Simon Tolhurst, 55 years old, is the resident portrait artist for the University College London Hospitals (UCLH) Charity. A resident artist who paints cancer patients receiving treatment at a cancer care center has described the experience as “special and personal.”
Since 2013, he has spent most Thursdays volunteering to create A4 drawings, which he subsequently prints and distributes. He stated that he intended to exhibit the portraits.
To conserve space in the clinical atmosphere, the majority of his artwork consists of black-and-white pencil drawings.
The subjects are typically sat alone, although frequently with a spouse or family member.
“I’ve had the honor of meeting so many extraordinary people and photographing them,” he remarked.
“There’s a room full of folks who are bored because they have to stay in one chair while attached to an IV to receive chemo, and they’re quite receptive to having someone to talk to or draw with.”
Simon Tolhurst added:
“When I enter, I never know who I will draw, who I will meet, what they do, or what might come up in the conversation.”
“I believe that it is somewhat unusual for that.”
According to him, the project at University College Hospital in Euston has created a multitude of “uplifting” and “emotional” anecdotes, including a “bucket list” family portrait for a terminally ill patient.
“Just before Christmas, I drew a gentleman who was an inpatient, and I met him because he was donating a photograph to charity,” said Mr. Tolhurst.
“I returned each week to say hello, and by the third week, he was out of bed, sitting in a chair, and posing for a portrait whilst staff members came in to say, “I heard you’re going home tomorrow, I just wanted to come in and say hey, etc.” These are rather encouraging.”
He recalls a lady whose excessive blood pressure prevented her from receiving therapy.
“I told her, “Oh, posing can be quite calming and peaceful.” Shall we attempt to create the drawing and observe the results? ‘And approximately 45 minutes after the drawing, when the personnel returned to measure her blood pressure, she was back within the therapeutic range “he noted.
She told me,
“You’ve shown me something; between the diagnosis and the treatments, I’ve been so stressed out and worried about everything that I haven’t had time to rest and de-stress.”
Mr. Tolhurst stated that the emotional aspect of the part “still occasionally affects me.”
“For the portrait to gaze back at the spectator, I must ask the model to stare at me as I draw,” he explained.
“This eye contact is quite personal. This is something we don’t typically do with strangers, but I truly enjoy this dynamic. You do feel fairly close to folks.
It feels like a highly valuable use of this expertise to be able to produce precise portraits in a crowded atmosphere, and it costs me nothing but time, pencils, and paper.
The Haematology Cancer Care project of the UCLH Charity provides “extensive support,” including free complementary therapy and high-tech medical equipment for patients.