YORK artist Karen Winship honours NHS staff in her new commission, Not Just A Vaccine, on show in the “Tent of Hope” at York Vaccination Centre, Askham Bar.
Karen’s acrylic-on-canvas work features ten staff from the Nimbuscare team at the vaccination site, where her NHS Heroes exhibition will greet visitors until the end of summer as they wait for their jabs and rest afterwards.
Not Just A Vaccine was commissioned by exhibition promoters Pocklington Arts Centre, ahead of Winship’s poignant portraits of frontline NHS workers taking up temporary residence in York after earlier pop-up displays on the railings of All Saints’ Church, Pocklington, and at Hull Waterside and Marina.
“I was approached to do the new painting when I was doing the publicity for the Hull Marina show in April/May time,” says Karen. “I took photographs of staff, and there are ten portraits within the painting, so it took time to arrange and to get the composition right. It needed 40 to 50 hours, which is unusual for me, as normally I ‘slap them out’ and they’re done!”
Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) director Janet Farmer says: “Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been making art accessible for all by taking two exhibitions by two fantastic York artists, Karen Winship and Sue Clayton, on tour to various locations in the region.
“When the opportunity to take NHS Heroes to the York Vaccination Centre arose, we couldn’t think of a more fitting location for these stunning portraits that have been created by a very talented artist.
“We hope they brighten up the space while honouring all those who have worked so hard at this challenging time.”
Karen says: “It has just been incredible to have been able to have my work toured across the region and seen by so many people thanks to PAC, and now it is in such a fitting, poignant location.
“The specially commissioned piece really finishes the collection off nicely and is a timely and relevant tribute to the team at the York Vaccination Centre, as well as to all NHS staff who have worked on the frontline throughout the pandemic.
“There’s still much work to be done and I hope my portraits bring some joy into the working day of the Nimbuscare team, as well the hundreds of daily visitors to the site.”
Around 1,500 people pass through the “Tent of Hope” at the Askham Bar NHS Vaccination Centre, where 3,000 visitors file through the site at its busiest times.
Michelle Philips, Nimbuscare’s director of quality and patient experience, says: “Showcasing art within the ‘Tent of Hope’ brightens up everyone’s visit to the vaccination centre and we’re so grateful to have yet another fantastic collection from the very talented Karen Winship. We’re delighted with the special piece of art she has done for us which will be treasured by us all.”
Karen started her career in graphic design before gaining her teaching degree and going on to work in a maximum-security prison as head of art. She paints mainly in acrylics, always looking for the narrative within an image, and that narrative at present revolves around the NHS.
“I’ve got the NHS bug, so I just seem to be obsessed, or maybe ‘upset’ is the better word for how I feel about the way the NHS is being overrun at the moment, and staff are just not being cared for,” she says.
“You can see how stretched they are, because so many staff are off with Covid or they’ve been ‘pinged’, which means they’re even more down on numbers. They’ve had to deal with the Covid pandemic and they’re tyring to catch up with everything else, so I’m now doing a series showing the exhaustion of the paramedics, doctors and nurses.
“I’ve done three so far. I’ve got a source close at hand because my eldest daughter Kelly [who features in the original NHS Heroes portraits] is an occupational therapist at York Hospital.”
Karen has further sources of inspiration for her subject matter. “My ex-husband husband, Kevin, is a paramedic and my father – who’s no longer with us – was a paramedic. I use references such as Kevin’s uniform for stock images,” she says.
Among the new series is the tribute piece Constant And Great. “I’ve taken an image of the statue of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, outside York Minster, and adapted it for the painting, where the figure still looks like him but now he has logos of key workers.
“He still has his cape but now it’s more of a hero cape, and he has a pair of trainers, thrown off by his bare feet. He has a nurse’s uniform and a stethoscope around his neck, and he’s now holding a staff of life, rather than a sword, in one hand, and a mask in the fingers of his other hand.”
Karen is “not sure what’s going to happen next with the series”, but says: “It would make sense, as it’s all about the NHS, to have the paintings put on show at York Hospital, but I already have my series of dementia paintings there, so I don’t really know what the plans are.
“Hopefully, I’ll get them shown at City Screen and I’ll approach York Art Gallery, as they’ve both shown my NHS Heroes portraits.
“These paintings are bursting out of me right now. I think one of the dementia paintings has been taken down at the hospital for being ‘too depressing’, but that’s what we’re going through. These are troubled times.”
POCKLINGTON Arts Centre will reopen to the public on July 20 and film screenings will re-start on July 23, 491 days since the last performance.
Director Janet Farmer and venue manager James Duffy have chosen this date to ensure the safety of customers and volunteers.
“Over the past few months, our main focus has been planning the safe reopening of the building, ensuring all staff are trained appropriately and making sure the venue has all its new systems, resources and processes in place and working well,” says Janet.
“We have sought feedback from staff, volunteers and customers and this will be vital to the success of this process. Our main aim is to ensure the visitor experience at Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) is safe, secure and enjoyable.”
In late-March 2020, the East Yorkshire venue launched a crowdfunding page, raising more than £18,000 in under a month, followed by successful funding applications to the Smile Foundation’s I Am Fund and the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund.
Janet says: “I would like to thank our customers, in addition to Pocklington Town Council, the Friends of PAC, the Smile Foundation, Arts Council England and the Music Venue Trust for their collective support over the past year.
“It has been a very difficult time for everyone, but their kind words, financial support and continued interest in all things PAC has meant a great deal and helped carry the venue through these extraordinary times.”
Staff have rescheduled forthcoming events for the autumn and winter, transferring more than 4,000 tickets and refunding customers for 20-plus cancelled events.
“Throughout the closure period, we have stated our determination to emerge from the situation more vibrant than ever and our autumn and winter programme is a testament to that,” says Janet.
“2021/22 will see a fantastic range of live events being staged here, alongside our trademark diverse mix of film screenings, live broadcasts, exhibitions, community events and private hires.”
In the diary are Grammy Award winner Loudon Wainwright III, September 24; Northumberland Theatre Company (NTC) in Oscar Wilde’s “trivial comedy for serious people”, The Importance Of Being Earnest, September 30; North Eastern gypsy folk-rockers Holy Moly & The Crackers, October 16; Oxford singer-songwriter Thea Gilmore, October 7, and Irish jazz/blues chanteuse Mary Coughlan, October 19.
Bellowhead alumni and BBC Radio Folk Award winners Spiers & Boden are booked in for October 20; Red Ladder Theatre Company, from Leeds, in Nana-Kofi Kufuor’s My Voice Was Heard But Was Ignored, for November 25; television and radio broadcaster and author Jeremy Vine, November 26; Welsh singer-songwriter Martyn Joseph, December 2, and York drag diva deluxe Velma Celli, December 3.
Confirmed for 2022 are An Evening With Julian Norton, from Channel 5’s The Yorkshire Vet, January 18; singer-songwriter Teddy Thompson, January 22;Welsh guitarist, songwriter, vocalist and former Amen Corner cornerstone Andy Fairweather Low, February 11, and Eighties’ pop singer and actress ToyahWillcox, March 3.
PAC’s two open-air acoustic concerts in Primrose Wood, Pocklington, with Martin Simpson and Katie Spencer on July 1 and The Dunwells and Rachel Croft on July 8 will go ahead despite the Government’s Step 4 roadmap delay, but now under social-distancing restrictions. Both 7pm shows have sold out.
Janet says: “We always knew this was a possibility when the shows were first planned and there’s sufficient space for people to enjoy the event safely, while experiencing the atmospheric setting of Primrose Wood.”
PAC increased its online artistic output during the pandemic, staging 18 events to more than 9,000 audience members.
In addition, a series of outdoor exhibitions has been held by PAC across the region. York artists Sue Clayton and Karen Winship have shown work at All Saints’ Church, Pocklington, and Sue will be following Karen into Hull Waterside and Marina. Those attending the York Vaccination Centre at Askham Bar can see her Down Syndrome portraits in the Tent of Hope.
“We felt it was vitally important to have continued customer engagement throughout the prolonged closure period and the public response to these events and exhibitions has been very positive,” says Janet.
“We’re also very much aware there’s no substitute to watching a live performance, in person, and sharing this experience with fellow audience members.
“Everyone at PAC is now counting down the days until the doors can reopen and we can welcome customers back. It’s been a very long interval and we can’t wait for the second half to begin.”
For full event listings and ticket details, go to: pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.
THE Indian Variant may be dampening down hopes for June 21, but Charles Hutchinson’s diary is still filled with hope, concerts, festivals, exhibitions and a Minster livestreaming.
Livestreaming of the week ahead: The Howl & The Hum, Live At York Minster, Tuesday, 8pm to 9.30pm
YORK rock band The Howl & The Hum are performing a one-off streamed concert in the Nave of York Minster on Tuesday, with tickets available via Brudenell.ticketco.events/.
The 8.15pm setlist will be built around last year’s debut album, Human Contact, whose prescient title chimed with pandemic times as such contact became more restricted, even barred. New material may well feature too. “I reckon it will,” says frontman Sam Griffiths.
A fistful of outdoor gigs: Songs Under Skies, National Centre for Early Music, York, in June
SONGS Under Skies will return to the NCEM’s churchyard gardens at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York, next month.
Five outdoor acoustic double bills from 6.30pm to 8.30pm will comprise Wounded Bear and Rachel Croft on June 1; Kell Chambers and Nadedja, June 2; Katie Spencer and Joshua Burnell, June 14; Zak Ford and Alice Simmons, June 15, and Epilogues and Sunflower Thieves, June 16.
As with last September’s debut series, the socially distanced, Covid-safe season two will be presented in association with The Crescent community venue, The Fulford Arms and the Music Venues Alliance. Box office: at tickets.ncem.co.uk.
Children’s art show of the week in York: Hope projections, According To McGee, York, tonight, tomorrow, then Wednesday to Friday for the next two weeks, 6pm to 9pm nightly
HOPE springs nocturnal in a collaboration between primary school artists from York and around the world at York gallery According To McGee.
Under the title of Hope, the artwork will be on display in light projections in the window of the Tower Street gallery in a creative response to the pandemic.
Digital artists Nick Walters is overseeing evenings featuring projections of 350 artworks selected from 3,000 images from cities in 33 countries.
Jab in the arm for art: Sue Clayton’s 21 exhibition, NHS York Vaccination Centre, Askham Bar, York, until June 13
WHAT a captive audience for Sue Clayton’s portrait exhibition of children and young adults with Down Syndrome, presented in association with Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC).
As many as 3,000 people a day are attending the Askham Bar vaccination centre to receive a jab in the “Tent Of Hope”, where biodegradable prints of Sue’s paintings are in place.
The theme of 21 symbolises the extra 21st chromosome that people with Down Syndrome have, Sue’s energetic son James among them.
Gig announcement of the week in York: Manic Street Preachers, York Barbican, October 4
WELSH rock band Manic Street Preachers’ 14-date autumn itinerary will showcase the September 3 release of their 14th studio album, The Ultra Vivid Lament, on Columbia/Sony.
In a departure from 2018’s Resistance Is Futile, the new record is the first Manics’ studio set to be conceived initially on piano rather than guitar.
James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore last played York Barbican in May 2019. Their support will be The Anchoress, the Welsh-born multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and author Catherine Anne Davies. Tickets sales go live tomorrow (21/5/2021) at 10am at yorkbarbican.co.uk.
Gig announcement of the week outside York: Culture Club, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, August 14
EIGHTIES’ icon Boy George and Culture Club are off to the Yorkshire seaside in a new addition to the packed Scarborough Open Air Theatre programme.
Bexleyheath-born frontman and fashion innovator George O’Dowd, who turns 60 on June 14, will perform alongside original band members Roy Hay and Mikey Craig in a “stunning live band”. Tickets go on sale for the 8,000-capacity show via scarboroughopenairtheatre.com tomorrow (21/5/2021) at 9am.
Festival launch of the week: York Early Music Festival 2021, July 12 to 16
PRESENTED by the National Centre of Early Music, the classical York Early Music Festival 2021 will have the theme of Encounters, most vitally between audience and artists after lockdown loosening.
Among the guest artists will be violinist Rachel Podger; lutenist Jacob Heringman; bass Matthew Brook; the Monteverdi String Band; harpsichordist Steven Devine; The Society Of Strange & Ancient Instruments; La Vaghezza and Ensemble Clement Janequin.
Taking part too will be vocal ensemble Stile Antico and Spanish Baroque ensemble L’Apothéose. Tickets are on sale at ncem.co.uk. Upcoming too will be YEMF 21 Online, from July 15 to 18, featuring festival concerts and commissioned highlights.
No Deer Shed 11 festival, but here comes Deer Shed: Base Camp Plus, Baldersby Park, Topcliffe, Thirsk, July 30 to August 1
AFTER last summer’s Base Camp, Deer Shed Festival co-directors Oliver Jones and Kate Webster have created Base Camp Plus with a female-headlined main stage, live music, DJ sets, comedy and shows. As with last year’s event, each camping pitch will contain its own Portaloo and washing facilities.
Jane Weaver, Dream Wife and Porridge Radio are the headliners; York bands Bull and New York Brass Band will be playing too; John Shuttleworth, Mark Watson and Angelos Epithemiou lead the comedy.
The organisers will adhere to the Step 3 restrictions in place since Monday, limiting the capacity, with social distancing and face coverings in covered areas. For tickets, go to: deershedfestival.com/basecampplus.
And what about?
Velma Celli in Love Is Love: A Brief History Of Drag, York Theatre Royal, May 29,8pm
YORK drag diva deluxe Velma Celli’s fabulous contribution to York Theatre Royal’s reopening Love Season will be one of Velma’s regular cabaret shows, re-titled Love Is Love: A Brief Of History Of Drag specially to meet the love brief.
Joining Velma – the creation of York musical actor Ian Stroughair – will be two guest acts, Jordan Fox, Ian’s co-star in Jack And The Beanstalk, and Jessica Steel, together with backing singers Kimberley Ensor and Grace Lancaster, musical director Ben Papworth, drummer Clark Howard and guitarist Al Morrison.
Ian last appeared on the Theatre Royal in Kes at the age of 14, all of 24 years ago.
YORK artist Karen Winship’s poignant tribute to the selfless work of front-line NHS workers during the Covid-19 pandemic is on display at Hull Waterside & Marina until June 20.
Eleven of Karen’s NHS Heroes portraits were first shown at York Art Gallery in the Our Heroes Welcome thank-you to essential workers from August 1 when Lockdown 1 eased last summer.
Last August too, 13 more made their debut at City Screen, York, where the exhibition included a montage of all 24 that is being gifted to York Hospital by Karen, whose self-portrait of herself painting one of the NHS Heroes completes the collection.
The original paintings have been presented to the sitters, but the 24 portraits have been given a new life, reproduced on biodegradable boards for outdoor display by Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) at a larger size than the originals.
First shown side by side on the railings at All Saints’ Church, Pocklington, from late-November to January, the portrait prints have headed further east to Hull, where they can be viewed for free, thanks to PAC joining forces with the marina managers, Aquavista.
“I’ve had a great response to the portraits so far, so it’s incredible that Pocklington Arts Centre is now taking the exhibition on tour into the wider community,” says Karen, whose work also features in Portraits For NHS Heroes, a fund-raising book for NHS charities.
“It’s been such a challenging time for everyone, especially our NHS front-line workers, and this was my way of recognising everything they do for us, so it’s fantastic that this recognition can be expanded even further. Art doesn’t get much more accessible than an open-air exhibition.
“I’m delighted to see my portraits lining the railings along Hull Marina, which is a landmark in itself, and I hope the public enjoy them too.”
NHS Heroes is one of two pop-up touring exhibitions being taken into communities across the region by PAC. York artist Sue Clayton’s collection of 21 portraits celebrating children and young adults with Down Syndrome was unveiled last Tuesday at the NHS York Vaccination Centre, at Askham Bar, for browsing by those attending jab appointments in the “Tent of Hope” until June 13. Plans are being put in place for the “21” show to transfer to Hull Marina after Karen’s show closes.
PAC director Janet Farmer says: “Making our exhibitions accessible to the public despite the pandemic has been really important for us, and the feedback has been really positive, so we’re very much looking forward to enabling even more people to see these incredibly poignant portraits created by the talented Karen Winship.
“We think they will make for a striking display along the marina. Our thanks to Aquavista for helping to make this possible.”
Aquavista took over ownership of Hull Waterside & Marina last year and were only too keen to support PAC’s pop-up exhibition plans. Manager Graham Richardson says: “We’re delighted to support this fantastic initiative. The marina is a popular visitor destination, so we hope to see lots of people coming to view the portraits over the next few weeks.”
Karen, artist and educator, had begun her career as a graphic designer, later gaining a teaching degree and subsequently working for 15 years at a maximum-security prison as head of art.
Embarking on her journey as a professional artist in 2012, she is “living the dream” in her words, not least as a community-minded artist who enjoys “giving back” through her involvement in community art projects.
NHS Heroes is her latest public-spirited endeavour, this one inspired by Tom Croft’s #portraitsfornhsheroes project for artists to complete a free portrait in appreciation of the NHS for gifting to the worker depicted.
“There was a shout-out on Facebook across the country from Tom Croft, calling for artists to take part, and I was inundated with ten requests. Then I appeared on Look North and got even more,” says Karen.
“Tom Croft has now put together a book of 300 of the portraits, including one of mine, the one of Samantha, when she hasn’t got a mask on, but you can see all the creases on her face from the mask.
“Portraits For NHS Heroes is available in hardback on Amazon with all proceeds going to NHS charities.”
Among Karen’s portraits is one of her daughter, Kelly, who works for the NHS as an occupational therapist, bringing home the challenges faced by frontline workers in the pandemic. “I even had to do her portrait from photographs,” says Karen, to whom most of her subjects were unknown.
“They were a few people I know from York, but the photographs came from all over. Newcastle, Northern Ireland, Scotland. At first, I thought it might be difficult to work just from a photo, because I’m used to doing portraits from people sitting for me, but because these photographs were taken as they were working, looking into their eyes, you can see the trauma, the sadness, the exhaustion.
“Normally, you can see a sitter’s mouth, but invariably in these photographs the mouth had to be covered with a mask, so the eyes become even more important.”
Karen’s portraits were first “exhibited” informally. “My neighbours in my cul-de-sac [St Thomas Close in Osbaldwick] put them in their windows,” she recalls. “People even came from Beverley and Newcastle to walk down the street, and one told me their back story…and you then carry those stories with you.”
She found creating the NHS Heroes portraits “so intense”, she eventually had to stop. “I tend to work quickly because I like spontaneity,” says Karen. “Normally with portraits, I work from one sitting and then photos, but what was different with these portraits was that I was totally absorbed just in painting. Normally, we would be chatting at a sitting.
“I was exhausted, doing one after another from photographs. I just kept going until they were done. Afterwards, I immediately went on to do something that was colourful: a couple of autumn paintings, still lifes. I had to do something that was completely contrasting.
“And I’ve also been lucky that since the NHS project, I’ve had various commissions as I had to cut back on my teaching during the lockdowns.”
For more information on PAC’s forthcoming exhibitions, visit: pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.
YORK artist Sue Clayton has unveiled a specially commissioned painting of the “Tent Of Hope” at the NHS York Vaccination Centre at Askham Bar.
Sue has picked out members of the Nimbuscare teams that work there to feature in the pen-and-wash work, joined on the canvas by the cat that makes daily visits to the site.
The work is on show in the tent that has administered 200,000 jabs, one in every 250 in Britain so far, with the full repertoire of Oxford/AstraZeneka, Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines available.
On view too for those attending a vaccine appointment is Sue’s portrait exhibition of children and young adults with Down Syndrome, entitled 21, presented in association with Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) until Sunday, June 13.
Nimbuscare’s director of quality and patient experience, Michelle Phillips, says: “It’s a huge privilege to have this very special art here at the Vaccination Centre. We’re especially delighted with the unique painting Sue has done for us. Thanks to everyone who has helped make it happen.”
Standing beside the painting, Michelle adds: “We wanted to encapsulate the feeling, the atmosphere, the experience, in the Tent of Hope, where we try to not make it feel like a factory production line, like a turkey on a conveyor belt, but instead make it very much about everyone playing their part in the community. That’s why we call it ‘the tent of hope’ because the vaccine has been the turning of the tide.
“We wanted to find a local artist to express their interpretation of that experience, and I found Sue through a mutual friend.
“She was immediately excited and even more so when we met to chat about what we wanted from the painting, what the vaccination centre means to us, and what a variety of people work here: from the foundation-year doctors, nurses, retired [medic] returnees and health-care assistants to ambulance staff, security services, volunteers from all walks of life, and the military services at the start. Sue has come up with an amazing piece of art.”
Sue takes up the story: “I believe the recommendation to Michelle came from Big Ian Donaghy – Ian was one of the six York Heroes I painted in 2018 – making a nice full circle celebrating our heroes,” she says.
The commission brief was “quite open”, being left to her interpretation. “I immediately felt it should be a joyous watercolour; I wanted something almost whimsical…a definite celebration piece,” she says.
“It was important to me to try to represent a member from each team that works there: the volunteers, marshals, nurses, doctors, army medics, plus a whole host more.
“It was also important to speak to staff about what they felt about working there and I also spoke to friends about their feelings when visiting the tent.”
Sue enjoys the “quirky side” too. “That’s why the little black-and-white cat who visits the tent site each day is there, as is the much-appreciated tea trolley for the staff,” she says.
“The finished piece shows the tent, celebratory rainbow-coloured splashes festooning the blue sky, and we see a little vignette of a vaccinator at work and various personnel, all socially distanced, of course! It’s a pen-and-wash piece with the pen purposefully relaxed, almost in a ‘wibbly-wobbly’ fashion to add a sense of fun.”
The accompanying 21 exhibition was presented previously on the railings of All Saints’ Church, Pocklington, from March 19 to April 19 and comes a year after Sue held her studio show, Downright Marvellous At Large, at PAC, giant pair of hand-knitted odd socks and all.
Sue, a portrait artist with a vibrant colour palette and a social purpose, chose the theme of 21, not only to mark World Down Syndrome Day on March 21 but also to symbolise the extra 21st chromosome that people with Down Syndrome have, her energetic son James among them.
“The PAC initiative of holding the outdoor exhibition was just so perfect, Covid-safe, free to access and inclusive, and it was a huge success on its first showing in Pocklington town centre,” says Sue.
“There was such a great reaction. I’ve had people sending in photos of themselves by the portraits. It was brilliant to be sent photos of the models themselves, by their portraits.
“I know for many families it became a trip out – it was great that there was an ice-cream parlour at the end of the exhibition! I had a very proud moment with my kids as I heard some lovely comments from passers-by, discussing the portraits with no knowledge that I had painted them.”
PAC director Janet Farmer says: “We always enjoy working with Sue on staging her striking exhibitions at PAC, so it’s been absolutely fantastic to be able to continue sharing her inspirational work with the public in the midst of the pandemic by taking the exhibition outdoors.
“It’s been brilliant to see so many people enjoying the opportunity to engage with art at this time, and we’re looking forward to sharing it with many more people as we bring the exhibition to the NHS York Vaccination Centre.”
The 21 posterboards are all-weather and ideal for transferring to other locations, hence Sue and Pocklington Arts Centre’s shared enthusiasm for touring the exhibition after the reaction to the Pocklington run.
“The idea to bring it to the Vaccination Centre came about just in conversation with Michelle really: a lovely correlation of discussing when I would present the commission piece and me saying I would love to show ’21’ in York, if only I could think of a venue. A lightbulb moment!” says Sue.
“When Sue offered us the 21 exhibition, we jumped at the opportunity,” says Michelle. “There’s so much colour in the portraits, and the way they have transformed the tent is amazing.”
Among the 21 portraits is Andrew, the son of a Nimbuscare vaccinator, lead nurse Theresa Ollerenshaw. “I’ve known Sue since Andrew was a baby and she’s been doing inspiring art ever since I’ve known her,” she says.
“She’s spreading awareness of Down Syndrome, and so many people are going to see these portraits when ordinarily they wouldn’t. I love how they capture young people enjoying life. It’s going to be very strange coming in and seeing Andrew whenever I’m in here!”
“Andrew was one of the new pen and ink portraits I did in lockdown,” says Sue. “With Andrew having beautiful Titian red hair, I just wanted to capture that, and it’s been a joy to be able to sit down and do these portraits, listening to BBC Sounds.”
Now, two new options are in the pipeline for 21. “Hopefully, Hull Waterside & Marina and Bradford…so far,” says Sue. “More immediately, a short video of the exhibition is going to be featured in a pop-up art show at Kirkgate Market in Leeds.
“I was absolutely blown away by the positive feedback I received in Pocklington, so I’m really excited about now taking it to other venues so that many more people can browse the portraits and join me in celebrating young people with Down Syndrome at work and play.
“My son James, who’s a huge inspiration for me, turned 18 in lockdown, so this was the perfect time to put this exhibition together and I hope it brings a lot of joy to people after what has been such a challenging time for so many.”
Six questions for York artist Sue Clayton on vaccine jabs, new projects, art classes, lockdown and life after June 21.
Your Tent Of Hope painting features the Vaccination Centre at Askham Bar. Did you have your jab there?
“I’ve now had both jabs as I’m classed as a carer because my son, James, has Down Syndrome. We had ours at the Haxby Group practice, although I did support my mum on both occasions to the Askham Bar site…it was that first sight of the gleaming white domes that stays in my mind.”
Did you find going for the first jab emotional?
“On my own jab, I didn’t feel too emotional, but the first time I took my mum, I did. She was nervous and is hard of hearing, so I was pleased to go in with her for support.
“I felt the same again, supporting James for his jab. He’s had to shield and it really felt like a positive step forward. The feeling of now having both jabs gives us a reassurance we’ve never felt before.”
How are your art projects progressing: when might we see the results?
“Oohhh…I’m on with an exciting new project, which came about from a conversation on a park bench in the Museum Gardens. I was having a chat with Michael Miles, who’s a lifelong York City fan and creates the Y-Front fanzine.
“Although not a follower of football myself, he held me captivated as he talked about his love for his team and what Bootham Crescent meant to him. One of those conversations where someone’s passion for something sparks your own interest to listen to them.
“I also learned that York City Football Club celebrates its centenary next year. So, a plan has come together: I’m painting a series of portraits of the fans to be revealed all together next year. The fans are sending me their photos and I’ll be including many through the years. I’m loving it!
“Also, excitedly, I hope to collaborate with Tony Cope. His photography is just exquisite and I’m a huge fan. He captures such a poignancy and feeling in his work. Watch this space.”
How are the art classes you lead online going?
“They’re going well. I love that I now have people tuning in each week from all over the UK and the Netherlands too! It’s interesting that this time last year I panicked about using this new-fangled Zoom ‘whatdoyacallit’ and now I’m reticent to return to face-to-face teaching as it suits me so well.”
If you could sum up your life in Lockdown x 3 in five words, what would they be?
“Lockdown 3 has been the hardest in many ways for me. I was devastated that my relationship ended, and as we came out of lockdown, I lost my lovely dog to cancer – so, not the best of times.
“My five words? Sadness, loss but new beginnings.”
What do you most want to be able to do after “freedom day” on June 21(hopefully!)?
“If it’s safe to do so, I’m looking forward to giving people hugs again. I’m naturally quite tactile and, boy, I’ve missed contact with people. I’m looking forward to seeing live gigs, theatre, cinema, and meals out again too.
YORK portrait artist Sue Clayton is joining forces with Pocklington Arts Centre to present an outdoor exhibition, 21, in celebration of World Down Syndrome Day.
On display on the railings of All Saints Church, Pocklington, from tomorrow (19/3/2021) to April 19, the 21 portraits are all inspired by children and adults who have Down Syndrome, especially Sue’s energetic son James.
Sue, whose portraiture is marked by a vibrant palette and social purpose, has chosen the theme of 21 not only in a nod to World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) falling on March 21, but also to symbolise the extra 21st chromosome that people with Down Syndrome have.
21 will be the second such exhibition to be staged by Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) in lockdown after Karen Winship’s NHS Heroes outside “the Cathedral of the Wolds” from late-November to January 4.
Sue says: “I’m delighted to once again be teaming up with Pocklington Arts Centre to unveil 21 to mark World Down Syndrome Day.
“I take a huge amount of inspiration from my son James, who celebrated his 18th birthday in lockdown, so I’m very much looking forward to bringing this collection of portraits featuring children and adults with Down Syndrome at work and play to Pocklington.
“I really hope it helps to not only celebrate some incredible people but also perhaps to challenge some people’s perceptions of Down Syndrome to coincide with this international awareness-raising campaign.”
The 21 exhibition comes a year after Sue held a record-breaking attempt to create the world’s largest pair of knitted socks at PAC, where the huge socks formed the backdrop to her studio exhibition Downright Marvellous At Large.
The project involved keen knitters from the Pocklington community and beyond knitting and donating brightly coloured squares that were joined together to make the enormous odd socks.
“Why odd socks,” you ask? Odd socks are worn to mark WDSD as part of the global fundraising campaign Lots Of Socks to represent the odd number of chromosomes, whose shape matches a sock.
Sue’s original Downright Marvellous! exhibition at PAC in 2015 mainly depicted young children who have Down Syndrome, but her new portraits in part focus on the “unrepresented and significant” social presence of adults with Down Syndrome at work and at leisure. This is in keeping with her artistic vision to “represent those who are sometimes socially unseen”.
PAC director Janet Farmer says: “We’re delighted to be working with Sue Clayton once again on what promises to be a fantastic exhibition to help raise awareness of a worthwhile cause.
“Sue’s previous exhibitions at PAC have always proved to be so popular, so we’re looking forward to being able to make 21 happen as an outdoor event while the venue remains closed to the public.
“We hope as many people as possible enjoy this truly unique and inspiring collection of works.”
Sue, from Wigginton, is drawn to portraiture because “it insists upon the idea that the more you look at a face, the more you see. Every single aspect – the eyelids, the nostrils, and the complexion – reveals the personality and character of every individual person”.
After making a radical mid-career change to become a full-time artist, self-taught Sue soon gained recognition from Britain’s Got Artists in 2012 and later as Outstanding Visual Artist in the York Culture Awards for her York Heroes project in 2017-2018, shown at York Hospital.
Selected by the York public for Sue’s portrait challenge, the six “heroes” were Dame Berwick Kaler, York Theatre Royal pantomime legend; Mary Chapman, founder of Nuzzlets Animal Charity in Great Ouseburn; Professor Steve Leveson, York Against Cancer co-founder and chairman; Ian Donaghy, motivational public speaker, charity fundraiser, author and Huge singer; the late PC Suzanne Asquith, who was awarded a BEM in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for her work with young people, and Andrew Fair, the perennial friendly face on the trolleys at Sainsbury’s at Monks Cross.
Sue’s portrait of Andrew in uniform, with his yellow hi-viz jacket and orange Sainsbury’s name tag, subsequently featured on the opening episode of Grayson Perry’s Grayson’s Art Club on Channel 4 during Lockdown 1 last spring.
Influenced by Rembrandt, York artist William Etty and more contemporary painters such as Jenny Saville and Tim Benson, Sue enjoys working with dynamic colours to make marks “that should not be there but somehow work”, and her modus operandi is to capture both the likeness of her subjects and their inner life.
During lockdown, she has been teaching weekly online art classes. To find out more about Sue’s classes and her work, visit sueclayton.com. For further information on World Down Syndrome Day, and how to show support by wearing odd socks on March 21, visit downs-syndrome.org.uk.
Here, CharlesHutchPress turns the spotlight on Sue Clayton with a broad canvas of questions.
How will you and James mark World Down Syndrome Day on Sunday, March 21, Sue?
“We’ll be definitely wearing our odd socks on WDSD. We’ll be donning the official design odd socks from the Down Syndrome Association, but everyone is warmly encouraged to show support by wearing any odd socks they like, with the odd socks representing the extra sock-shaped chromosome.
“We’ll also be taking part in an online disco party that starts at 3.21pm on Sunday, so beware some serious Mum dancing! The day before, James and I will be doing an online portrait workshop with James debuting as my model. All monies raised from this will go to the local Down Syndrome support group.”
What works make up the 21 portraits in 21 in 2021?
“The exhibition features seven new portraits of young people from our region, with a new sketch of James from his 18th birthday included. The other portraits have been selected from past Downright Marvellous exhibitions. There’s a range of mediums used this time from pen sketches, acrylic, oils and watercolour.”
Your past Pocklington Arts Centre exhibitions have been held indoors. This time, the works will be on show outside, becoming street art, on view to all. What extra oomph does that bring to this show?
“Pocklington Arts Centre strikes again; they are such a great asset to the community. What a fantastic initiative this is. When most artists are struggling during this time PAC are helping by funding these exhibitions.
“I’m particularly excited as I’m passionate about making art accessible for all. This way, art is shown in an open environment to people who may not go to art galleries. If people can’t go to galleries and art centres, they will come to you!
“The paintings are vibrant and positive; it’s great to think they might make people smile as they pass by All Saints Church. I’m hoping the portraits will dispense the label and instead focus on the individual.”
You say you want to “perhaps challenge some people’s perceptions of Down Syndrome to coincide with this international awareness raising campaign”. What do you think those perceptions are and how can they be changed?
“I hope to share the individual and unique character of any person I paint; these models are no exception. A misconception may be that people with Down Syndrome will live sheltered lives, never leaving the family home or having a job.
“Many adults with DS make a great contribution to society, working in paid jobs or volunteering within the community. My greatest wish for James in the future will be that he holds down a fulfilling job to him; has a strong, loving relationship and can live as independently as possible, all of which I hope for my daughter too, who doesn’t have DS.”
What are you working on and when might your next exhibition be?
“I’ll soon be working on a new commission linked with the NHS, which I am very excited about. More details to follow nearer the time.
“I’m also working on a project that incorporates both large-scale paintings of the portrait and the nude side by side. Yet again, I hope to challenge the perceptions we make of people as we view the same person in a different way: do these change and why?”
How are the Zoom art classes going?
“I’m loving delivering art classes via Zoom. I can’t believe I was so reticent at the start of lockdown; I love it now! The thing I have found lovely is the sense of community and friendship that can form in a virtual class.
“I now have people from across the UK and even have someone Zooming in weekly from the Netherlands.”
What has Zoom taught you about the possibilities of opening up to new opportunities?
“The beauty of the classes is no travelling to venues, no forgetting art materials, plus it allows freedom to experiment more with materials as everything is on hand at home.
“I do two watercolour paint-along sessions each week, which allow participants to see in detail how to create the painting. Everyone can view it easily on thier own screen.
“Also, reference photos are much easier to share and I’ve created an online gallery so we can look and share our work together, again building the sense of community. Many of my learners have had to shield, so this has been a great way to still participate and not feel so isolated during this time.
“From a personal point of view, I’ve linked to a lot of art talks myself, expanding my art history knowledge. I particularly enjoyed taking part in one from Washington DC examining Van Gogh’s letters and the paintings described within them. Great stuff!”
How have you dealt with lockdown x 3 as a creative person?
“When lockdown began this time last year, my yearning to paint portraits waned; I’m very pleased to say this didn’t last long. Discovering I could continue to teach was a real bonus as, like so many creatives, I was very anxious how I could still earn money.
“The classes have been essential on many levels. They feed my creativity as I need to think about new and exciting challenges for my learners, but it’s also a wonderful time with fellow painters as we share thoughts and ideas.
“I’ve had the challenge of two children home-schooling and having a young person with special needs 24/7 can have its ups and downs but overall it’s been good.
“I often compensate by working into the early hours but I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to do this and keep my loved ones safe.
“It’s definitely been a time to learn for me; I’ve invested in learning more about art history. Excitingly too, I’ve now found avenues to link up with models far further afield than I ever thought possible, thanks to technology.”
What do you know about yourself that you didn’t know a year ago pre-Covid?
“Hmm…tricky question! Like so many people, I’ve had to embrace tech more and never thought I would enjoy it so much. I’ve learnt to have more patience as I’ve had to time apart from my partner but equally learned our love is very strong and how thankful I am that he’s in my life.
“I know I enjoyed slowing down a little and how much I appreciate those around me. I now know that I have the scope to teach to a much wider audience and I’ve loved how much I’ve enjoyed it.”
Why has Grayson’s Art Club on Channel 4 been such a breath of fresh air for the art world in general, championing people’s art?
“Grayson Perry is just fantastic; I can’t wait to see him in York later this year [Grayson Perry: A Show For Normal People, York Barbican, September 6].
“The TV show is wholesome and heartening and really brings home the fact that art is for everyone and everyone can make it. He’s such a good communicator and shows an understanding of humankind with his empathy.
“I really like the way he shows respect for all the artists, whoever they are, allowing them time to talk about their art and listening. The connection between [his wife] Philippa and Grayson is great to see too. In a time of crisis, it truly shows the power of art, to create, to distract, to absorb, to think, to just be!”
Sue Clayton’s exhibition, 21, is on display outside All Saints Church, Pocklington, from March 19 to April 19, presented in tandem with Pocklington Arts Centre. For Sue’s short video on 21, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=lpoeCJW3_5I.
THE diary is beginning to turn from blank to much more promising, even if online and home entertainment is still the order of the day, but Charles Hutchinson is feeling positive and so are event organisers.
Outdoor exhibition for World Down Syndrome Day: Sue Clayton, 21, All Saints Church, Pocklington, March 19 to April 19
YORK portrait artist Sue Clayton will celebrate World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) on March 21 with a month-long open-air exhibition on the railings of All Saints Church in Pocklington.
Her collection of 21 portraits is inspired by children and adults with Down Syndrome, especially Sue’s energetic son James. She has chosen the theme of 21 both to mark the date of WDSD and to symbolise the extra 21st chromosome that people with Down Syndrome have.
This is the second outdoor display to be staged by Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) in lockdown at this location after fellow York artist Karen Winship’s NHS Heroes exhibition from late November to early January.
Springtime celebration of music online: Awaken, National Centre for Early Music, York, March 27 and 28
THE NCEM’s Awaken weekend will feature York countertenor Iestyn Davies and Fretwork, the all-male vocal group The Gesualdo Six, I Fagiolini and the English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble, Ensemble Augelletti and The Consone Quartet.
The online festivities will celebrate the sublime sounds of spring in a range of historic venues to mark “the unique association between the City of York and the exquisite beauty of the music of the past”. Among the architectural gems will be Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, St Olave’s Church, Marygate, the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall and the NCEM. Full details can be found at ncem.co.uk/awaken.
“Unique” livestreamed concert: The Howl & The Hum, York Minster, May 25
YORK alternative rock band The Howl & The Hum will perform a “unique set to compliment the unique venue” of the Nave of York Minster in a one-off 8.15pm concert livestreamed via ticket.co.
Singer, songwriter and guitarist Sam Griffiths, bassist Brad Blackwell, guitarist Conor Hirons and drummer Jack Williams will combine selections from last May’s prescient album Human Contact with fan favourites and new material recorded in lockdown.
The Howl & The Hum will be the first rock act to play York Minster since York singer-songwriter Benjamin Francis Leftwich on March 29 2019. Tickets are on sale via thehowlandthehum.com/.
Confirmed for the summertime: Castle Howard Concerts Weekend, August 20 to 22
CASTLE Howard has announced this summer’s concerts weekend will go ahead, in light of the Government’s roadmap rollout.
First up, in the open air at the North Yorkshire country house, will be house music brand Café Mambo Ibiza on August 20, presenting Roger Sanchez, Judge Jules, Julie McKnight (live PA), Ridney and Robin S (live PA), with more big names still to be announced for the Ibiza Classics at the Castle celebration.
Welsh tenor Wynne Evans, from the Go Compare adverts, will be joined by soprano Victoria Joyce and the London Gala Orchestra for the al fresco Castle Howard Proms on August 21.
Four vocalists from We Will Rock You, a five-piece rock band and The Elysium Orchestra will combine for Queen Symphonic on August 22. Box office: castlehoward.co.uk.
Sheds on the move: Shed Seven, The Piece Hall, Halifax, August 28
YORK heroes Shed Seven’s all-Yorkshire bill at The Piece Hall, Halifax, is being rescheduled for a third time, now booked in for August 28.
Joining the Sheds that West Yorkshire day will be Leeds bands The Pigeon Detectives and The Wedding Present and Leeds United-supporting York group Skylights, plus the Brighton Beach DJs.
August 28? Doesn’t that clash with Leeds Festival, co-headlined that day by Stormzy and Catfish And The Bottlemen? Indeed so, but “let’s just say our fans are not their demographic,” quips lead singer Rick Witter.
The Greatest News In The History Of The World…The Greatest Play In The History Of The World…tour to open in Scarborough from May 18 to 22
THE Stephen Joseph Theatre’s Covid-safe reopening show will be the first tour dates of The Greatest Play In The History Of The World…, the hit one-woman play that Ian Kershaw wrote for his wife, Coronation Street alumnus Julie Hesmondhalgh.
Directed by Raz Shaw, it heads out on a heartfelt journey that starts and ends in a small, unassuming house on a quiet suburban road, as Hesmondhalgh narrates the story of two neighbours and the people on their street, navigating the audience through the nuances of life, the possibilities of science and the meaning of love.
Hesmondhalgh says: “It’s a beautiful play, a love story, but a universal one about learning in time what matters in the end, about leaving a mark on the world – and maybe beyond – that shows us, the human race, in all its glorious messiness, confusion and joy.”
York-Shires: The Shires, York Barbican, put back by 12 months
BRITAIN’S biggest-selling country act, The Shires, are rescheduling their May 23 show at York Barbican for May 6 2022.
York is the only Yorkshire venue of their rearranged 25-date tour, when Crissie Rhodes and Ben Earle are billed to be joined by Texan country singer and songwriter Eric Paslay.
“The songs mean so much to us personally, but there really is nothing like looking out at our fans in the crowd and seeing how much of an impact they can have in someone else’s life,” say The Shires. “It’s truly a very special thing”.
And what about?
STILL stuck at home, check out Mindhunter on Netflix, Unforgotten on ITV and Sophia Loren’s Desert Island Discs on BBC Sounds. Seek out Nick Cave & Warren Ellis’s new lockdown album, Carnage.
Created in lockdown, Sue’s piece is called Black Treacle, painted in response to her partner’s description of when depression descends “the slow descent of an overwhelming, glutinous, self-smothering darkness”.
“As an artist, this was obviously a very personal piece for me to do and not without challenges,” she says.
“I knew, for instance, that the portrait I’ve taken time to create was going to be obliterated by the tar-like paint and whatever happens there was no going back, no chance to rectify anything. No scraping back. The tar wouldn’t allow it.
“It was fascinating to me that I had planned for the portrait to be a monochromatic study in subdued tones of either sepia or dark blue. As I painted, though, colour kept coming through. Not just because I’m a colourful artist but I think because my partner has such a vitality and a spark, that I had to paint it! It was also a painting of the man I love and that was hard to suppress the feeling for him as I paint.”
The application of the black paint – black wood stain, to be precise – was “interesting”, adds Sue, who is best known for her 2017-2018 York Heroes project. “As I’ve just said, there was no going back, no second chances. I loaded up the brush several times and just let the stain run down the surface, following its own path,” she says.
“I genuinely found this really emotional, so mesmerising to watch and yet heart-stopping as it engulfed the face. It really felt smothering. Far more symbolic to me than I could ever realise.”
No time to waste. Tomorrow, June 30, is the deadline to cast your vote for Sue’s Black Treacle.
YORK Heroes artist Sue Clayton is participating in the nationwide #portraitsfornhsheroes initiative.
Her subject is Rachel Beal, a “vibrant, young, positive” nurse in charge of a Covid-19 ward in Rotherham, who Sue has never met but was struck by one photograph of her in particular.
“The initiative was created in early April by Tom Croft, an Oxford artist who was on the 2018 Sky Portrait Artist series,” says Sue, from Wigginton, York.
“The idea was to celebrate our NHS heroes in portraits, to which he invited artists to participate. On our social media sites we posted a green canvas to say ‘I’m offering a free portrait to the first NHS key worker to contact me’, and the finished portrait is then posted to the ‘model’ as a thank-you.”
Sue’s offer received an immediate response. “I was delighted that within two minutes I had a request from a chap who wanted me to paint his wife, who’s a nurse in charge of a Covid-19 ward in Rotherham,” she recalls.
“The photos sent over showed Rachel as a vibrant, young, positive nurse. One image particularly drew my attention: her smile beaming as she held her hands up in a heart shape.”
Sue felt a spontaneous bond. “The first thing that struck me about Rachel was…this is the gal I would want by my bedside in ICU. She appeared to have a cheerful glint in her eyes and a smile to give hope.
“I felt a connection as two Yorkshire lasses whose glass is always half full. I also loved the composition, a wonderful triangulation. Finally, I loved her nose ring and tattoos set against a crisp uniform with the traditional silver filigree belt clasp.”
Sue’s response was to produce an expressive portrait, joyous even. “Perhaps strange considering these strange, sad times, when many fantastic portraits have been created showing masked nurses, fatigue and sadness etched in their eyes – really poignant and emotional to the viewer.
“But, conversely, I wanted to show a time that has also shown the strength of human kindness and that hope still shines through, and here was a girl from Rotherham to prove it!
“My main focus obviously would be Rachel but I wanted her to be surrounded by free, bright, colourful brushstrokes symbolising her energy, vitality and hope.”
By necessity, Sue’s working practice differed from her York Heroes portraits of pantomime dame Berwick Kaler; motivational speaker, charity fundraiser, author and Huge frontman Ian Donaghy; “unsung hero” Andrew Fair, stalwart Sainbury’s trolley attendant at Monks Cross; York Against Cancer co-founder Steve Leveson; Nuzzlets animal charity driving force Mary Chapman and the late police constable Suzanne Asquith, who was awarded the Gold award for Inspiration at the North Yorkshire Police Annual Awards.
Unlike the 2018 series, there were to be no sittings this time, no voice, no chance to see facial expressions in motion “I worked solely from my response to Rachel’s photo without knowing anything about her, but the story that she sent me after seeing the painting assured me that I had captured her character,” says Sue.
“I painted purely from instinct, which was an interesting challenge for me and a new one. Usually, I will have met and chatted to a sitter and as a norm I find this important.
“I can build up a ‘feeling’ about someone, even down to what colour I feel portrays them. I will watch for quirks, their gestures, how someone talks: are they animated and excitable or quiet and reserved?
“These things I have in my mind and pre-form how I paint someone. In the case of a posthumous portrait, the loved one commissioning it will tell me about a person, what they were like, and it’s sometimes their response and feeling to their loved ones that come through when I paint.”
For Rachel’s portrait, Sue decided to “just go with the flow and see how it developed”. “For instance, as I began the portrait, the background was plain aqua colour but, as I progressed, I knew vibrant colours needed to be there to suggest Rachel,” she says.
“She felt to me to be a buzzy, vital character. The bold, spark-like brushstrokes seem to come of their own accord, creating a dazzled aura and perhaps subconsciously giving a nod to the rainbow we’ve come to symbolise our NHS at this time.”
On receiving her portrait, Rachel sent a message to Sue to say: “This is so lovely! Thank you so much! It’s more than amazing!
“I’m a wife, mum and a nurse. I love Disney and creating a colourful, happy, healthy, fair world. I am passionate about helping people feel comfortable and empowered about their care and love working with patients to help them manage and maintain their overall health and well-being.”
Rachel said she was a firm believer in always having hope: “During these terrifying, unprecedented times, I find hope in the smallest of human gestures, which gives me the strength to keep smiling and caring and sharing positivity.
“I believe we will have our Victory over Covid and that our Victory will be beautiful! The NHS is something I cherish, I give my heart and soul to it. As staff we are family and I am extremely proud to be a part of that.”
Although Sue does not envisage meeting Rachel once circumstances allow, she says: “A lovely connection has been made with both her and Greg, Rachel’s husband, via social media. I think the ‘call and response’ nature of the initiative is great.”
NHS Heroes is a term often heard since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, hospital staff putting their life at risk for the good of others, even drawing comparison with the young soldiers sent into the trenches in the First World War. “We as a nation will be forever indebted to our NHS workers,” says Sue.
“I will be forever saddened and shocked that we asked them to go into a situation without adequate protection and that as a result people have died, saving others. How many other professions would find this acceptable, to know this and still go to work potentially risking their lives?”
First York Heroes, now NHS Heroes, what makes a hero for Sue? “Interesting question. I remember when I approached one of the ‘York Heroes’ to ask to create their portrait, they took some persuading.
“They did not consider themselves a hero, although all the nominations that came for them begged to differ!” she says.
“One of my final emails to persuade them was to just copy the definition of ‘hero’: ‘a person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities’.”
Adapting to life in lockdown, Sue is “grateful to be home, safe with my two children, in acknowledgement that many are unable to be so”. “I’m missing my partner terribly as, due to vulnerable health in both our households, we have to be cautious,” she says.
“From an art point of view, the urge to paint left me temporarily, which frightened me. However, home decorating began instead and my creativity was encouraged this way, from ripping up the stairs carpet and painting the stairs in rainbow colours to remember this period, through to painting a cupboard with a Chinese heron/crane.
“There’s no real reason for the choice of a Chinese heron/crane, I just thought it might add interest to the cupboard, and as usual I went off piste and used black Sharpie pen to scribble in blossom…I liked the effect though!
“I’ve been through a real ‘make do and mend’ episode at home, revamping without cost: the fireplace has been made over too, using mountcard off-cuts and shed paint…as you do!”
The NHS portrait project gave Sue the jump start she needed to paint again. “I tend to paint in the early hours now as the house is peaceful and as a mum I’m off duty!” she says.
This week Sue has conducted her first art workshop via the Zoom video app. “It worked OK thankfully: such a huge relief to know I can deliver art sessions and still have some connection with people. I’ve so missed it,” she says.
“I’ll start two new weekly sessions in June, one purely portraits and the other, Clayton’s Art Club. If it’s good enough for Grayson Perry, it’ll do for me.”
While on the subject of Grayson’s Arts Club, Sue has played her part in Perry’s Monday night series in lockdown on Channel 4.
“My portrait of Sainsbury’s trolley attendant Andrew Fair appeared on the first episode. It was an absolute shock to me, but a bittersweet moment too, as I missed the original showing due to shocking news that a friend was unconscious and on life support fighting Covid,” she says.
“I had been making calls to friends to update them on the sad news and had taken a bath to just ‘be’ and reflect as the news had shocked me so. But my phone kept pinging and a friend phoned to say ‘Sue…I’ve just seen you on TV!’.
“So, the first time it was aired, I was in the bath, but I’m delighted to say my friend recovered and is now home…so it will always be a poignant moment for me.”
Grayson’s Art Club had asked for submissions of art for the show, accompanied by a video clip “telling him who you were and why you were submitting your painting”. “The first week was ‘portraits’ and I knew straightaway I should send in the image of Andrew, one of the York Heroes,” says Sue.
“As he works at Sainsbury’s, I felt it was an important nod to other key workers during this time but also because I love Andrew; he is such an amazingly, cheerful soul who loves his job. Getting to know him through the project was a happy time.
“He had just turned 60 and he’s now shielding with his mother and I know he would be so proud to see his portrait on TV.
“It was one of my most joyful moments painting Andrew. The delight and pride he had at being painted was so touching. He’s a prolific letter writer and has written to The Queen, Prince William and the chief exec of Sainsbury’s, to name but a few, to tell them he was selected as a Hero of York. He’s a very sweet, endearing man.”
Sue is delighted by the impact of Grayson’s Art Club. “I think Grayson’s show will introduce many to creating, both its power and how stimulating it can be. It’s also a positive, uplifting show,” she says.
“I’ve loved seeing other artists appear too, both celebrity and world-renowned artists. So great to see Maggi Hambling on there, I love her. The exhibition at the end will be interesting too, a testament to this time…a time capsule, a snapshot of creations.
“It’s interesting that as more cuts are made to the arts sectors, we are so lost without it. Where would we be now, in this period, without our music, the arts and museums’ online tours, the live theatre show streaming, movies, Netflix?”
Sue’s Downright Marvellous…At Large! exhibition at Pocklington Art Centre had to close early after the Coronavirus shutdown in March. “I was showing 12 new portraits in celebration of Down Syndrome, in part to mark my son James, who has Down Syndrome, turning 18 this year, this Friday in fact,” she says.
“I’m pleased to say that the exhibition will be shown at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford from November, then York Hospital in February 2021.”
Coming next is Sue’s Double Portraits project, placing two contrasting portraits next to each other. “It’s still in its very early stages but the first portrait has begun,” she says.
“They will all be large and at least a metre. I want to challenge the viewer. For example, a large, colourful, brash, full in-your-face portrait of a man with facial paralysis will be shown against a sombre painted, full nude study of a confident man comfortable in his own skin. Do we at first glance acknowledge that they are the same person?
“Or a man in his prime, top of his game, delivering lectures to hundreds, assured, knowledgeable, performing…set against a desperate, sad portrait image of a ‘black treacle’ time – his words – when depression hits him. A monochromatic study, possibly painted in tar.
“As usual, I have nowhere to show these yet, nor thought to try and find funding, but it’s something I need to do. The ignition has been lit!”
Did you know?
Two more York artists are taking part in the #portraitsfornhsheroes project: Lucie Wake and Karen Winship.