be knocked out of the World Cup?’ ‘Would you put up this picture in reception’, and I went to display it, leaving her content and smiling.
Olive was curious to see Deborah’s collages and enjoyed their humour, swapping news about family life. I also caught up with Irving, curious to know his thoughts on the legacy of the Balfour Declaration. Wise and knowledgeable as ever, I left him to help clear away Michael’s table and Deborah’s pile, fetching a well-earned cappuccino with chocolate and one demerara sugar for the ‘Collage Queen’.