Why I volunteer: The hospice caricaturist

Categories: Community Engagement.

Helen originally trained as a nurse before following her passion for art full time. She creates caricatures and colour portraits at weddings, events and on cruise ships, even capturing Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace on one occasion. Sometimes she draws up to 15 in an hour.

Most Wednesday afternoons Helen can be found in the lounge area or on the wards at St Catherine’s capturing someone’s likeness in a drawing. Speaking about her role, she says:

“It is a wonderful experience, I receive as much as I give. It is a privilege to be let into someone’s life. They tell me their story and I try and capture that through illustration. For that moment, it is all about them.”

Often, people are surprised to find St Catherine’s offers services like caricature drawings to patients and their families, but Helen’s drawings become really special to those being cared for. She has even been contacted by relatives of patients asking if they can use her drawings for order of services. Of this, she says:

“Any picture is theirs to use. One family said they had looked through photos but my drawing had caught something in their relative’s face; their story. It is an absolute honour to know they used it for such an important occasion.”

When asked how she works, Helen explains:

“I always draw someone’s eyes first – they are the first thing you look at. It is not about anatomy, there is a softness, a sparkle, personality. The shape of people’s eyes changes as they tell a story and I wait for the moment they want represented.”

“It helps that I have drawn many of the nursing staff at St Catherine’s too as they understand what I do when I draw and can reassure patients that my style is fun. For me, it is a genuine privilege to know that through volunteering my time and skills, I can lift people’s spirits and leave them with a lovely memory.”

For more information visit St Catherine’s Hospice