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.
Michael was fast asleep but Deborah was sitting up reading Metro, about to eat a raisin muffin. ‘Hello darling!’ we greeted each other, ‘Are you in the mood to make collages?’ ‘Oh yes!’
I went to fetch the art trolley passing Concerttina on the way. ‘I want to draw a tiger, now!’
‘Tyger, Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night…’
Her eyes lit up and she laughed as we found a pad and watercolour pens. Within minutes, Concerttina had drawn a tiger’s face, focusing on a single eye, and then she applied colour as we chatted about Naples and her birthplace, the Amalfi Coast. We remembered Ravello fondly, perched on high cliffs – but not the steep climb to reach it. Do you like mortadella? How about burrata?
We parted warmly and in the corner of my eye I saw that Deborah had finished her muffin and coffee and would be ready to start. I set up her table with newsprint, glue sticks and scissors. There were now five collages on the go, and even more nurses, doctors, drivers and cleaners to photograph. She sent me off with my mobile camera to snap away. Soon, her bed became a hot-spot for laughter as ward staff gathered to enjoy the fun.
Michael had woken and we chatted. Yes, despite his tiredness, he wanted to paint and we prepared his watercolours and brushes. Michael’s meticulous work was coming on well and I left him painting carefully the facade of a high building.
On my way to fetch an extra table for Deborah, Irving waved and we talked, catching up with family news. After delivering the table to Deborah, I noticed that Cheryl was awake and sitting up. With no energy to draw or paint, she wanted to talk and I stayed until Michael’s dialysis session was almost over, rushing back to him to clear away the art materials.
The watercolour was developing well although Michael didn’t like his wobbly paint lines. ‘Trouble is, the buildings are so fiddly and I want to get the lines straight.’ He was also discovering that the beach scene was much more complicated to paint than it first appeared. Perhaps the wobbles brought the painting alive and imbued charm? He looked at me and smiled, not entirely convinced by my observation.
For some time, Concerttina’s anguished cries sounded across the ward and her pain was palpable when I passed by at the end of the session. ‘I want to do another picture, it makes me feel better and I’m so bored!’ I whipped out some crayons and she sat with a pad between her legs on the bed and drew a fruit and vegetable truck from southern Italy. Weeping, she began to colour in runner beans, a melon and a red pepper, quietly drying her eyes with a tissue I’d found, calmed and soothed by drawing.