EXCLUSIVE: A sit down with Lynne Hollingsworth on the topic of hospital murals for patient wellbeing

By Lina Kurdi | Published: 30-May-2024

Building Better Healthcare speaks to contemporary artist, Lynne Hollingsworth, who is on a mission to make hospital settings less clinical with nature-inspired murals

Lynne Hollingsworth is a contemporary artist who has been designing and painting murals for over 20 years. Her murals can be found in businesses, schools, homes, and hospitals. 

"My personal mission has been to transform healthcare settings and make them feel less clinical," Lynne Hollingsworth said.

A personal touch 

Hollingsworth was initially inspired to create murals for hospitals when she saw firsthand the impact art had on patients when she volunteered in a hospital as an art therapist alongside her BA Fine Art degree.

Since then Hollingsworth has gone on to create murals in spaces such as waiting areas, treatment rooms, clinical treatment rooms, corridors, and wards in numerous NHS hospitals such as Samuel Johnson Community Hospital, University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire, Florence Nightingale Community Hospital, Nottingham City Hospital, and Sheffield Hospital to name a few. 

My design work has a strong sense of ‘bringing the outdoors in’

"I have had the pleasure and privilege of working with some amazing departments in so many healthcare settings. Choosing one would be like choosing a favourite child!" Hollingsworth said.

However, Hollingsworth has a special affinity towards oncology wards. In 2010, Hollingsworth nursed her father through his final stages of cancer. 

"He was just too poorly at the end to be moved from his Oncology Centre to a hospice. My dad was always a great supporter of my art career, in fact, he was my biggest fan!" Hollingsworth said. 

It was something that Hollingsworth's father said to her during his final days that made her feel inspired to make hospitals feel less clinical using themes of nature in the murals she creates.   

"He told me that I must do more work in hospitals. He said I need to work my magic and make them feel less clinical. He told me of the all the things he would like to see ‘inside’ because he was unable to get ‘outside’. I have been working on this mission ever since," Hollingsworth explained.  

Signature style 

The nature theme in Hollingsworth’s murals is also inspired by her upbringing in a small farm in Black Mountains, Wales, and Golden Valley in Herefordshire. She creates images and motifs and uses colours that lean into biophilic design. In particular, Hollingsworth features plants and florals native to the UK, "which makes the design more relative and relatable," she said.

"My design work has a strong sense of ‘bringing the outdoors in’. Many hospitals have areas that have no windows, such as long corridors and clinical rooms and it is important for me to re-connect patients, staff and visitors to the outside world especially the beauty of our wonderful nature," Hollingsworth explained. 

"Nature makes us feel better, and it’s widely known it enhances our sense of wellbeing. Images of nature in soothing colour palettes have been linked to reducing levels of pain, reducing blood pressure and calming patient anxiety," Hollingsworth added.

Research has shown that mural art can ease anxiety, stress and depression for both patients and care staff

"I want my mural enhancements to feel like we are a step closer to being at one with nature," Hollingsworth continued.

As well as aiming to evoke feelings of "being at one with nature," with her murals, Hollingsworth aims to create a sense of calmness and reassurance with the nature themes in her murals. 

Research has shown that mural art can ease anxiety, stress and depression for both patients and care staff. It also increases care staff morale and can improve communication between patients and carers.

Murals: paintings with purpose 

Hollingsworth also thinks about the practical side of murals when planning a project.  

"Murals are so much more than just pictures. I create murals and artwork that improves the way spaces look, feel, and work."

Hollingsworth also uses designs to camouflage unsightly objects, such as pipes or ducts. Murals can also make rooms or corridors appear open and spacious. But, above all, for Hollingsworth murals can “soften a harsh or clinical environment,” she said.

Hollingsworth has created interactive murals that medical professionals use to observe patients

"My designs give a sense of place, creating thematic landmarks that creatively define the parameters of a space. They are perfect for wayfinding which is so important in a hospital," Hollingsworth added.

Also, Hollingsworth has created interactive murals that medical professionals use to observe patients. 

"In children’s hospitals, murals have been used as a tool to get children to move in a certain way so they can be observed medically. For example, ‘Can you curl up like the fox?’, ‘Can you reach up to touch the butterfly?’, 'Can you walk to the tree?’.  It doesn’t just end with the mural I also create colouring in sheets, word searches, information sheets that match the mural," Hollingsworth explained.  

Tools and techniques 

The tools and techniques used to create the murals are important for the longevity of the murals as well as the interactive elements of the murals.

Hollingsworth uses a specialist acrylic-based paint with no odour to hand paint murals and all the murals Hollingsworth creates have a durable and wipe-clean surface especially important for the interactive element of the murals. 

Further, all the murals Hollingsworth creates can be coated with a high-performance anti-bacterial and anti-fungal varnish to ensure hygiene and durability. 

Hollingsworth also digitally creates bespoke artwork which can be printed as large-scale vinyls.

Hollingsworth uses a specialist acrylic-based paint with no odour

"I like to say I’m both analogue and digital which is a rarity in these modern times! Any image, I can paint it!" Hollingsworth said.

In addition, the art techniques Hollingsworth uses are very mindful of people with visual impairment.

"My father was registered blind with some peripheral vision so I have always worked on a large scale as I wanted him to engage with my work. My work today is very much mindful of those with visual impairment," she said.

However, a lot of formalities occur before Hollingsworth can actually start a project.

"I do a lot of planning and paperwork dealing with detailed risk assessments and product datasheets. Everything is planned well in advance and I work with everyone on the healthcare team to ensure the smooth running of every aspect of the project. Health and safety and confidentially is paramount in all that I do," Hollingsworth explained. 

During the planning process, Hollingsworth also considers “future proofing her designs” as the ward she is working in at a later date may want to introduce this design concept in other areas of the department.  

"I always design my enhancement projects with future proofing in mind. I create my designs with this in mind so I can extend the designs so there will be a sense of continuity throughout the department," she said. 

The latest project 

Hollingsworth currently has several mural projects on the go, one of them being creating murals for Ward 303, the oncology department in Derby Royal Hospital, part of University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust.

The planning and design development for this mural enhancement project started in Autumn 2023 and Hollingsworth started painting on-site in January 2024. 

Hollingsworth is currently working on seven canvases that match the murals that will go into the patient waiting room, visitor overnight room, and smaller corridors off the main corridor.

So far, Hollingsworth has painted a mural behind the reception and murals throughout the main corridors, which flow around corners.

Hollingsworth has used subtle and soothing shades which have been thoughtfully selected from the colour spectrum. 

The art techniques Hollingsworth uses are very mindful of people with visual impairment

"These colours will ensure the space conveys a real sense of support and safety. It is crucial to promote a feeling of calm, as well as tying into the existing colour palette of fittings, flooring, and furniture," Hollingsworth explained. 

"I wanted to evoke a sense of well-being, as holistic healthcare is much more than meeting medical needs," Hollingsworth continued.

This project will be finished in May when all the canvases and the large welcome wall vinyl have been installed.

"It’s going to look so tranquil and calming when it all comes together," Hollingsworth said.

Overall, Lynne Hollingsworth is on a mission to make hospitals look less clinical one mural at a time.  

EXCLUSIVE: A sit down with Lynne Hollingsworth on the topic of hospital murals for patient wellbeing

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