Rachel Beal, a “vibrant, young, positive” nurse in charge of a Covid-19 ward in Rotherham is the subject of a new portrait by York artist, Sue Clayton.
The artwork is Sue’s entry into the #portraitsfornhsheroes initiative which aims to celebrate our NHS heroes in portraits.
Having offered a free portrait to the first NHS key worker to get in touch on social media, Sue was delighted when within two minutes she had a request from someone who wanted a painting of his wife – a nurse in charge of a Covid-19 ward in Rotherham.
Clayton, who has previously captured a number of heroes in her native York, said: “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.”
On receiving her portrait, Rachel, said: “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.”
Images: Sue Clayton / Charles Hutchinson