“It’s about being able to forget your illness and lose yourself in the art”

Steve Davis is an art tutor with a particular approach to the classes he leads at the Marie Curie Hospice, Bradford. He believes that art is for everyone, and wants to help the patients who enjoy his classes find a sense of peace by getting lost in painting.

Steve leads art classes where patients can paint scenes and subjects that resonate with them

“It’s not necessarily about painting the ‘doom and gloom’ feelings”, Steve explains. “It’s more about people forgetting their illness and getting wrapped up in something relaxing. They’re also learning a new talent or finding a skill they didn’t know they had, and producing work of their own.

”I’ve got a thing about art being for everyone. What we do here at the hospice is about ordinary people who never really had a chance to indulge their artistic sensibilities. They’re ill, they’ve got more time on their hands maybe, they might be scared – it’s about trying to take them away from that, to get to another place and lose yourself in creating the art.”

Effective therapy

The people who take part in Steve’s classes vary – some may be in the hospice once a week for day therapy, and some are residents being supported in advanced stages of illness. Steve adapts his approach to suit their needs: ”We’ve had some success with patients with motor neurone disease with limited mobility. Rather than doing precise brushwork, we’ll have them putting colour washes down, dropping water in, taking colour out with tissues and so on. It’s very effective from a therapy point of view.”

Patients who attend Steve’s classes over months or years often become friends. ”I have one patient – a gentleman in his 80s – who I’ve got quite a history with. Eighteen years ago his wife was in one of my hospice groups before she died, and then about four years ago this gentleman turned up as a patient in my current class.

”He paints at home, and I often tell him that we’ve unleashed a bit of a painting monster because of the amount of work he produces. But what he told me – which was incredibly gratifying – is when he’s painting he feels no pain. The hours just disappear, and he paints quite a lot of places in Europe he went to with his wife. It can be quite emotional when we do talk about it, and you see him filling up sometimes.”

Sense of achievement and wonder

Patients also have the opportunity to have their artwork displayed in exhibitions. ”It’s amazing what effect it has on the patient’s wellbeing, seeing their work displayed in these gorgeous venues,” says Steve.

”The crème de la crème of our exhibitions was a joint venture with the Marie Curie Hospice, Hampstead, where the artwork was displayed at the Royal Academy. It was really exciting for everyone; even if some couldn’t get down to see it. Everyone got to enjoy that sense of achievement and wonder at something they’d done and created.”

For Hospice Care Week, we’re celebrating every corner of our hospices and the people who make them so special. Find out more about our hospices and the vital work they carry out.