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Hospital’s artist in residence sketches portraits for cancer patients

Hospital volunteers says drawing process can help with patients' stress and anxiety during treatment

22 May, 2017 — By Tom Foot

CANCER patients are having their portraits sketched by a hospital’s artist in residence while they are there for chemo­therapy treatment.

Simon Tolhurst has created more than 250 drawings of patients, relatives and staff over three years at University College London Hospitals (UCLH).  Anyone posing for a picture gets a free signed print of their drawing.

Sketches by Simon Tolhurst

“Patients and their relatives often have to wait several hours for appointments and treatment, which means a lot of hanging around trying to fill time, and I’m getting some great feedback about how making the portraits has helped make the time at the centre more enjoyable and productive,” said Mr Tolhurst on his blog about his work. “The prints have been a way to say thank you, something nice arriving in the post or to collect on the next visit to the centre, and I’ve had some lovely reactions after people have received their copies of the drawings.”

He added: “Some of their feedback has been heartfelt, moving and everything we hoped for (and more) when con­ceiving of the project. It is a privilege to be drawing the people I’m meeting in this environ­ment – their strength, courage and great humour is inspiring, wonderful and humbling.”

Simon Tolhurst at work

The idea came from a former cancer patient, Steve Roper, who now volunteers for Haematology Cancer Care, which is a branch of the UCLH Charity.

Some of Mr Tolhurst’s work 

Mr Roper wanted to help patients while they wait for chemotherapy treatment, which can take several hours at a time. He said: “Patient feedback shows that the drawing process can help with stress and anxiety by creating an important opportunity to reflect and talk while doing something enjoyable, with the added benefit of requiring no exertion.”

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