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Tribute to ‘Canvases of Care’ Art Project

Finding Inspiration in Every Brushstroke

Portrait Project Celebrates the ‘Courage, Compassion, and Grit’ of Nurses - One Brushstroke at a Time

To help celebrate National Nurses Week, May 6–12 (culminating with Florence Nightingale’s birthday), GE HealthCare wanted to do something that would bring nurses into the public spotlight.
To celebrate nurses everywhere, artist Tim Okamura was commissioned to create a series of paintings depicting real nurses, with one brushstroke for every hour of care they’d contributed over the course of their careers. The paintings would remain unfinished, because a nurse’s work is never done.
The project, called ‘Canvases of Care’, came together quickly.  In collaboration with the creative agency BBDO, select hospitals and clinics across the country were asked to nominate nurses they thought should be recognized.  Five nurses were selected.

Canvases of Care, by Tim Okamura


Leona Gregory

NICU nurse who currently works as a clinical product surveillance leader, improving patient safety measures for maternal infant care equipment.


Simone Hannah-Clark

Pulmonary nurse practitioner at Mount Sinai Hospital, in Manhattan, who in April 2020 published an essay in The New York Times about her work in the COVID ICU.


Casey Green

Critical care nurse at LifeBridge Health, in Baltimore, an adjunct professor at Towson University, and one of fewer than 100 nurses to have attained all five emergency nursing certifications.


Richard Onyait

Ugandan refugee who is now an RN at UW Health, at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.


Nicholas Sydow

Radiology nurse, at UW Health the University of Wisconsin–Madison, who has overcome cancer himself.

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Tim Okamura

Artist - 'Canvases of Care'

Collectively, the five nurses have nearly 200,000 hours of experience, which meant Okamura had almost 200,000 strokes to paint, and roughly a month to finish the portraits.  His assistant initially suggested that he count the strokes of one of the portraits by hand, but, he says, “I thought my head would explode if I ever tried to do that.” Instead he installed an infrared frame over the top of the painting surface that kept track for him. Each of the paintings is 36 by 48 inches, done in oils on a wooden panel. With the more experienced nurses, particularly Gregory, who has clocked more than 84,000 hours over her 30-year career, the large number of strokes has resulted in thicker layers of paint that he says give the portraits a sculptural quality.
Normally Okamura likes to get to know his subjects before he paints them, but for Canvases of Care, with nurses’ schedules being what they are, he had to work from photographs. Fittingly, all the photos were taken by other nurses, and Okamura provided suggestions about poses and lighting.


Featured on Digital Billboards of Times Square, NYC

One portrait was shared on GE HealthCare’s social media each day starting May 6. On May 12, (Florence Nightingale's birthday) a time-lapse video showing the creation of Hannah-Clark’s portrait was featured on the Nasdaq billboard in Times Square for one minute every hour, all day long.

All five of the nurses were excited to be part of the project but also a bit embarrassed by the attention. “It’s not that I’m not honored and grateful,” explains Hannah-Clark. “It’s the way we roll. A nurse is always in the background; most of what we do is unseen. It’s fitting that everybody was a little apprehensive about being in the spotlight.”

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