Illustrator coped with son’s illness by sketching

Mark Kirkham's illustrations include one on Gullane beach
Mark Kirkham's illustrations include one on Gullane beach
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THEY paint a moving picture of a family’s struggle to cope with a sick child.

When illustrator Mark Kirkham’s son was diagnosed with the genetic blood-clotting disorder haemophilia he did what he could to cope and ended up documenting his family’s time at the Sick Kids with a series of heart-tugging sketches.

Mark Kirkham's illustration of James asleep in hospital

Mark Kirkham's illustration of James asleep in hospital

The father of two-year-old twins, James and Zoe, spent months at the hospital after his son was diagnosed with the condition.

Now those therapeutic drawings are to form the basis of an exhibition designed to help others going through a similar experience.

“I have always sketched and this was kind of like a diary,” said Mark, 38.

The talented artist said for a while “everything just stopped” for himself and wife Joanne, 33, as they struggled to cope with the fear of dealing with a poorly toddler.

The exterior of the Sick Kids building

The exterior of the Sick Kids building

He started drawing what was happening at the hospital to help deal with what was going on. “I would draw whatever was around me at the time,” he said.

And the variety of drawings on display shows just how far they have come as a family. They range from a poignant sketch of James in his bed on the ward. “I’m sitting by him and he’s sleeping,” says Mark.

Then there’s a more recent one of Joanne and the twins on the beach near their Gullane home.

“He’s doing brilliantly now,” reflects Mark. “He’s a typical little boy. He just wants to climb on everything and run about. We’re always having to keep an eye on him, trying to wrap him up but not keep him from doing things other kids are doing.”

The drawings have been put on display in the ERI’s Pelican Gallery by local art and disability organisation, Artlink. It works with patients and staff to encourage involvement in the arts throughout NHS Lothian. Now Mark hopes his work, on display until January, will help other families.

He added: “I think it will make a difference to other people to see that they are not alone in what they are going through. The pictures show that there are people in the same position.”

Other parents will be able to add to the exhibition, either with drawings or diaries.

Kirsty Williams, gallery and events organiser for Artlink, said they were “immediately struck” by Mark’s sketches and “the way he captures a moment and tells a story”. She said: “The drawings are so simple yet capture and convey the emotion and impact of the experience beautifully. We are interested in how the arts can give a new perspective on experiences and provide new opportunities for understanding. We struck up a conversation about sharing Mark’s story of his son’s treatment and are delighted to present this body of work.”