A brilliant initiative called Portraits for NHS Heroes started by Artist Thomas Croft @tomcroftartist is an arts project where artists volunteer to offer to paint a portrait of an NHS worker. This began on April 4, 2020 during the Covid-19 outbreak when Tom put an offer on Instagram to paint a free portrait for the first NHS worker to reply to him. However, he received so many requests that he eventually put 500 NHS workers in touch with professional artists who volunteered to paint them. This offer really spoke to artists who wanted to lift the spirits of the key workers and snowballed into a massive project which now spans many countries worldwide and it is planned to have an exhibition of some of the portraits when the pandemic subsides.
I do not consider myself a professional portrait painter but decided to volunteer anyway and put out an announcement via social media where I received 15 nominations. The names went into a hat – literally – and the first name was Jude McBride who had been nominated by a friend. It turned out that she was the perfect choice, being a complete warrior woman working on the frontline who had also had a bout of Covid-19 herself. She has worked for the South Central Ambulance Service for 18 years based in Southampton and The New Forest and is the Paramedic Team Leader, responding as a paramedic and also the on call Operational Commander for this area when on duty to provide a large scale leadership role for challenging incidents and also provide support to the team. She directly manages a team of 25 staff and has a great team. Jude says ‘I love my role and am very proud to work with the people I do, who are all just amazing’.
We chatted on Skype for the first time to get to know each other, initially Jude was not sure about having a portrait of herself hanging in her house, but decided to go with it and sent through some photos of herself for me to work with. I used a combination of 2 or 3 of the photos as I wanted to capture her strength as a woman working on the frontline managing a large team, but also to convey her warm, caring nature. Her portrait, I hope, shows her looking like she had given her all on one of, I am sure, many challenging days.
Fortunately Jude loves her portrait and I really enjoyed painting her and felt I had really got to know a very special lady.