Finger poppies to offer poignant tribute to our serving forces

East Grinstead artist and nursing auxiliary Kirsty Chapman is creating a poignant tribute to our serving forces.

Finger poppies
Finger poppies

Just as her mother and her grandmother did before her, Kirsty works – as a health care assistant – on the burns unit at Queen Victoria Hospital, famous for treating RAF pilots in World War Two.

“So I’m particularly passionate about remembering these amazing souls.”

Kirsty has created an outline image of two soldiers arm in arm to which she has added a path of “poppies”, each one of them painted using her own fingerprint.

Now she wants to start again with the image and get soldiers to add their own fingerprints – as a fund-raiser for military charities.

She is currently planning on creating the image at 100cm by 50cm; if the project proves popular enough, she will perhaps create several of the paintings – or maybe even create something larger.

The idea is that soldiers will make a donation when they add their “poppy” fingerprints – and Kirsty will pass the collected donations to a military charity.

Kirsty takes her inspiration from her nan who died last year but who had worked with the great Archibald McIndoe during the war in East Grinstead. Sir Archibald was a pioneering New Zealand plastic surgeon who worked for the RAF, greatly improving the treatment and rehabilitation of badly-burned aircrew.

“My nan worked for him as an auxiliary and cooked for him and did all the day-to-day things as well. She never forgot she worked for him. She said it was an honour to treat these poor airmen. And my mum worked on the same ward as well – all three of us on the same ward, though not in the same location.”

Kirsty is hoping to get hundreds of soldiers involved in her poppy finger painting and is asking for soldiers to get in touch with her via [email protected] The idea is that she will arrange to meet the soldiers half-way.

“I might do more than one painting if it proves really popular. I am not sure where I am going to donate the finished article to. It might be a museum – but certainly somewhere people can go and look at it.

“What I was going to do was ask the soldiers for maybe a pound in a tin or whatever and then I will give the proceeds to a military charity.”

She is delighted with the way the poppy fingerprints work: “I am quite an abstract artist. I just like trying different things. I wanted to find a quick way where I could get lots of flowers on the page, so I just thought about using my fingers. I tend to think outside the box a little bit, and it worked. I have had so many comments about them. I have had people cry and I have had people just stand and stare at them.

“It’s going to be a mammoth task but I’m very determined to help create this historical piece of art.”