There was an exciting new addition to artist in residence Claire Waltier MacGillivray’s workshop in Horatio’s Garden Midlands this week, with the gathered creatives using vegan watercolours handmade by artist Katie Coates, creator of Campbella.


Claire was as intrigued by the paints as her fellow artists, all of whom loved experimenting with this familiar-but-different material. To give an insight into how the paints look once on paper, Claire spent time creating swatches for all the different palettes, which were immediately useful to those gathered for the afternoon.  

With the paints being translucent, pearlised and some featuring glitter, it was agreed that Campbella’s palettes are uniquely gorgeous and their shimmering quality was much admired by all. 

Having brought along a book of the paintings she completed when she was in South Africa, Claire found that these captured the interest of one patient in particular, who decided to recreate one of the pieces. She opted to paint an exotic bird, which proved to be an excellent use of the glittering watercolours and lent a new dynamic to the already vibrant image.


Meanwhile, a student nurse enjoyed her final day at the centre by choosing to picture something slightly softer, delicately painting a ballerina which suited the palettes perfectly. Watching her at work was the thing that encouraged the patient who captured the bird to begin her own piece, having seen that it was surprisingly simple to create a stunning image. She now plans to return to the group next week and is already considering what she’ll create then. 

Many other patients who had anticipated joining Claire for the afternoon had other commitments, which included seeing their families and friends. The visits made for a lovely atmosphere which could be felt throughout the garden and Claire appreciated being able to quietly work and support those who had been able to join her whilst seeing people catching up with their loved ones. 

As usual, lots of people stopped to speak to Claire, including a few doctors, who she gladly shared her work with. In return, they kindly shared that they know that both the garden and Claire’s sessions are noticeably beneficial to people’s wellbeing, generously thanking her for spending time in the sanctuary. 

The fact that going above and beyond is in Claire’s nature is something we relish too, with her latest innovation being to create lightweight boards in her own time at home in order to make easier for people on bed rest to paint too, making the sessions even more accessible. 

Newcomers to the spinal centre and garden continue to appear each week and Claire readily befriends every single one of them. In time, she hopes lots of them will give watercolours a go, but for now she’s just as happy getting to know people and hearing their stories.