David Allen is an artist, writer, and supporter of Paintings in Hospitals and creator of our Christmas cards for this year. In this article he shares his perspective on art and health – how they are interrelated, the inspiration behind his designs for this year’s Christmas Cards, and how he hopes to see art used in the future of healthcare.

David Allen is a digital artist who in 2020 won the National AIDS Trust's inaugural 'Be Red Ribbon Inspired Artwork Competition'. This competition invited aspiring artists and designers to enter and have their work judged by Sir Antony Gormley and Sandy Nairne CBE. David's artwork 'Ribbon Town' was chosen as the winning piece and became part of the Paintings in Hospitals collection. This year, David has created two unique designs for Paintings in Hospitals 2023 Christmas cards: 'A Winter's Night' and 'The Stars'. 

Ribbon Town by David Allen. Part of the Paintings in Hospitals Collection.

David is a multidisciplinary artist, and his recent work has transversed into digital art, which has afforded us not only the beautiful imagery he’s created for our Christmas cards but also a back story, which we hope you will find as inspiring as we did.  

We asked David:

What drew you to art in the first place?

It’s a big question; it feels natural and instinctive!  I love to be creative, be it with whichever materials I have at hand - charcoal, crayons, collage or more recently, digital art.   I love drawing from still life but also creating from my imagination, and I see the pictures in my head all the time. 

I love the fact that art is so absorbing. Drawing was hugely important to me during lockdown, and it was also a moment at which I started to explore other creative mediums.  My physical and mental health was very bad at that time, I had become physically ill and was taken in as an emergency case into hospital. This being the time of COVID and many patients such as myself having to be isolated meant I couldn’t have contact with my wife, family, or other loved ones, and I found this hugely traumatic. 

It was after this confinement that I relied upon drawing even more because it was so therapeutic to me, it’s what kept me going. It shifted my brain and shook it all up and since then I try to make time to draw every day.

Also, throughout my life I’ve always illustrated birthday cards for family members, so creating these digital Christmas cards was a fun extension of that.

A Winter's Night (2023) by David Allen. Available to purchase in our Christmas Card pack in our shop.

How did you train?

I’ve had something of a portfolio career. Many years ago, I was training at the University of East Anglia to become a primary school teacher specialising in art. I had a wonderful teacher there and that in turn led to specialist courses on all the creative arts. 

What/who inspires you?

I have travelled often in the past. For example, I’ve cycled across Europe, hitchhiked to North Africa, toured Scandinavia in a beaten-up old car, and circled the globe with a backpack. All of those images are stored away in my memory and often come back to inspire my work.

For example, the greeting cards I’ve recently created 'The Stars’ and ‘A Winter’s Night’ were inspired by the mountains, hills, and beautiful landscapes I’ve seen when travelling.


The Stars (2023) by David Allen. Available to purchase in our Christmas Card pack in our shop.

‘The Stars’ was inspired by a trip to Norway when the night sky was often breathtaking, whereas ‘A Winter’s Night’ was inspired by a cycling trip through the French mountains, when I remember getting lost in a magnificent forest. As the sun was setting, I had to keep cycling to get to the next village before darkness fell. I remember feeling a nagging fear as the forest receded into darkness, only to be uplifted by the stars which made the forest a magical place.

Do you think art has an impact upon wellbeing?

Absolutely, especially when life is challenging. Creating art in whatever medium can be totally absorbing, mesmerising even, and art has often been a distraction and a lifeline to me when I have been unwell with anxiety. 

How important is art in a healthcare environment and/or day-to-day living environment?

Being in a healthcare environment by its nature can be stressful. In a mental heath setting, whether you are there as the patient or to support a loved one, the emotional distress can be either helped or hindered by the colours and architecture of your surroundings. Art in one's environment can be thought provoking, comforting, uplifting and inspiring, which is so important, especially in times of crisis.

Send your season's greetings with David Allen's 'A Winter's Night' and 'The Stars' and support Paintings in Hospitals. Buy your Christmas cards here.

All proceeds from our shop sales go to the charity to ensure that we continue to positively impact the lives of patients, carers, the socially isolated and communities across the country.