The white walls of Sheffield Children’s Hospital have undergone a lively takeover of weird and wonderful creatures designed by the patients and illustrated by artists Mark Oliver and Mark Long to create a giant hide-and-seek game.
The Children’s Hospital Charity arts programme Artfelt commissioned the duo, namely Pencil and Help, to lead a workshop bringing the children’s ideas to life, brightening the experience of thousands of visitors.
Children can engage in creative Artfelt workshops, funded by the charity, before difficult moments such as entering surgery.
Pencil and Help came up with the idea of creating a hide-and-seek game that develops as you walk throughout the department.
"You come into the lobby area where [red wheelchair character] Wheeler is there counting down, and all the other characters are running off and hiding. The idea is that kids can go on a different routes to find the characters, with some being repeated to ensure that they have a good chance of spotting them all," says manager of Artfelt Cat Powell.
The bold and bright characters peek out from alcoves, and occupy the space around corners and walls of the hospital.
Mark Oliver, an illustrator, comic book artist and printmaker whose works appears in magazine and newspapers, says it was difficult to create coherent artwork that flowed throughout the building, which is fragmented by medical equipment.
"We decided to work with these circumstances so that the artwork could interact with the building itself, creating a narrative where characters are hiding in the various alcoves and garments of space," he says.
Pencil and Help was founded by the visual arts duo in 2013 as an expanding arts education practise. They have worked in school and community settings in the fields or art, design and illustration. Previous projects include workshops at the V&A and creating a map and trail guide to the Olympic Park with children aged 10 to 12 years old.
Not only is the hospital artwork designed to be a giant hide-and-seek game, but the characters are designed by the children themselves, giving them control over their hospital experience and tailoring the space to suit them.
Phoebe, 8, is treated regularly in the department for juvenile arthritis. She created Coloray – a long-legged creature with an extra eye in his stomach.
“We’ve been coming to the children’s hospital every two weeks for six years now and we can be waiting quite a while for an appointment. There’s often not a lot to do, so when the children can get stuck into the arts – it really makes a difference,” says Phoebe’s mother Mandy.
Other creatures include Bacon Eater and Bongy, who can turn invisible whenever she wants.
“Their attitude towards the project was so positive and seeing them work so hard on their character designs, as well as the weird and wonderful characters they created, really inspired us to push this project as far as we could,” says Mark Oliver.
Having illustrations within hospital walls is no new concept – it is proven that integrating art and design into a hospital environment is beneficial to both patients and staff.
It helps to reduce the sterile, clinical look and creates a more interesting and relaxed environment.
In 2012 Artfelt launched the hospital’s first dedicated art gallery along its main corridor. The Long Gallery showcases changing exhibitions from artists such as Tado, who designed the mascot for the Children’s Hospital Charity, Pete McKee, Jonathan Wilkinson and James Green.
Tado and Artfelt collaborated in 2014 to create vinyl decorations on the walls and ceilings of the charity-funded hydrotherapy pool at Ryegate House to sooth patients during therapy.
In 2015 artists from across the country repainted the hearing department’s set of 1970s hearing toys that had become damaged and unfit for purpose.
The Children’s Hospital Charity is towards the end of its Make It Better appeal that began in 2012 to build a new wing at the hospital. The new wing will have art built into the design.
To find out more about how to get involved with Artfelt go to www.tchc.org.uk.