A fourth year Painting – BA (Hons) student was commissioned to paint a mural in the Garden Room of Tippethill Hospital during the summer of 2016. Tess Glen was selected after Debbie Robertson and Sheila Neilson, both Staff Nurses at Tippethill, approached Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) in search of a student to create the unique artwork.

Prof Karen Forbes, a Professor of Art at ECA, helped to organise the proposal process, and invited some of the hospital staff to visit the college and make their selection based on the student pitches. The brief was to produce something that would brighten up the ward, and create a homely environment for the patients there.

Across a six-week period, Tess travelled back and forth to the ward in Armadale to complete the mural. With the location of the room being next to the garden, Tess decided to bring the horticultural theme indoors.

“It’s a garden scene with lots of different close-ups of different flowers, and the names of the flowers next to them,” said Tess, “Originally, I was thinking about doing something to do with memory – that was definitely a theme, but then it seemed like the best thing to do would be something quite simple, and to make the room into a more cheerful environment.”

“I approached it by being not too specific to begin with, until I got to the ward and started mapping out where I could put things,” said Tess, “I didn’t really have a final vision of what it was going to look like until I finished it – it just grew quite naturally.”

Carolanne Shaw, the Charge Nurse on the Rosebery Wing at Tippethill Hospital, visited ECA and helped to choose Tess’ work. “For us, it was about creating something more homely, with less of a hospital feel. And it’s also created something the patients can talk about,” said Carol-Ann, “I like the fact that the names of the flowers are there, so they can have a discussion about that. It’s something they can look at that’s just a bit more interesting than blank walls or a TV.”

The team at Tippethill are considering opening up similar projects to students at ECA, “We’ve just recently had a café area built for patients and visitors, away from the ward. It’s a place where people can make a cup of tea or coffee and have a blether,” said Carol-Ann, “at the minute we’ve just got a few pictures, so it’d be nice to have something else that makes that area more interesting.”

ECA students regularly produce work for external projects as part of their studies.

“This is probably the biggest external project that I’ve done – it’s a very different environment. As an art student, it could become easy to get caught in the bubble of being in your studio in the College,” said Tess, “Whereas this was quite different, because I was using practical skills, and for a very real environment. It was about making something that responds to what the nurses wanted, and what the patients might want – all of these different variables that I might not have to think about in other work.”