Mark Fennell, from Brill has painted a portrait a day to come to terms with chemotherapy treatment

Painting #1, a sleepless night before the diagnosisPainting #1, a sleepless night before the diagnosis
Painting #1, a sleepless night before the diagnosis
Mark Fennell, from Brill painted his way through his chemotherapy journey to come to terms with his cancer treatment.

After being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in December 2016, Mark decided to “change his life for the better” and worked towards ending a long career in advertising to pursue a life as an artist.

In 2018, Mark was diagnosed with a more aggressive form of lymphoma, which needed a grueling 18-week course of chemotherapy followed by radio therapy.

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Painting #2 Week 1Painting #2 Week 1
Painting #2 Week 1

He decided to get something positive from the difficult period, and he recorded the 18 weeks of treatment with a self-portrait a week.

He left work December 2017, ending his career as an art director and decided to persue a career as an artist.

Mark said that the decision he made to leave his job in advertising, was one of the best he has made in his life.

It was in fact Mark, playing truant from work that got him into painting 18 years ago.

Painting #3  Chemotherapy cycle two. Oil on CanvasPainting #3  Chemotherapy cycle two. Oil on Canvas
Painting #3 Chemotherapy cycle two. Oil on Canvas

He explains:

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"I was so fed up with my job I decided to take a sick day from work and bought some oil paints. It was hard going to learn the basics but I absolutely loved it, working at weekends with an easel in the living room, working between my dog and two young daughters.

"And now I'm just so glad I did. It has changed my life for the better and given me an outlet through difficult times.

Mark put up his chemo self portraits on his social media, and the response was great, friends, family and other artists were full of encouragement.

Painting #4 Week 6Painting #4 Week 6
Painting #4 Week 6

He said: "I wanted to do something positive, rather than just sit around and mull over the devastating news, so I decided I was going to paint a set of self-portraits, one each week for the duration of my treatment.

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"The treatment was grueling, but I’d committed myself to sharing the work online so i had to keep it up. I wasn't always able to do a finished oil painting, but I did manage charcoal, graphite and sometimes ink work - which I actually really enjoyed because I hadn't used ink them since art college."

Mark said that somewhat ironically, this has changed his life for the better - he hated his career in advertising and is now 'a million times' happier working as an artist.

Mark added: "Even though I would have preferred to share polished pieces, my aim with these self-portraits was to be as honest and direct as possible. I simply wanted to convey my feelings during the treatment, and a late or partially completed portrait only told the truth.

Painting #5Painting #5
Painting #5

"I captured myself through the various stages of treatment – before I lost my hair, during and after losing my hair, eyebrows and eyelashes."

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Mark says it was the after the consultant said there was a 60 to 70% cure rate, it inspired him more than ever.

“On some of the portraits I have a severe expression, but this was intentional as i wanted to convey my determination to overcome this illness."

The bookings for Mark's painting workshops and portrait commissions have been piling up since he started his career as an artist, and mark says he feels 'lucky' to have art as a companion in such a difficult time.

However, Mark says it was never his intention to get publicity from his chemo selfies."I just wanted to put my cancer out there and hoped it would somehow help others going through the same thing to see how i was coping with it.

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"The feedback from family and friends, and other artists has been really inspiring. It's kept me going when I've been feeling really under the weather, so I'd like to say thank you to everyone for the support.

Painting #6Painting #6
Painting #6

Mark Fennell is a professional portrait painter and a member of the SAA, who works to commission from his home studio in the hill top village of Brill in Buckinghamshire.

He works predominantly in oils; portrait commissions to date include Antony Worrall Thompson, John Hood, Lord Mayor of Birmingham, he also painted local celebrity singer songwriter John Otway.

His self-portrait was shortlisted out of nearly 10,000 entries for the Daily Mail ‘Not the Turner Prize’ and exhibited at The Mall Galleries, London in 2005.

He was Awarded The Artists and Illustrators Artist of the year West Design prize and peoples choice award 2012 for portrait of ‘Len’.