This painting started an odyssey of many years painting medically themed portraits for Artist Avril Thomas.
Backstory – by Avril Thomas
A show came up in Sydney through Portrait Artists Australia to help raise awareness for organ donation. All artists in this particular group had works in Major Institutions and galleries in Australia. Each artist who participated, was given through the Red Cross a subject who needed an organ donation. We as artists were to tell their story within the rectangle.
My fellow needed double lung transplant. When he and his wife visited my studio, he was on oxygen. His colour was not good (I adjusted his skin colour for the painting at his request and removed nasal specs) – he was clearly struggling!!! One day to the next was a complete battle, he had been waiting a long time. He was determined to tell the plight for people in this situation!
Lung transplants were not done in South Australia then (don’t know if they are now – science/ technology/ availability changes so quickly). He had been travel-ready to go interstate to Victoria, waiting (18 months) for that call, to hear a suitable donors’ lungs were available.
At the time I was working in a theatre myself part time (I had been a nurse but for me art was taking over) …. The staff I worked with understood what I was trying to say with this painting and were happy to participate as models. Here they were about to start a case, all they needed was the patient……The same at the other hospital which performs the much-needed surgery my fellow needed – the staff have the expertise and capability… ALL that’s needed is the organ to proceed!!
This painting is about the long and arduous wait someone in this position has… Serendipitously when taking photographs in the theatre on that day, at that VERY moment, the light caught the lens, and a rainbow appeared…over the theatre table. Can you imagine? It would seem a twee inclusion but the pot of gold with NO doubt was to have that badly needed organ donor! Pot of Gold alright – A chance of life!!!! People wait beyond hope!
I’ve found, making a painted portrait which tells the story of the subject, using imagination – it’s very much a collaborative venture. It’s a story we both share. The subject and the artist always form a very VERY special and particular bond!
Some months later. It was late one night, his wife called to tell me he had just had his operation. He wasn’t even awake after anaesthetic. Can you imagine how she was feeling? Alone in another state, not really knowing what the outcome would be for her husband? She told me I was the first person she rang…. Can you imagine? ….. Months later there was a knock at my door. (He had to wait to heal and be flight ready to come home to South Australia) And THERE standing at my door was the man himself!!! Robust and healthy! Completely, completely transformed!!! I hardly recognized him. What a joyous moment it was to see him this way!
His life was restored, but like all recipients of organs there is always the threat of rejection. These new lungs in his case gave him 6 years of life, he wouldn’t have had, had he not received them!
It was a very sad day when I learnt he had succumbed to an infection 6 yrs on.
This painting was placed next to his coffin at his funeral I was a guest at his funeral. Yes, portrait artists form a particular bond with the people they paint!
Consider becoming a donor – register!
Donation is the giving of an organ and tissue to help someone that needs a transplant. Transplants can save or transform the life of a person. One organ and tissue donor can help transform the lives of more than 10 people. This relies on donors and their families agreeing to donate their organ and tissue after death.
Register to become an organ donor and make sure to tell your family – this is your wish!!!
On this day 26/6/2021 1,600 people in Australia are on the list waiting, hoping, beyond hope to get that lifesaving organ. Not all succumb so soon after a donation, many live on to enjoy life as others do. THIS is the ultimate gift! The gift of life for others after you are gone. This is the most thoughtful and selfless gift anyone can give – a chance for someone else to enjoy life.
Since this painting Avril Thomas painted or drew well over 100 works showing Doctors, Surgeons and nurses at work.
Artist Social media and Websites
Avril Thomas website
Avril Thomas Art Gallery at Magpie Springs
Magpie Springs Gallery and Cellar door on Facebook
Images inspired by Magpie Springs – photography by Avril Thomas – prints available online