UN graduate’s paint-a-thon for neurology hospital

Date 11.11.2015

​​A Fine Art graduate from the University of Northampton is aiming to raise thousands of pounds for the hospital where she received a life-saving operation to remove a tumour on her spine.

Sophie Gresswell, 24, from Luton, who graduated with a First in Fine Art, Painting and Drawing in 2012, has just completed her first of a series of paint-a-thons at The National Hospital of Neurology and Neuroscience in London.

She said: “I decided to use my art to raise badly needed funds as I feel very lucky to be in a country where I could get treatment so quickly. It is vital we support our NHS for without the treatment and care I received I could have been paralysed or worse.”

Sophie suffered back pain for about two years before an MRI scan found the benign tumour at the end of July 2014. Action was swift, with Sophie undergoing a four-hour operation to remove the tumour. The artist, who describes her work as a cross between realism and the abstract, stayed in the hospital recovering for 10 days before being allowed home. The tumour that had been removed was particularly rare.

Sophie, who works for the Sustrans charity in Dunstable, said: “I feel fine now. I still have to go for regular MRIs but I was saved from paralysis and you can even die as the growth restricts the nerves.”

It took two months working in her spare time for Sophie to get to the stage where she could spend a day completing her painting at the hospital to raise funds.

She said: “The oil painting is abstract and represents the way I felt when diagnosed and how it can be shattering, yet at the same time I was relieved it wasn’t all in my mind. The hospital made me feel confident that I would pull through. I am hoping it is something other patients can relate to.”

Sophie is determined to make a career of her art. She said: “I want to be a professional artist and I try and paint things that connect with everyone. I want to create projects seen by the public and art that can help in the community.”

The painting she has completed for the hospital is called ‘It’s Not Brain Surgery (Mind-Blown)’. As well as running some arts projects for Sustrans, Sophie has had exhibitions in China where she had an artist residency, the OXO Barge House in Southbank, Brick Lane, Chelsea Town Hall, Silverstone and Northampton.

She said: “If it wasn’t for the hospital I might not have been able to pursue my artistic dreams. I plan to do a series of these paint-a-thon paintings for as long as the hospital wants me to.”

The £500 she has raised through the first painting will go towards the hospital’s National Brain Appeal which raises money to treat people with everything from migraines to brain tumours.

Sophie said: “Please donate as generously as you can to the National Brain Appeal because let’s be honest, most people rely quite heavily on that spongy mass of neurons we call a brain!”

For more details of Sophie’s work and the appeal visit her website.