Portraits preserve faces for posterity

Artist Mark Lawlor who has had to learn to paint with his left hand following a stroke
Artist Mark Lawlor who has had to learn to paint with his left hand following a stroke
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ARTIST Mark Lawlor has painted a series of portraits of the homeless people who attend St Wilfrid’s day centre in Sheffield.

Mark, aged 47, started volunteering at the centre on Queen’s Road five years ago – and was inspired by the personalities he met there.

“I get so much from the people who come into St Wilfrid’s,” said Mark, from Nether Edge.

“The way their faces light up with these huge beaming smiles is amazing.”

Mark, a short story writer, started painting St Wilfrid’s clients a year ago. Now he has done 22 oil paintings, which went on display at the day centre on Friday.

To go with each portrait he did an etching or drypoint print of an object or animal, associated with the person he had painted.

“I wanted to depict an object that meant something to each person,” he said.

“It could be a pet, a pigeon, a phone, some knitting. Something that gives a way into the person, in a personal way.”

Mark took a series of three or four photographs of each person before sitting down to paint.

“I loved painting them. And I got a lovely reaction from them. I have known some of them for quite some time now, so it was a nice thing to be able to do,” he said.

“They mean so much to me – and their existence is worth it.”

What made the challenge harder was the fact Mark was forced to paint with his left hand, despite being right handed.

“I had a stroke when I was 28 years old, which made my right hand useless,” he said.