Feeling somewhat disheartened and helpless during the pandemic lockdown, Croft came up with the idea for #portraitsfornhsheroes, an initiative which has now seen countless artists around the world offer to paint free portraits of NHS frontline workers as a show of their appreciation.
Croft kicked off the art project by putting up a post on Instagram saying he would like to offer a free portrait to the first NHS key worker who contacted him. He also urged other artists to get involved.
One such artist was Jess Douglas, whose portrait of paramedic and College member Ian Thomas can now be seen online in a virtual exhibition.
Jess, who is from Lyme Regis and specialises in painting boats, says she was keen to get involved because, like all the other artists she wanted to express her thanks to NHS staff.
She said: “I’d never done a colour portrait before so it was definitely out of my comfort zone. But it was a good excuse to push myself and have the freedom to experiment and I’m really pleased with the end result.”
The entire process, which was based on a photo of Ian wearing PPE took about 12 hours to complete. From the outset, Jess knew she wanted her portrait to be reflective of the times.
“A lot of the portraits are from posed images but I wanted mine to highlight the issues paramedics like Ian, and other frontline workers faced and obviously PPE has been one of those issues,” she added.
For Ian, who works for South West Ambulance Service, having his portrait painted by Jess has been a dream come true.
He said: “It’s incredible and I couldn’t be happier with it. This whole project has cemented the amazing contribution made by all NHS frontline workers and highlights the diversity of everyone involved. I’m really proud to have been part of it and hopefully once the pandemic is over all the portraits will be showcased in a wonderful exhibition.”