The Cleaner

The Cleaner

Please meet Lesley.

Lesley is from as they say “from over the pond” the United Kingdom. Her photo and a little about Lesley was given to me by her sister, Annmarie. In my conversations with Annmarie it is so apparent how proud she is of her sister. 

My sister’s name is Lesley. She was a Cleaner in her local hospital and was assigned to one of the COVID wards. I’ve never forgotten a story she told me about one of the patients. An elderly lady was transferred from another hospital when she’d tested positive for COVID. As no visitors were allowed her family managed to arrange a video call with her before she was put on oxygen. It was the last time they spoke to her as she died that night.


My sister went into work every day even though she was worried about the possibility of passing it onto her husband who is asthmatic. She no longer works at the hospital, but she is still on the front lines working nights in a Care home for the elderly.

When I was sent Lesley’s photo, it really took some time for me to wrap my head around this photo, the story and what I was feeling.  I don’t really know how to put this into words.  It’s even taken me time to work out mentally how I wanted to lay it out and do this painting.  I think I may still be working on it.  What I have done so far and showing you is the second piece, a value study.

My first thought was I needed to focus on her face, her face tells the story of fatigue, you can see it in her eyes. There is sadness too, or maybe I see the sadness because of the story that was included with the photo.  Again, I am creating these paintings based on my feelings and emotions, which pours out into each of the paintings.

Knowing I wanted to show Lesley’s facial expression, and knowing I wanted to have her presence as the full painting, I started my plan on how I’m going to lay this painting out.  And also, I need to work on how to create what she was wearing the day the photo was taken.  So, looking at the photo and her clothing, what is she wearing, face mask, face shield, yes got that?  Scrubs yep, she was working in a hospital cleaning rooms that held COVID patients.  But what is she wearing over her scrubs?  Was she wearing a plastic bag as I’ve hear on TV that so many Front-Line Heroes in the States don’t have the proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  I had to reach out and talk to Lesley’s sister to make sure she was in the proper PPE.  I am so relieved what Lesley was wearing a plastic apron that is the correct PPE protection in the UK.  Even knowing that Lesley was wearing proper PPE, this painting is still a struggle. The information about Lesley and cleaning rooms in a COVID ward and the story of an elderly person’s last time talking with their family before passing haunts me. How the craziness is worldwide.  All the tragedies that are going on throughout the world. So many people that are going through dreadful tragedies and the tragedies’ just keep happening.  I don’t even know how to list so many ghastly events that are and have been happening in our world.   Yes people, the human race, this isn’t limited to one area of the world this is worldwide. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, sickness, fires, anger, fighting, flooding and sadly I could go on.  I know none of these are new tragedies, why are so many happening all at once, all over the world.  Why do so many people have to continue to deal with all of this whether they are the unseen heroes or anyone?  I don’t know how to paint what I’m feeling, I don’t know how to paint the anguish, the sadness.  More so I don’t want to let the emotions out and to see what that will look like on paper as a painting. 

So that brings me back to this painting being so hard to create.  I’m so honored that Lesley’s sister asked me to include Lesley in this series.  To say thank you in some small way.  There are so many people behind the scenes that are continually working to make life better in these crazy times.  The anguish is how many of us think or even realize there are people that have the job of cleaning a room after someone has been hospitalized or even worse has passed.  I can’t fathom how that feels, to go into a room to clean knowing there was an ill individual, whether that is COVID or any illness. I can’t imagine how one feels to be in the middle of all the craziness and to not be truly known or recognized as a Front-Line worker.  I so hope my piece shows how much of a hero they are, Lesley is.  These are the people behind the scenes that continue to make the world function and to keep the world revolving.  These are our unseen Front-Line Heroes.  Thank you so much for your dedication.  

Knowing now that not only do I want to focus on her expression, I need to focus my feelings on such sadness.  How do I add color to this darkness I feel? I started the first go of this painting thinking let’s turn this around, let’s brighten this with color.  That didn’t work out well. The brush had its way and the painting turned muddy and dark.  Which is odd as these are colors, I’ve use so many times are vibrant gorgeous colors. 

Ok, let’s start over!  Next, I’ll do a value study as to where my lights and darks are.  That will help put my mind and heart into a time out. Normally my value studies are small and quick, but this one has taken on a life of its own.  My value study, I think has turned into the painting.  I may still do Lesley in full color, I’m not sure yet. 

What are your thoughts?  Have I captured her essence? Is this enough for an unseen hero?  Have I captured her sadness in the value study of Lesley as The Cleaner?

Please leave me a comment as to what you would like to see, a colorful painting?  How you would like me to thank Lesley for her work behind the scene as a cleaner?  I treasure your input.

Thanks for reading about Lesley and allowing me to share this piece with you.

Lesley is done on 11” X 14” Stratmore Bristol paper using pencils, a bit of charcoal and a white Uniball Signo pen to bring back the edges of the apon to white.