Three Sisters – the story of three amazing women


The journey for Three Sisters began when MaryB Ballantyne reached out and asked if I would paint her a portrait. It would be a portrait that featured her and her two colleagues Gillian Stranock and Susan Dawson and would tell the story of their experiences returning to nursing to administer the COVID vaccine. I was immediately excited by the prospect of a triple portrait and create a work of art that tells the next chapter on the story of the pandemic through the eyes of healthcare workers.

I again leant into Renaissance and religious art of the 14th and 15th centuries as a jumping off point. I loved the composition of a lot of these paintings and how they can create both drama and serenity through the use of careful subject placement and how the hands also contribute to the story.
The number three also has many symbolic properties throughout history, religion and myth. The image of three women has long been used as a symbol throughout ancient cultures bringing to mind the Three Graces and the Three Fates from Greek Mythology; the Norns in Norse Mythology; the Three Witches of Macbeth and the Three Sisters from Hocus Pocus 1 and 2. All these representations share qualities including wisdom, knowledge, prophecy, and fate.
Three Sisters on STV News. Story by Lynne Rankin
Three Sisters
60cm x 90cm. Oil on canvas
It felt natural to use the triangle shape to provide the foundation of the composition which I also used when painting trauma.
It was a great collaboration working with MaryB who had such a clear idea as to how she wanted her colleagues to be represented. I visited Reid Hall in February 2022 and it was clear that they relationship stretched beyond colleagues and you could see the deep bonds of friendship forged through years of challenges.
MaryB wanted to ensure that the vaccination administration was portrayed accurately and as a doctor myself I also wanted to capture this properly. After experimenting with various poses we settled on the triangle with MaryB in the centre and her colleagues in the foreground – Susan administering the vaccine and Gill receiving the vaccine. 
“As an artist I feel it’s part of our ethos to document and represent the world around us and as a surgeon working within the healthcare system I felt duty bound to represent the subjects with accuracy and care.”
I don’t think I can stress enough the importance of nursing within the healthcare system and their role during the pandemic. A huge proportion of nurses came out of retirement to form part of the vaccine response of which MaryB and Susan were part of that drive. I wanted to anchor their presence at Forfar’s Reid Hall which is why I chose to have their windows featured in the background.
Three Sisters felt like the perfect title that demonstrate not only the historical word used to refer to nurses (Sisters) but the familial-like bonds created from such a unique experience.
The painting took me around 2 and a half months to complete and for me this was a hugely personal painting. Having worked alongside nurses in the NHS now for over 10 years having the opportunity to represent their profession and contribution was fantastic. I am delighted that MaryB, Gill and Susan are happy with the painting and I hope it brings them many years of joy!