‘Outwitting Cancer’ Exhibition at the Francis Crick Institute, closes Dec 3rd!

‘Outwitting Cancer’ is a fantastic exhibition at the Francis Crick Institute, about the amazing work scientists at the Crick are doing to understand cancer and find new treatments, to “decode cancer – recode the future”.

Open since Sep 2021, ‘Outwitting Cancer’ has been extended until Dec 3rd 2022 to allow more visitors to see this important exhibition.

The exhibition is open from Wednesday to Saturday 10am to 4pm (10am to 8pm on Wednesdays) and there’s no need to book.


Copyright image Fiona Hanson 2021©.

I was thrilled to be asked by the Crick to draw Liam, a patient whose CAR T-cell treatment is featured in the exhibition, for part of the display. The drawing was made in 2020 via video call, which was recorded and I also made a time lapse film of the drawing.

Copyright image Fiona Hanson 2021©.

Thank you very much to Liam for posing and thank you to the Crick for inviting me to contribute, in a small way, to this brilliant exhibition!


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UCLH Staff Drawings Update and Exhibition News!


Over the last few months I’ve really enjoyed making portraits of members of staff at UCLH. As described in my previous blog post, I’ve been drawing the hospital staff via video call, offering a chance to have a portrait made whilst having a chat and a sit down during this busy Covid-19 period. It’s part of the Arts & Heritage team’s Creative Comfort initiative to support staff wellbeing and it’s been a pleasure to be part of a team of creatives offering their skills in support of the staff.

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The project was promoted using posters, social media and with help from UCLH Comms. Staff at the hospital requested a portrait sitting or nominated colleagues for a portrait and it’s been great fun to chat with people from across the organisation whilst making their drawings!



Because of Covid-19 staff are working from home where possible and some of the drawings reflected that with family members in school uniform doing homework and staff wearing headsets for video consultations or team meetings.

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From the models perspective: My messy studio and increasingly long lockdown hair!


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The Wellcome Trust was providing space in their beautiful building for a staff respite area, with hot food and drinks and some quiet spaces. UCLH Staff Psychology and Welfare teams were on hand to provide support and Arts & Heritage distributed the colouring sheets and activities from Creative Comfort for staff to access during breaks. For the portrait project we arranged a quiet room to pose and a video link via laptop to my studio so staff could pose whilst visiting the respite area. For a few consecutive Thursdays there was a live video feed and only the occasional person to draw so here’s a self portrait I made from the screen whilst on duty.

On a couple of occasions I startled people who’d entered the room unaware of the project and thought I was a video playing until I said hello!


I was also able to display a small but growing number of the portraits, giving a chance for staff to see the drawings. Thank you to Ruth the manager of the staff respite area and to Wellcome for letting me take up a little wall space.

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Thanks to Gerwyn Jones for printing the drawings for the Wellcome display.

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As mentioned in the title, I have exhibition news with a selection of the staff drawings going on display today at the hospital’s Street Art Gallery! The exhibition is on until 2nd September but unfortunately only patients with an appointment and UCLH staff are able to enter the hospital at the moment.

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I would have loved to invite everyone to visit and enjoy a glass of medium quality red wine whilst viewing the drawings but it’s not possible for this show. I will film a short video walk-through of the exhibition though and when I think of it, it’s quite fitting that this exhibition should be private to the staff and patients.


Also a poignant note for me is that some of the paper used for these drawings was given to me by one of the patients I drew at the Cancer Centre some years ago. I think that Doreen would approve of me using it to draw the staff.

A very big thank you to everyone who has posed so far and the project is ongoing. If you are a member of staff at UCLH and would like to have your portrait made or nominate a colleague for a sitting please contact me at simon.tolhurst@nhs.net

Thank you very much to Guy Noble and Laura Bradshaw at UCLH Arts & Heritage team.

One last and most important thank you to all the staff at UCLH and the wider NHS for everything you do, you are amazing!

Stay safe everyone.

#LoveNHS #OneTeam

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UCLH Staff Portraits by Video Call!


Cancer Data Dive, Product Forge, Edinburgh 2017

Creative Comfort…

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In order to further support staff wellbeing at UCLH during this extremely difficult time, the Arts & Heritage team have brought together artists working at UCLH to offer creative ways to de-stress. Creative Comfort is an online resource of colouring sheets and instructional sessions or videos on creative activities like origami!

My portrait project for Haematology Cancer Care, making portraits of patients and their families in the Daycare unit of the Cancer Centre, is not running during the current Covid-19 situation to reduce the number of non clinical people (like me) entering the building.

I always work from life rather than using photos so drawing people is difficult during this period of social distancing and self isolation. These days though we all have a webcam on our laptop or a camera on our phones and we’re all learning to use video calling as a way to keep in touch with our loved ones at the moment. I’ve made drawings using video calling in the past and I think it’s an interesting mix of using a camera and drawing from life. (https://wordpress.com/post/simontolhurst.wordpress.com/1201)

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Guy and Laura from UCLH Arts & Heritage suggested using video calling as a way to draw members of staff at the hospital who might like to have their portrait made and I think it’s a great idea! I’m really pleased to be able to offer my support and I’m hoping to make a whole new set of portraits of the amazing staff at UCLH. Drawings will take 30 mins and I’ll make prints for participants after the lockdown ends. We hope that it might be a nice way to enjoy a quiet moment during this extremely stressful time for everyone working at the hospital.

To arrange a portrait sitting, please contact Laura: laura.bradshaw7@nhs.net

CreativeComfort MyUCLH  CC Portrait Project

I’ve also contributed a design for the colouring sheets that Creative Comfort have produced. The colouring sheets are available for staff to download from the intranet (or direct from Laura) and they’ve also been printed and left in staff respite areas together with some colouring pencils!

Here are a few of the designs for colouring sheets by Creative Comfort:


My design of aerial acrobats is adapted from one I made a couple of years ago for a patient at the Cancer Centre, which went on to be a journal cover for a gift.

Well done to all the artists involved and I hope the staff enjoy all the creative activities on offer!

Here’s my colouring sheet, the original design and the journal it was created for:

Aerial Acrobats colouring sheet final   Aerial Acrobats 2018 Aerial Acrobats Design on Journal


Thank you very much to Guy and Laura at UCLH Arts & Heritage for including me.

And a huge thank you to all the staff at UCLH (and the wider NHS) for everything you do, especially at this difficult time!

#CreativeComfort #OneTeam #NHSheroes


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Last Chance to See and New Work on Show.


It seems like a long while ago now since the busy, bustling private view of The Ruth Borchard Self Portrait Painting Prize at Piano Nobile Gallery in Kings Place, Kings Cross. The exhibition opened on May 23rd and there’s now less than a month to the exhibition’s last day on Friday 11th October.

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I’m really pleased to have been selected for this exhibition and the venue is fantastic, it’s well worth checking out before the closing date.


Do say: “What a lively selection of different approaches, techniques and media by the variety of artists in the exhibition”.

Don’t say: “I prefer the Green & Fortune sign next to your painting Simon!”

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As The Ruth Borchard draws to a close, I’m delighted to say that there are a couple of other pieces that I have available to view in a public setting. First up is a drawing from the Portrait Project at the UCLH Cancer Centre. The drawing of Katie, Alex and Jay is part of the latest exhibition at the University College Hospital Street Art Gallery.

The gallery is in the main hospital building at 235 Euston Road and is part of the staff art exhibition. It’s the first time I’ve exhibited one of the original drawings from the project and I hope to have news soon of a more comprehensive display of some of the 300+ drawings that I’ve made whilst visiting the Chemotherapy Daycare Unit at the Cancer Centre to make portraits of patients with their families and friends. The staff art exhibition is open until the 6th November.


ALIM Screenshot

Lastly, I also have a piece in the charity exhibition A Letter in Mind, a selection of donated works in support of the National Brain Appeal, where all the artworks are completed on envelopes and exhibited anonymously with buyers only finding out the identity of the artist at the end of the exhibition. The exhibition includes works by Olaf Eliafson, David Shrigley, Mark Dion, Chantal Joffe, Ishbel Myerscough, Mark Entwistle, Morag Myerscough, Luke Morgan, Polly Dunbar, Tom Hammick, Adebanji Alade, Laurie Chetwood, Andrew Grant, Amin Taha, Harry Pye, Gill Rocca, Rob Reed and Kate Sherman. Stephen Campbell Moore, Sophie Thompson, Terry Hall, James Johnson, Kevin Eldon, James Fleet and Jo Brand also have their creative talents on display. There are over 420 works in the show and it opens at The OXO Tower Gallery in just a few day’s time on the 26th September. All the works are priced at £85 which is an incredibly low price for some of the artists listed above and all of the proceeds go to the National Brain Appeal which raises funds to advance treatment and research at The National Hospital for Neurology & Neurosurgery and the UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology.

I can’t post an image of my piece until after the show but here is my drawing of Annamari from last year’s exhibition:

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Online Gallery

I hope you enjoy the exhibitions if you visit and thanks as always for reading my blog!


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Ruth Borchard Self Portrait Prize Exhibition 2019

I’m delighted to say that my recent self portrait is one of the paintings in the Biennial Ruth Borchard Self Portrait Exhibition 2019 at Piano Nobile Gallery, Kings Place. The exhibition opens tomorrow (Friday 24th May) and runs until the end of September.


The history of the exhibition is really interesting. Ruth Borchard was a writer who collected self portraits by British and Irish artists. https://ruthborchard.org.uk/about/

She decided to collect self portraits because they were the closest thing to autobiography in visual art and she created a collection of 100 pictures by some very notable names. The prize was started in 2011 and is a biennial open exhibition for self portraits.

You can see the work in the exhibition via the online catalogue and there are some great pieces in the show so I’m doubly pleased that my painting has been included!


The exhibition is at Piano Nobile Gallery, Kings Place, 90 York Way, Kings Cross, London N1 9AG

One last thing that I found when reading up about Ruth Borchard was this short film which is a charming and fascinating insight to how Ruth built her collection as told by her daughter Katherine Halgarten.

Thank you very much to the organisers and congratulations to all the artists!


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The Naked Truth and Back to the Drawing Board


My week is a Venn diagram. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are spent working for Haematology Cancer Care, the charity at UCLH which supports the haematology unit’s patients and staff. On Thursdays I return to my creative work and draw as part of the portrait artist project that was my first involvement with HCC and ultimately led to the role I now do for the charity as a Fundraising Officer.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday are my days to be in the studio, hopefully paintbrush or pencil in hand. This routine is markedly different from the one I had for more than twenty years where I had all my day time to paint and spent my evenings keeping the wolf from the door by working at ULU. Getting used to this new creative rhythm whilst also adapting to and learning a new role has been challenging, leading to a studio with several paintings started but still in an unfinished state and this rather overdue blog entry, even by my standards!

Drawing however has offered a chance to keep my eye and hand coordinated, create images in one sitting and to provide an antidote to work and life stress, of which there’s plenty going around. Having taught life drawing, I’m reminded of the advice I’ve given my students in the past. Drawing regularly is a way to keep producing work whilst keeping at bay the sometimes overwhelming demands of life.

Here then are some of my recent life drawings and as this page title suggests, that means nudes so please don’t go further if you might be offended. As for my relatively recently acquired symmetrical week, that’s now also under threat of changes not dissimilar to those I experienced at ULU. Maybe the naked truth is that good things don’t always last and I’d better get back to the drawing board.






Thanks for reading.

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Recent Drawings and News! (Of the BBC Variety).

Earlier this month the BBC News website published a short piece on the Portrait Artist in Residence project for Haematology Cancer Care Charity at UCLH. The BBC had visited the Cancer Centre a few weeks before to film for a 6 O’ Clock News item in the Daycare area and the producer had seen the displays of the drawings from the project. After some time to arrange the details the BBC very kindly came back to the hospital to make a time-lapse film whilst I drew one of the patients.



BBC News

Screen shot from bbc.co.uk/news/health

My model for this drawing, Lucy, had been asked in advance of the filming day if she would mind taking part by posing and being interviewed for the film. I’m extremely grateful to her for accepting, thank you Lucy!


I’ve also been very grateful for the many lovely messages that I’ve received since the film appeared online, thank you so much to everyone doing so! It’s very encouraging to receive so many kind and positive comments in response to the film which has had an amazing reach through the BBC News page and their Lifestyle and Health Facebook page.



Making the drawing itself was a little bit different to usual due to the requirements of making a time-lapse film. The drawing had to be fixed on a flat surface so that there was no movement which would cause problems for the filming. Usually I have the drawing at an angle and it was a little inhibiting for the normal movements of my hand and wrist whilst drawing. Plus there was a sizeable camera poking over my shoulder and the oddness of wearing a radio mic but Lucy was a brilliant model and Sarah and Ed from the BBC were very helpful and great to work with.

Thank you very much to the BBC for making the film, to UCLH and the Comm’s team for organising everything and of course to Lucy again for posing! Thank you as always to Sara and Steve at Haematology Cancer Care for organising the Portrait Artist project.



Despite answering lots of messages I have found time to do some more drawings since my last post, here are some of them:


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Thank you to everyone posing for me recently!

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A Quick Update and Major Life Changes


I thought I’d give a quick update to my rather overdue blog, quite a lot has happened since my last post and although I’ve been posting new work on Facebook and Twitter, my WordPress has been slightly neglected. For those not wanting to wait more than a year for an update here are the links to my other pages:

facebook logo 4      https://www.facebook.com/Simon-Tolhurst-16537193567/

images    https://www.twitter.com/simontolhurst


University of London Still Life 2016 Oil on Canvas

In the Summer last year, my long term employment with the University of London came to an end. I started working at ULU (University of London Union) in 1991 shortly after finishing college and over the years it’s been a great place for me to work, allowing me to develop my artists’ practice, gain teaching experience and even exhibit my artwork (the building still has three large scale pieces of my work on the walls, installed in 2005). I also got to see some of my favourite bands play and I got to work with several people who’ve gone on to do big things like Will Champion of Coldplay fame and Ricky Gervais of.. well.. Ricky Gervais fame!

I’ve made some great friends and several of them have been wonderful models too. Thank you to everyone I worked with at ULU over the years, especially the student staff, you were always terrific.

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When the University told the staff at ULU last summer that we were to be outsourced to another company I decided to move on and I’m delighted to have joined Haematology Cancer Care at UCLH as their Fundraising and Engagement Officer since January of this year.


It’s a brilliant charity, doing some really great projects to support the patients, their families and the Haematology Unit, check out HCC’s Twitter and Facebook here:

https://www.twitter.com/HCC_UCLH and https://www.facebook.com/HaematologyCancerCare/

My role is part time which should (once I’ve got the hang of things completely) give me time to continue my creative output and it also allows me to continue with the Portrait Artist in Residence project at UCLH. Instigated by Steve Roper (artist and arts organiser) and Sara Goldman (Head of Fundraising at HCC), I’ve been visiting the hospital on a weekly basis to make portraits of the patients. The project is free and all participants get signed prints of their drawing and I’m hoping to exhibit the originals. I’ve got too many drawings since my last post to add them all here but below are some of the recent ones:

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Thank you very much to everyone who has posed for me recently!

Lastly, here are some other images since my last post:

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Male-nude-32 Female-nudes-14 Male-nude-35



Thank you for visiting my blog!

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A Short Film by Katie Taylor and my Goldfish on YouTube!


Earlier this year I was asked if I would mind being filmed for a short documentary film by Katie Taylor, who is studying Film, Television and Digital Production at Royal Holloway, University of London. Katie needed a subject for her documentary project and as well as being helpful, I was interested to see what the resulting film would look like. We set a date and Katie asked her friend Emily Davidson-Brett, who is studying Fine Art in Bristol, to be the model for a portrait drawing.

Emily travelled from Bristol on the day to pose for the drawing whilst Katie filmed and the finished film (including my goldfish, Gauguin, in the opening shots) is now on YouTube!

The drawing took just under two hours with a break in the middle and Emily was a fantastic model, thank you so much to her for coming to pose!

The music in the film is by The Bays, who are an amazing music act who don’t record or release albums and singles instead they perform live, with the motto “Performance is the Product”, often with guest musicians and collaborators. I’ve seen them many times and every time is different but brilliant, if they’re playing near you any time soon you should really check them out.




Thank you very much to Katie for asking me to be her subject and congratulations for the finished piece. I think it captures what it’s like to come and pose in my workspace really well, other people who’ve modelled for me here will be reminded I’m sure, of hours spent sitting!

Thanks again to Emily for posing and the best of luck to both Katie and Emily in their future studies and projects. Thank you also to The Bays!


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An Overdue Blog Post with lots of Pictures!



It’s becoming customary for me to start each blog post with “it’s been a while since I posted” and this time is no exception! So here’s a quick summary of what I’ve been up to with pencil and paintbrush since my last post.

Firstly it’s now been three years of making portraits at the UCH Macmillan Cancer Centre on behalf of the Haematology Cancer Care UCLH charity. Since August 2013 I’ve made more than 200 drawings of patients, their family and friends, as well as some of the staff and volunteers at the hospital and the HCC charity. Here are some of the latest:

Recently finished paintings include:

Thank you very much to Yoni for posing for her portrait!

The watercolours have also made an appearance again for some student portraits:

And it’s been such a long time since I properly updated my blog that I hadn’t posted these images from last September’s Camden and Islington NHS Family Fun Day at St.Pancras Gardens. I was there to make portraits of visitors and managed to make 13 drawings during the 5 hours of the event. Thank you very much to Daniela for the photo’s!

Finally (and well done/thank you if you’ve made it this far!) here are some of the other images from the past few months since I last updated the page.

Thank you so much as always to everyone posing! I really appreciate it.

As a last image, here’s a pencil drawing of Cracken Edge in Derbyshire, drawn last year on one of my visits home to see my family. I’d really like to take my oil paints up there and spend some time painting this view but life, London and unwanted developments with my job at the University of London have all conspired to thwart my hopes of a painting holiday at Mum’s…

When I eventually get there it will be raining!


Posted in Drawing, Life Drawings, Painting, Portrait drawings, Portrait Paintings, Still Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment