David's digital art of Westbourne House

Resident of Westbourne House, David, shares his long-term hobby of sketching on his iPad to create resonating portraits of his fellow residents and members of staff.

Meet David Hendrey (71) one of the many talented residents at Abbeyfield. David lives with us at Westbourne House in Bournemouth where he has recently shared his long-term hobby of sketching on the iPad to create beautiful portraits of his fellow residents and members of staff, both in past years and in the present day. 

We spoke to David about his talents in photography and art, his upbringing and life at Abbeyfield. 

Life growing up

“I was born in Norfolk, Norwich and life was pretty ordinary – it was certainly pre-digital! We didn’t have anything quite like we do nowadays. One memory I’m quite fond of is when me and my friend Colin used to gather electrical bits and pieces to make circuits. We used all sorts to make bells buzz, and lights light up! It was good fun. 

“After school, I started my degree at university studying molecular biology. The degree mostly consistent of genetics and DNA, but when I got to the end of my degree, I realised I didn’t really like doing the experiments and it wasn’t something I wanted to pursue as a career. Luckily, through some contacts, I got a job on a science magazine call ‘Nature’. They are based in London and I worked there as a Sub-Editor, so for a while I worked in journalism. 

“Eventually I decided to do a teacher training course, and shortly after I got a job teaching in a first (primary) school near Wimborne. When I became a teacher, I didn’t think I’d be at that school in particular, for very long, but I ended up there for around 31 years. It was a lovely school and a great place to work. You name it, we taught it. As it was a first school, we literally taught everything, in the latter years of my time there, we even started teaching French which to me, was a foreign language. I was learning as much as the children for that first year! We were however, fortunate enough to have one lad who was born in France but his parents were English, they moved back to England after he was born and so he spoke fluent French – it was handy to have someone who could demonstrate the pronunciation that’s for sure, it let me off the hook a bit!”

(Above: David holding his iPad next to his sketch of Jo in her mask during the VE Day lunch at Westbourne House)

Art & iPads

“After retiring from teaching, I did a lot of photography and started to take part in a regular event called ‘Dorset Art Week’ where you could go around art studios and see all the different artists work. It really inspired me, and I thought to myself ‘I must get a sketch book’ but at the time I just had an iPad. David Hockney, a well-known artist, was just getting into using the iPad for his artwork, so I thought I’d have a go and I never really stopped. It’s a lot less messy then a regular sketchbook which is a huge bonus.

“I’ve been doing the sketches for around 11 years now and much like anything, you get better with practice. I can remember my first sketch that I was so proud of, looking back on it now, it’s pretty rubbish but of course, at the time I was really pleased with it. Like you do on a real sketchbook, you tend to make things a little too big, but the difference with the iPad is that you can re-size everything – it makes it so much easier. There are lots of things you pick up over time and you end up just doing it without thinking after a while. Using the iPad really frees you up to just do the art."

 

I joined an art group in Poole, and at first they all thought I was a bit odd as anything they were sketching on paper with charcoal or water colour, I was re-creating on the iPad. Since then I was known as ‘iPad Dave’.

 

Popular portraits 

“The portraits I’ve been doing have become more popular over time. I think it’s because they really resonate with people. 

“I sketched the one of John and Celia after Ellie, the Administrator here at Westbourne House, had asked me if I could just do a sketch of Westbourne House. I said yes, but I thought it was a bit boring, so I thought I’d add one or two of the residents outside in the foreground. I knew that there was a photograph of John and Celia back in 1945 when they first met on our Facebook page and I thought ‘perfect!’. We re-created their stances and placed them side-by-side with their younger selves in the foreground of the House. It really struck a chord with them, they were pleased to do it and absolutely delighted with the result. 

“Something that I’ve become more aware of while I’ve been doing the portraits is that ‘old people were once young’ – it’s about reflection. What were they doing when they were young and what are they are doing now? A great example of that is the one I did of Joan who was once a land army girl in the second world war. 

 

It’s important to remember that, although you see older people, they were once young, spritely and had very interesting lives.

"We’ve actually hung some of the artwork on the walls at the house. They bring a lot of colour to the walls and they’re all about the residents and their lives, I think it’s been really important to them. Joan, in particular, was over the moon when she saw her sketch and her daughter was almost moved to tears.”

(Left: Fellow resident Joan in the past and now. Right: Fellow residents John and Celia in the past and now on the foreground of Westbourne House)

 

Life at Abbeyfield 

“Just over a year ago, I moved into Harleston House in Wimborne. I had been in hospital with a bad back infection, it weakened my leg muscles and made me a bit immobile, so it seemed like a good idea to move into a place like Abbeyfield. Shortly after there were plans to renovate and extend various parts of the house. All the residents went to various other Abbeyfield Houses in the area while the renovations took place – that’s how I came to Westbourne House. 

“I moved here in March – literally a few days before lockdown began across the UK. When the building work at Harleston House finishes, I’ll have the option of either moving back there or staying here at Westbourne House. 

“There plenty of activities you can get involved in here. A chap called John, who lives next to me, started a ‘Dessert Island Disc Afternoon’ where one person chooses a number of records that mean something to them. Each week is a different person’s turn to play their old favourites, talk about their lives and how the records bring back memories. As you can imagine, it’s very popular amongst many of the residents.

“Getting fed breakfast lunch and tea is a bonus! The food is excellent, it’s all home cooked.

 

If anything ever goes wrong, you have help on hand, the staff will go out of their way to help you live as comfortable as possible.

You can see David’s full portfolio and get in touch with him via his website. We can’t wait to see his next sketch!

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