The Beautiful Planet project sees Paintings in Hospitals bring artworks from our collection and specially-designed creative activities to 160 care homes across the UK, which we launched on the National Day of Arts in Care Homes, 24th September.

8,800 residents of Four Seasons Health Care and brighterkind homes will now be able to view artworks from the Paintings in Hospitals collection both physically and digitally. Residents will then have the chance to explore the imagery, techniques and inspirations found in the artworks first-hand through a suite of new engagement activities. Using artworks that investigate the themes of Land, Sea and Sky, each activity is expertly designed by Paintings in Hospitals to offer support for participants’ mental and physical health.

One of these artworks is Dappled Sunlight, Provence by Michael Rainsford. Here, Michael reflects on his painting and we offer two activities you can use to engage with the artwork from wherever you’re reading this.

Michael Rainsford, Dappled Sunlight, Provence. Part of the Paintings in Hospitals collection.

Imagine you are on holiday in a beautiful place in the countryside. Everything is new and fresh to your eyes. The sun is shining, you feel uplifted and joyful. You take a photograph to capture the experience. Later, back at home, you look at your photograph. It’s dull and lifeless, not how you remember the place. The ‘facts’ of the place have been recorded, but something is missing. The enchantment has gone. The photograph has not really captured your feelings about the joy or the life of the place. The richness of your experience is not in the photograph.

The realism of a photograph might only be a small part of the experience of being somewhere. A painting has the potential to go much further in recreating the entire emotional experience of being somewhere special.

I painted Dappled Sunlight Provence many years ago when I was beginning to explore these ideas. It was developed from drawing in-situ and colour studies and notes. The final work is watercolour and some wax crayon in the foreground. The initial washes were wet-in-wet and then wet-on-dry.

Michael Rainsford

Sunlight is painted through the shadows it creates. Here, the contrast between the shadowed foreground and the bright sunlight through the trees emulates a sense of sunlight and heat. The dark foreground catapults us forwards, into the middle of the painting, creating spatial depth.

The small brushstrokes, suggesting leaves, give movement and filter the light, reminding us of moments when we have been dappled in light on a hot day while sheltered from the heat under trees.

The painting captures the joy of that moment for me. As my paintings developed from this period, I found myself discovering that it’s more about the light, and that I didn’t need to worry too much about the literal interpretation of the landscape. If I were to paint it again today, it would probably be much more ‘abstract’ in that I would focus more on the colour and shapes, and worry less about whether the houses look like houses, for example. I would focus more on the experience of being in the place rather than on the topography of the place itself.

Engagement Activities

Exercise 1:

Sit still and close your eyes. Focus on your breathing. Follow the in-breath, then follow the out-breath. Allow yourself a few breaths to become calm and empty. Then, very slowly open your eyes. Try to observe, without naming what you see: once you’ve named it, it’s gone. What you see are pieces of light, not trees, not leaves, not the sky or shadows, but light shapes: a mosaic of coloured pieces of light, perhaps what a baby might see before it learns to name things. In the naming of things, we lose sight of them. We separate the pieces from the whole. When we name things, we constrict them, we box them in. Before things are named there is only light.

Michael Rainsford, Dappled Sunlight, Provence. Part of the Paintings in Hospitals collection.

Exercise 2:

Using transparent washes of watercolour, paint a wet mosaic of different colours, wet paint into wet paint. Let the light of the white paper shine through. Pay close attention to the paint: it tends to do its own thing, blend and bleed. Don’t try to control it. Allow the paint its own voice. Enjoy the process of applying the paint and wondering what it will do. Let it dry, and then again with light washes of colour, paint shapes over the initial washes - wet paint on dry paint. As you work, let yourself slip into a deeper creative state. Perhaps you might begin to notice the suggestion of a landscape emerging from the colours. Stop when you think you’ve said enough. Paint for the pleasure of painting. Relish the process of observing what the paint does. Don’t get caught up in judgements about good or bad or what other people might think. Enjoy just painting without worrying about the end result.

When we are calm and paying attention to where we are and what we’re doing, we may begin to experience a greater sense of wellbeing. We enter an inner silence where we are less overwhelmed by thoughts and from where healing can come. Art has a way of bringing us to this place of stillness and creative reverie, bringing us back to our senses, allowing us to rest in the enjoyment of just being.

Find out more about our 'Beautiful Planet project with Four Seasons Health Care and brighterkind here.