​​​​​A painting of an elephant
A painting of an elephant and offspring was Brenda Sears-Anderson’s first try after a break from painting for 20 years. (Photo: Brenda Sears-Anderson)​

Brenda Sears-Anderson had a 20-year secret that even her husband didn't know. About four years ago, it slipped out at a wedding she attended in an art gallery in the Distillery District.

Brenda, business operations manager in SIMS, looked around at the paintings and thought, "I miss painting. I need to see if I can do this again."

So after her long break from taking classes in painting, photography and video during her teens, she marched into Curry's, the well-known art store, and told the clerk, "I confess. I have not painted for 20 years, and I want to start again. Can you help me with my supplies?"

As Brenda recalls that moment, it was scary. "It's a risk. You think, 'What if I'm not good enough?' But at the same time, there's such a longing to get started again."

And she did.

An animal lover with insight into the close family bonds of elephants, she began with a mother and offspring elephant painting. It took her six weekends.

"On one weekend, I didn't even get out of my pyjamas," she laughs, adding that the textured trunk was especially difficult, and took her four tries.

The slideshow features the works of TGH staff and volunteers on display in the DeGasperis Conservatory March 30. (Slideshow: UHN)

This powerful work is one of 72 pieces, by 30 Toronto General Hospital (TGH) staff and volunteers, that were put on display in the DeGasperis Conservatory for a one-day showing on March 30.

The brainwave of Scott McIntaggart, Executive Lead at TGH and Senior Vice-President at UHN, the one-day event was meant to inspire staff and volunteers, showing how they maintain their resilience in a creative way.

"We have many talented people at TGH and UHN. I wanted everyone to share in the works and artistry of our staff, and to perhaps think about doing something similar themselves," he says. "We were delighted that so many people decided to display their creations."

Dr. Irving Salit, Medical Director of the HIV clinic, is another highly skilled amateur with an artistic eye. His photos of birds caught in mid-flight, and foreign lands hang in the HIV clinic as "ice breakers" for staff and patients.

He chose a few of his favourites for the TGH showing, including one of an ibex – a wild goat - peeking warily from behind tall grasses.

Dr. Salit, who also performs magic tricks and is known as "The Great Salitini" remarks that "pictures are a kind of magic, because they can stop people in their tracks, and hold them spellbound."

Skye Nicolson, a nurse in the Emergency Department, submitted four fine art landscape photos. "I just play around with my point and shoot camera," she says, shyly. "As a former dancer, I'm drawn to movement, light, shapes and whimsy."

Her photos are vibrant, dramatic landscapes of parks in Toronto and B.C. and a view of Peggys Cove in Nova Scotia, so vivid you can feel the ocean spray.

"I try and look for a hidden world in all my photos," Skye says.

Dr. Richard Cooper, anesthesiologist at TGH, contributed two abstract sculptures in Egyptian limestone and Carrara marble to his first-ever public show.

Working primarily in marble or alabaster, he usually sculpts in the summer in a separate studio, where he has lots of space and can use his power tools without disturbing the neighbours.

"I appreciate the physicality, the opportunity to create something that does justice to the beauty of the stone," he says. "I like to try and find a form that is harmonious and looks like something you would want to caress."

When asked if the audience could touch his sculptures, he smiles and says, "I hope so. But I hope they have clean hands!"​

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