Local Cheshire portrait artist, Lizzie Coles, recently took part in a project called Portraits for NHS Heroes. Lizzie was contacted by fellow artist, Tom Croft, to celebrate the heroic work of the amazing NHS during the Covid pandemic, and she knew she had to be involved after recently finishing her breast cancer treatment.


This face will be familiar to many.

Lizzie said it was a clear choice to choose Professor Cliona Kirwan, as she ‘is an incredible woman, full of energy, enthusiasm and optimism, who took care of me, spoke to me with intelligence and changed my life.’

We hope you all agree that she has captured her perfectly.

We asked Lizzie to tell us a bit more about herself and the project-

I’m a portrait artist specialising in pencil drawing. I trained as an animator then had a career in advertising in London, working on diverse brands like John Lewis, L’Oréal, UBS investment banking and Vittel. I was then lucky enough to move to Paris to raise my two beautiful kids and during this time, I studied life drawing at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. After 10 years in France we moved to Cheshire and I revisited my creative roots. I’ve been working as an artist now for 5 years.

I had to take a year out last year when I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer and I underwent 9 months of chemo, surgery and radiotherapy. My treatment finished on the same week the country ‘locked down’ and I am extremely grateful that everything went to plan. As I was slowly returning to work my friend and fellow portrait artist Tom Croft put out a call – Portraits for NHS Heroes, and I knew I had to be involved.  Two strong, important women immediately sprung to mind, Prof. Cliona Kirwan, my surgeon and Cathryn Turner, my Senior Clinical Research Nurse, at the Christie. I’m recovering well and thrilled that I was able to share a little joy with these portraits.

Here is what Tom wrote for Lizzie from his point of view about the project. You can have a look at his Instagram here.

I was struggling to focus and concentrate on my work when we were first locked down as painting seemed fairly irrelevant. I needed to find a way of re-engaging with my work so I thought about the point of a portrait. A portrait can document, it can record moments in history and can celebrate an individual and their achievements. The NHS workers on the frontline risking their physical and mental health on a daily basis for our wellbeing struck me as the people who should be lining the walls of galleries for future generations to look back on. So, I posted a video on Instagram offering a free portrait to the first NHS key worker to contact me. Then I encouraged other artists if they felt the same to offer too. If enough people took part I thought we could have a big exhibition in the future to celebrate the heroic work of the amazing NHS. It’s grown beyond any expectation and I’m delighted to be able to now show some of the portraits online with a physical exhibition to come in the future with any luck.

The idea has also been adopted in other countries, including Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United States.

A virtual exhibition was created in May 2020 by The Net Gallery, a London-based arts platform that uses 3D technology to turn exhibitions into virtual walkthroughs, and it is planned to have an exhibition of many of the portraits once the pandemic subsides.

Lizzie says if you follow her on Instagram, she’ll update you as and when the exhibition begins.

Thanks again to Lizzie for sharing her talent and story with us.

Published On: September 16th, 2020 /

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