An Illustrated Journey through the New Children’s Theatre Suite at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee

It is so wonderful to be able to announce that the series of giant bespoke murals I created especially for the new Children’s Theatre Suite at Ninewells are now installed, and the first children (and their families) are now being looked after in the suite!

Reception/ Waiting Area Mural in the Children’s Theatre Suite (Ward 30) Ninewells Hospital, Dundee

I am so very honoured to be a part of this incredible and really important project for children and their families across Tayside. It’s been a fantastic experience working alongside such an amazing team of dedicated, talented and inspirational people.

It’s so exciting that, after years of planning and work, a £2 million fundraising campaign and a global pandemic, the doors have finally opened (on 9th May 2022) to welcome the very first patients and their families.

From joining the fundraising efforts with The ARCHIE Foundation and Oor Wullie’s Bucket Trail in 2015 to creating these artworks, it’s been an amazing journey. I really hope that my illustrations will help to make this already amazing space even more welcoming and inspiring for children and their families.

What is the Children’s Theatre Suite?

The Children’s Theatre Suite (CTS) is part of Tayside Children’s Hospital at Ninewells here in Dundee and is going to be a game changer for so many children and young people in Tayside.

Every year around 3,000 children and young people receive surgery at Ninewells Hospital, with half of those receiving treatment in adult environments prior to the CTS being built due to lack of space in the children’s wards. That could be pretty scary but hopefully not any more!

The new theatre suite doubles the previous capacity for children’s surgery and it also means that when they are being treated they will remain in the Tayside Children’s hospital too.

Above photos courtesy of The Courier

At the start of May, Dr Grant Rodney, consultant children’s anaesthetist for NHS Tayside, said to the Courier that the team were excited to welcome their first patients. He said: “This is a world class unit that will benefit everyone who comes here for treatment. It will also be a great place for our staff to work and a welcoming and non-threatening environment for children and their family to come.”

I have more words about the CTS from the incredibly inspirational Grant Rodney to share further down this post too. He is the reason there is a new operating theatre suite and has tirelessly fought to make it happen… since 1995!

The illustration that inspired the wooden treehouse in reception

The Concept

The overarching theme for the artwork I have created for the CTS is that of journeys, nature and dreams. It is all about encouraging imagination and also about appreciating, even learning more about, the landscapes and wildlife that is found in and around Dundee and Tayside. With these illustrations, I wanted to create adventures, filled with characters, local wildlife and colour but also retain the wonderful calming effect that nature has.

I hope imaginations are captured and young minds are transported into a fun world. The illustrations will hopefully bring a little bit of outside indoors and we all know how much being outside helps our mental health, particularly if we are feeling anxious and stressed. 

Small scale sections from reception/ test prints to check colours

With the journey from reception to theatre firmly in mind I have kept the theme of journey, travel and movement high on the agenda. You can see boats and the Rail Bridge and a hot air balloon in the waiting area and you can maybe pretend that you are in one of them as you embark upon on your ‘riverside adventure’. Along the corridor are more hot air balloons and a train that has crossed the bridge and making its way to theatre too. Each of these elements carry things that are both familiar and also introduce new things that you will be meeting in the anaesthetic rooms. For example there is a rocket suspended from a hot air balloon and another loaded onto a train carriage, both of which will be seen again in the space themed anaesthetic room. Similarly submarines and our gentle whale travel with us until we get to the underwater themed room.

There are pockets of illustrations that are very detailed and encourage exploration and conversation in areas where more distraction may be helpful. Similarly where it is more helpful to keep everyone moving along the corridor the illustrations are more about movement and travel, with a little less distraction. 

The artwork is also designed to tie in and compliment the other features of the CTS, such as colour schemes, sky panels and door art.

Thank you again to everyone who took the time to feedback your thoughts, they were really helpful and informed a lot of this work. I really hope that you will enjoy the artwork in the CTS, you all deserve a wee extra smile… or two.

The Tour – Join us on our Journey through the Children’s Theatre Suite (Ward 30)

The artwork is very much inspired by Dundee and the East of Scotland. We are so lucky to live in a place so plentiful in green spaces and where it doesn’t take long to find a park to explore and play in or the river to walk along. These spaces are full of birds and animals that are fascinating to spot too. For this reason I have created a flock of fun, friendly and often cheeky wee birds who will be our companions throughout our time in the CTS. They will be by your side whether you have just stepped out of the lift, through the door, are in the waiting area, travelling along the corridor or in the anaesthetic room. They will even pop up to show you to the ward after being in theatre. 

Our welcoming flock! Our flock of birds can be spotted capering about on top of switches, window sills, beep ins bit and even the sanitiser box as they wait to meet and say hello to everyone entering the Children’s Theatre Suite. They will act as wee fun, and often very silly, guides for the children throughout their whole time there. Hopefully making them smile too, especially if they are feeling a bit anxious!

If you come in through the hospital, via the stairs and the lifts, the birds will meet you there too (whilst also thanking everyone for helping to make the project happen).

Lots of the birds are imaginary and straight out of my head and others can be found all along the shores of the River Tay… even Kingfishers!

A Big Welcome from Oor Dreamcatcher

Also welcoming everyone at the door is Oor Dreamcatcher! Remember him from the very first Oor Wullie’s Bucket Trail? Well he helped to raise the money for ARCHIE Foundation Tayside to allow for all the nice extra bits for the space, like artwork and he also led a lot of the illustration work.

Our little feathered friends were first introduced to the Children’s Hospital when my Oor Wullie sculpture ‘Oor Dreamcatcher’ came to stay. I painted him, with the help of lots of children, for the first Oor Wullie’s Bucket Trail and The ARCHIE Foundation back in 2016 when we were fundraising for the CTS, so it was important to tie him in with the artwork too. Oor Wullie may well pop up in other places too, so keep your eyes open!

You will see the birds (his bird brains 😅) flying from his head and off into the space and the themes of nature, trees, journey and more too. We will come back to him a little later on in this piece.

Oor Dreamcatcher snuck into the waiting room just as we were finishing tidying up on the last day. He didn’t want to miss out on the photos! 😅

Reception/ Waiting Area

Riverside Adventures Mural in Reception Area ready for its first visitors. 📷: The Courier

I’m absolutely delighted that  ‘Riverside Adventures’ was chosen by children as our concept as I packed it full of fun, colour, movement and intrigue. It was really exciting and a lot of fun bringing to life the stories of all the birds and animals exploring the River Tay and it’s beautiful surroundings. I hope these adventures will bring smiles, capture imaginations and provide fun distractions for those who might be feeling anxious and worried. 

This area is where children and their families will be waiting to go for consultations, treatments and operations. There are lots of things to do, reading, playing… and hopefully spotting lots of new animals, plants and birds in the mural. There will be play and nursing staff there to help everyone too.

This area is where the illustrated journey really starts…

I’d love children to imagine that they are in one of the boats sailing down the River Tay with the puffins and other birds. They have passed the Rail Bridge and have encountered a friendly pod of dolphins, spotted kingfishers, oystercatchers, herons and curlews. There have been some playful otters and seals popping up too. Everyone is enjoying the scenery, the flowers, hills and the sunshine, Dundee is famous for being the sunniest city in Scotland after all!

The Treehouse 🌳

As the boat sails on down the River Tay you can spot the most amazing old tree, just in front of an apple tree (with an owl and a woodpecker in its branches). Looking closer you can see lots of birds excitedly flying around… and nestled in its leaves is a beautiful wooden treehouse, painted pink with a roof as blue as the summer sky! Looking a bit closer you can also spot that there are little steps carved into the trunk. Why don’t we stop, anchor our boat at the beach, climb up and explore a little?

The larger scale wooden treehouse is the central piece to the reception mural. I wanted to create some hand painted layering and a more 3d element to the wall to really create a focal point that draws the eye as soon as you enter the space. It’s designed to create a main talking point for children and their families and really introduce that theme of nature and calm fun.

This treehouse is inspired by the treehouse my dad built for us as children. My brother and I would spend hours playing up there. We would loose ourselves in a world of imagination and adventure after we had clambered up and down the tree hundreds of times. We would sit and make up so many stories about all the creatures around us as well as those that we could dream up. I must write them down some day.

This piece is designed to feel happy and inspire imagination.

Here I’d love children to be encouraged to imagine that they are sitting in that pretty wee treehouse. Can they tell us what’s inside? Is there any furniture? Did any of the birds or animals join them? Can they smell the wood that the treehouse is made of? Is it warm? Does it feel safe and quiet? Can they hear the river and the birds? If they look out the window what do they see? Can they see the hills across the water? Can they spot their wee boat moored at the beach? Can they see toadstools in the grass and the stars swinging from the roof when they step out onto the balcony? Do they spot the rainbow across the sky and the clouds? How many birds can they count flying?

Building the Treehouse

Much of the mural illustration work was done digitally and printed onto rich textured wallpaper. I love the matt wallpaper finish and this method of working allowed me to include so many tiny details on such large pieces that just wouldn’t have been possible otherwise within the building timeframes and the way I work. All this considered I still really wanted to include some hand painted pieces, with 3d elements.

The wooden tree started off as the much more detailed illustration that you can see above. I simplified it along the way to account for size and for infection control too, taking a lot of the curves and angles out of the shape to allow for ease of cleaning. The birds were streamlined from original designs too for the same reasons. Many layers of anti microbial lacquer were then applied, giving it its luxurious (hospital friendly) gloss finish.

Another small challenge around designing the tree was accounting for plug sockets, which were right where I wanted to position my tree. Rather than move them I designed a wee camouflaged ‘cat flap’ so that they could still be easily used but also didn’t detract from the overall finish of the piece. You can see in my sketches and early model that the door was initially designed to open with vertical piano hinges, I changed this to horizontal so that it would always fall to the closed position when not in use (keeping it looking nice and hopefully making it a stronger design too).

Just as dad built our treehouse when I was wee, he helped me to build this one too… just a few years later! Thanks dad x

The Journey Along the Corridor – Let’s go on a Hot Air Balloon Ride!

We’ve had so much fun in our boat with the birds and animals all around us. We’ve climbed up the big old tree and hidden in the beautiful treehouse for a while whilst we waited. We even watched a stunning rainbow appear above the hills, which led our eyes to the biggest and most beautiful hot air balloon!

Can you imagine joining the puffin, the other birds and Oor Wullie in the basket of a giant hot air balloon. How exciting! You can see for miles around. All the trees on the hills look tiny as you wave to everyone below. It’s exciting but also feels incredibly calm as you all float along in the warm breeze.

Oor Wullie points out that there are other balloons further ahead too.

Leaving the waiting area and turning the corner to meet more balloons

These balloons are joining us on our epic journey and they are also helping to transport some important vehicles and passengers too. Spot the famous Tay whale? She’s a nod to Dundee history but in the sweetest way. She’s grabbed hold of a huge bunch of balloons with her big fin and is gently floating along with her wee flying fish friend by her side. Even the clouds are delighted to be with her.

Also being carried along through the clouds is a space rocket! It’s being floated along with us as we all travel towards the anaesthetic rooms at the end. This rocket has its own story to tell us very soon.

Racing the Train

The train is on its journey from the waiting area to the anaesthetic rooms carrying various cargos that are familiar from the waiting area (house that echoes the treehouse, boat, tree, birds) and also introducing elements that you are about to meet (rocket in space themed room, submarine in underwater themed room). The birds remain a constant ‘friend’ throughout the journey.

A panoramic photos of the train mural in situ. It spans almost 11 metres and is really tricky to get photos of! 😅 The corridor is in fact straight – not curved as this alludes to!

The train concept was introduced fairly subtly with the Tay Rail Bridge in the reception/ waiting area mural and continues our theme of a Dundee Riverside Adventure.

One of my train draft drawings, a few things change since this drawing, including making the wheels wooden with stars that echoed the yellow of the yellow band running along the other side of the corridor. The clouds and introduction of the sky bubble ties the whole illustration together helping it marry up with the details and colours of the sky panels above.

The train was also designed to reduce the stress of a new environment as the children can spot now familiar things that were passed on the journey along the corridor. Also creating talking points for entering rooms.

The train was especially designed for smaller children and those travelling along the corridor in little cars. I thought that those in cars would quite like to pretend that they were racing the train (like I did as a kid on my bike). There was a lot of sitting and kneeling on the floor to see what should go at the perfect ‘child height’ including the little rabbit with her toadstool that appears right at the end. There are a few higher up features too, like our puffin princess in the cloud and more of our birds, for older, taller children and young people (and us adults too).

Can you spot my little studio dog Lupin? She’s such good company and great for taking me out on walks when I need a wee break to enjoy some fresh air and tree. I thought she deserved to be a part of the CTS too (just don’t tell her there’s a cat on the roof!) The second photo is me drawing Lupin in her kennel on my iPad. I digitally drew all of these illustrations to allow me more accuracy with sizing, colour and consistency. Whilst I love ink on paper, sometimes digital is the best option!

Close up of the final train illustration that was printed for the mural. Spot Oor Wullie as the train driver?

You can spot the now wooden wheels which are much lighter and ‘friendly’ feeling than the first drafts. They also tie in better with the wooden flooring, doors and yellow stripe that runs the entire length of the corridor.

The train wasn’t designed for us tall grown ups… it was designed for wee people, whether they be walking along or driving one of the wee cars. That’s why most of the detail is at a lower height. I included a few higher up funs for adults and taller children and young people too with the birds and clouds, but to fully appreciate this piece you need to get down to small child height.

Submarine Balloon

Just like our rockets were being transported towards the space anaesthetic room our submarines needed moving too. Here’s the second one being floated along towards the underwater anaesthetic room. It appears right before the second set of castle doors and another wee introduction for what lies ahead in our journey.

Castle Corner

Our journey along the corridor goes through double doors with castle walls on them, so as a marker of the end of our corridor journey there is a castle on a hill.

It is a beautiful fairytale castle with turrets and flags, surrounded by trees and birds. Just imagine exploring in there and who you could meet. Also, it’s not quite an adventure until you’ve reached the castle right? Dundee has quite a few too, just maybe not as fancy as this one. Almost! 😅

Our magical castle also serves as another pause and potential distraction/ talking point if required for the children before entering the anaesthetic rooms.

Did you spot our pheasants, pigeons and blue tits in the illustration too?

Zooming into Space: Anaesthetic Room

Zoom zoom we’re off to the moon. Welcome to space our space room, filled with astro birds, star constellations, rockets, planets, the man in the moon, shooting stars and even a rogue comet! Pretend you’re flying through space in a rocket racing the shooting stars! Can you spot all the constellations, Orion, gemini, the seven sisters and even Oor Wullie. Imagine walking on the moon surrounded by your best friends the birds in their custom space suit bubbles… because nothing will stop your friends from being by your side.

Whilst there is a lot going on in this room I also wanted it to feel calm so I really limited the colour palette. All the elements are tied together with big swooshes of colour that lead towards the operating theatre. I repeated this in the other room too to tie them together.

The children of tayside chose space as the theme to this anaesthetic room in the Children’s Theatre Suite, and the sky panels to match. The architects, RDA, then designed the doors to tie in. Several months down the line I was given this wall to illustrate… and what fun it was!

Orange rockets have popped up in my work a few times and I love drawing all things space so it was a joy to create. You will notice our bird pals have made it up into space too… courtesy of their specially designed space state of the art bubble suits.

It was very important to me that the colours tied in with the furniture in the room too, so there were several colour discussions, print tests and site visits to try and get it right. (It’s always difficult to convey colours accurately in photographs, but in real life with real eyes, it all works so well together… phew!)

Let’s Dive Underwater: Anaesthetic Room

Do you recognise your friend the whale from our journey along the corridor? The submarines and Oor Wullie too? Our bird friends have made it as well. Puffins are amazing swimmers under water just like the dolphins and seals and otters… do you think you can keep up? Some of the other birds can’t swim at all, so I made them little swimming bubbles, like deep sea divers helmets so that they can join us too. Can you count the fish in the seaweed?

Did you spot that Oor Wullie’s submarine has lost its numberplate? Let’s make a new one… what would your numberplate be? Mine would start with SS for Suzanne Scott or WL for WhimSicAL LusH! ☺️

Once again I tried to keep this fairly busy scene tied together with a fairly paired back colour scheme of teals and blues with pops of warm colours. The background once more leads us with waves of watery stripes towards the operating theatre. They are designed to feel calm and echo that feeling that you get when you are floating in water (or in the air like we were in the hot air balloon).

On a personal note, when designing the anaesthetic rooms I took time to remember times when I was floating into unconsciousness either under an anaesthetic or when I’ve been unwell. These designs take into consideration how these experiences felt to me and what made me feel calmer and safer.

I also spoke to a few friends and children of friends who have experienced being in hospital and asked them about what would have helped if there had been more artwork. I also showed them drafts of work along the way to see if I was running along the right lines.

Something for the Staff

Whist the artwork in the CTS is mainly all about the children and their families and making their experience in hospital easier I couldn’t ignore the fact that there are so many hard working staff who will be working in the suite on a daily basis. These balloons are for them. Calm and with more pastel shades than earlier in the journey, these balloons are opposite the staff room that has a big window looking directly onto this wall. I don’t imagine many children will see them as they will likely still be asleep of very dozey on their way into the ward after theatre.

The corridor leading round from castle corner on right, past a kite between store rooms and around to the balloons and doors into the main ward. The two anaesthetic rooms are off to the far right hand side out of shot.

Consultation Rooms (and wee extras to add some smiles)

The consultation rooms and other areas such as the weighing zone are situated at the top end of the suite. They were kept light and floaty to tie in with the notion of the start of our journey and being in or following our hot air balloon and feathered friends. I waited until all the furniture and equipment was in place before we installed these pieces, which were designed to be more flexible in their placement.

Consultation room in use on STV news

The Parent’s Lounge

The parent’s lounge is a space for the parents to go if they want a space that is quiet and peaceful, whilst their child is in the operating theatre. It’s a space that they can make themselves a little more at home and try and relax a little.

I wanted to make the parent’s lounge little bit more ‘grown up’ for the parents, with a slight change of pace. So in here we have a framed A3 giclee print of one of my illustrations ‘Turtle Island’, featuring a very chilled giant sea turtle who may at first appear as a beautiful tropical island, just like the one in the sky panels in the underwater themed anaesthetic room. It hangs opposite the little teal and green kitchen area where you can make something to eat or have a drink.

This illustration ties in with the overarching themes in the suite of nature, journey, curiosity and of using art as a means of reducing anxiety by tapping into imaginations.

On the next wall hangs a rainbow print by Damien Hirst.

Tayside Healthcare Arts Trust (THAT) were delighted to have been selected to receive a limited edition ‘Butterfly Rainbow’ print created by internationally-renowned artist Damien Hirst and generously gave it to be displayed in the new CTS.

In May 2020, Damien Hirst created ‘Butterfly Rainbow’ to show support for the NHS in the Coronavirus crisis. The work is made up of bands of coloured butterfly wings, one of the artists best known motifs. A limited edition of the work was produced with all profits donated to NHS Charities Together, raising a total of £1,508,172.

Damien Hirst said, “I wanted to do something to support the people who are risking their lives to help those in need during this time of crisis. The Rainbow is a sign of hope and I’m so pleased to have released these prints to help fund the brilliant work being done by NHS staff across the country.”

It really is quite the unexpected honour to find myself exhibiting alongside Damien Hirst, and for our project to be home to one of his pieces. My turtle hasn’t raised over a million pounds but instead I do hope he brings a soothing, calming element to the room.

I hope the parents will enjoy their room when they need a quiet space to themselves.

Saying goodbye… and hello 👋

The start of the loop and also the end as my mum and step dad come down the stairs from the main hospital and spy the first piece of art through a window. This is also the final piece of artwork in the corridor out into the stairs/ lift lobby, after saying bye to our cheeky wee seal in her balloon in the discharge lounge.

The CTS is a big loop. It was specially designed that way after lots of visits to other facilities and lots of consultation, so that the flow of patients using the space is always a positive one. This means that children starting the journey, waiting in the reception area should never cross paths with others who have just come out of the operating theatre and who may be a bit sleepy still or even a little upset after having had an operation.

The lift/ stairs section of the lobby (featuring the colourful striped flooring, sky panels and the thank you piece to everyone who has donated to the project)

Whar’s Wullie?

Oor Wullie plays a game of whar’s Wullie throughout the CTS as another nod to his fundraising efforts for The ARCHIE Foundation, which allowed for this artwork to be produced. He pops up in sculpture form dressed as Oor Dreamcatcher in the foyer to meet and greet all the visitors. Then, back in his favourite dungarees, he pops up as one of our guides in the hot air balloon. Mid way along our long corridor journey you can spot him smiling as he drives our 11m long train down towards the anaesthetic rooms.

Once we are in the anaesthetic rooms he wants to continue to keep us on our toes, popping up as a star constellation in the space room, surrounded by planets and astro birds. He’s a clever lad, he’s also a submarine captain in the underwater room alongside the gentle Tay whale and all her fish friends.

Here’s what it looked like just before we started installing the artwork!

Here’s a film by The ARCHIE Foundation about the Children’s Theatre Suite just before we started installing all the artworks…

“On Monday we welcome our first patients to new children’s theatre suite at Tayside Children’s Hospital! 🥳 A project which Archie have contributed £2 million to. 💕

Join Consultant Anaesthetist, Grant Rodney and artist Suzanne Scott (aka WhimSicAL LusH) who created the most incredible murals in the hospital, as they take you on a VIP tour of the new Children’s Theatre Suite!”

Watch – HERE!

The ARCHIE Foundation, Tayside – 6th May 2022
Chris Duke from ARCHIE Tayside filming the train during install week

Your art work is truly amazing within the space. It has captured the childrens playful world as well as giving the adults something to engage with in their own imaginations.

Thankyou so much for the fun and playful stories within the picture narrative. It reads so well and we will constantly be interpreting the ‘hidden’ detail.

Thankyou for sharing your imagination with us, and giving children this distraction at a time of heightened anxiety en route to theatre.

Amanda McCabe, Consultant Paediatric Surgeon, May 2022

Children, their Families and staff enjoying the new space

Quotes & above 📷: NHS Tayside Facebook

Paul, along with colleagues, friends and family have all raised £33,738.24 for The ARCHIE Foundation with their epic mountain challenge ARCHIES22 on 4th June 2022. All 130 ARCHIES mountains climbed in one day (mountains in Scotland over 1000m). Wow! (📷: Courier & ARCHIE Foundation)

“The artwork created by Suzanne for the Children’s Theatre Suite at Tayside Children’s Hospital is quite exceptional and has transformed the environment into a bright, welcoming, child friendly environment for children and families attending the facility.  It provides a wonderful distraction and point of discussion for children who may be somewhat anxious about attending for surgery and reducing such anxiety is so important for their care.  The Riverside theme developed by Suzanne encapsulates the history and location of Dundee beautifully and the story and detail within her work is quite astonishing.   The finished work is absolutely fabulous and well beyond our expectations when we commissioned Suzanne.”

Kay Fowlie, Projects’ Co-ordinator, NHS Tayside, June 2022

The Journey Before the Drawing Started…


The overarching theme for the artwork I have created for the Children’s theatre suite is journeys, nature and dreams. It is all about encouraging imagination as well as celebrating the wildlife and landscape found in and around Dundee. It is very much inspired by Dundee, Tayside and the east of Scotland, where the hospital is situated (and where I live).

I hope that my illustrations will take patients, their families and everyone who will be working in the space on a journey full of imagination.

It is also about creating a space that feels calm and safe, as well as inspiring, engaging and welcoming, at a time where children, young people and their families may well be feeling very anxious.

A few boats pop up in my designs, they are directly influenced by the various boats and vessels at riverside and in the harbour, including this old beaten up fishing boat and its sunken partner. It has so much character!

The lovely rust and characterful rivets and portholes from the North Carr Lightship have influenced my drawings for a long time now, including this rocket that I went on to develop for the space room. The submarines for the underwater room too! Did you know that those rocks really were altered to look like submarines? I thought it was just a story the grown ups told all the kids as they drove over the Tay Road Bridge!

Throughout my childhood I’ve been a bit of a dreamer and explorer and this has continued into adulthood. Spilling out these days into adventures with loved ones on foot and adventures in my imagination that end up as wee inky worlds. Part of the joy of this project was that the team trusted my imagination and I am forever grateful to them for that.

Inspiration also comes from my Oor Wullie sculpture ‘Oor Dreamcatcher’ that I created with children and young people for the first Oor Wullie’s Bucket Trail and The ARCHIE Foundation back in 2016. The sculpture was bought at auction by the NHS staff and supporters at Ninewells, through a crowdfunder, for the Children’s Hospital and he has been situated there ever since bringing smiles to children in the hospital. Money from the bucket trail went on to fund lots of the work in the new Children’s Theatre Suite so it feels like the perfect circle to have worked on the trail as the artist co-ordinator (and and artist) and now to be asked to create artworks for the suite.

Check out Oor Wullie’s bucket. Seems like even in 2016 I was predicting what may lie ahead if I dreamt big enough. Look… Dreams do come true!

Concepts, Designing, Ideas and Sketching

Designing the illustrations for the CTS included many many meetings with everyone involved in designing, managing and building the space but also with staff, children and families who would be going on to use the space. It also involved several site visits to a building site, lots of measuring, learning to read architecture plans and colour testing.

Sketches and drawings that went on to become the murals and elements in the CTS

“Suzannes illustrations in the children’s theatre suite in Ninewells Hospital have helped us create a space which is welcoming for children and their families. Suzanne’s artwork provides a calming atmosphere but one which can also be used as a tool for distraction. The children and their families take great delight in spotting and counting the various birds and animals and finding Oor Wullie within the illustrations. 

Suzannes bubbly and enthusiastic personality is transferred into her artwork and her eye for detail is evident on the walls of our wonderful unit. 

It was a pleasure working with Suzanne and I hope to have the opportunity to work with her again on future projects.”

Ashley Phillips, Senior Nurse – Acute Children and Young Peoples Services / Advanced Paediatric Nurse Practitioner, NHS Tayside, June 2022

Consultation! Consultation! Consultation!

Local children and their families helped choose the artwork theme for the reception/waiting area of the suite, which was then continued through the whole facility. They were also involved in choosing the two themes for the anaesthetic rooms and all the sky panels.

I’m delighted that children and young people got to have their say with what they wanted to see as it is very much them I had in mind when I have been working on these concepts. This artwork is for them so it was important to design it WITH them too.

“The new suite will allow many more children to be treated in a child-friendly environment, with some of the design elements having already been developed with input from families and hospital staff.”

NHS Tayside, June 2021
Thanks for your feedback L

These were the two concepts you could choose from…

Concept 1: ‘Woodland Wanders’

The first theme is called ‘Woodland Wanders’ which focuses on woodlands and green spaces and includes images of local animals and birds, lots of green hills and bushy trees.

Concept 2: ‘Riverside Adventures’

The second theme is called ‘Riverside Adventures’ and draws inspiration from the River Tay, which includes the iconic Tay Railway Bridge, sail boats and lots of waterside animals, especially puffins.

‘Oor Dreamcatcher’ with Ward 30 staff holding the two concepts you could choose from as part of the press release that went out to a wider Tayside audience

Robert Muirhead, paediatric senior nurse, said: “I would like to encourage as many children and young people as possible to get involved in choosing one of these two fantastic artwork themes.

“Both designs are colourful, interesting and full of so much detail that it really is too difficult a decision to make, and that is where you, the children and young people of Tayside, can really play your part.

“Taking part in the short survey and telling us which design you like the best means that your choice will count towards the final decision of which theme will be on display in the new Children’s Theatre Suite.”

Robert Muirhead, June 2021

With an incredible majority, the children and young people of Tayside chose ‘Riverside Adventures’! NHS staff were also asked what their choice would be and they also voted for that theme – so with that all decided… let’s go on our riverside adventure!


Hot air balloons outside the staff room

The CTS Artwork Team

It’s been an absolute pleasure working closely with the CTS artwork project team, brilliantly led by the unstoppable Kay Fowlie, for the last few years. Taking inspiration from their hopes and aims for this incredible child-centred space and fuelled by their unfaltering determination. It’s been difficult at times as we could only meet online and the project has faced its ups and down but it is amazing what can get done when a team is so passionate about their goals. The artwork team is made up of NHS Tayside staff, including Grant Rodney, The ARCHIE Foundation and RDA Architects.

As a wee thank you to all of them for being such a pleasure to work with, I have included all their star signs in the space mural (alongside Oor Wullie’s). 🌟

Teamwork!! Just a few of us who worked on this amazing project, so nice to have a representative from each group and actually be in the same room all together after so much time.

Left to right: Chris Duke – The ARCHIE Foundation, Grant Rodney – NHS Tayside, (Me) Suzanne Scott – WhimSicAL LusH, Kirk Stewart – RDA Architects, Andy Crockart – Balfour Beatty (Thanks for the photo go to Pavan)

“Wow! – as expected, your artwork is amazing – quirky, sensational and beautifully crafted… It really brings the whole unit together”

Rodney Mountain, Surgeon and Creator of links between healthcare art and design, May 2022

Love this photo of ‘Castle Corner’ by Chris Duke from ARCHIE Foundation, Tayside

A very special mention has to go to Grant Rodney who is an absolute inspiration to us all. Without him, this project would not have happened.

Grant is Consultant Paediatric Anaesthetist at Tayside Children’s Hospital and has been one of the key driving forces throughout this project. Indeed without Grant, there might have been no project! It was he who called Archie back in 2011 to ask “could we? would we?” help make the dream of building a new twin operating theatre suite at TCH possible. The rest, as they say, is history!

Paula Cormack, ARCHIE Foundation CEO
Grant in the Space themed Anaesthetic room. (📷: Courier)

I asked Grant if he would mind telling us more about the CTS journey and his thoughts about the artwork. I am absolutely humbled with his reply…

“A chance conversation with the Archie Foundation in 2011 set in motion discussions that established a partnership with NHS Tayside in 2014. A fundraising project to contribute £2million towards a twin operating theatre for children was agreed. Fundraising and capitol project planning began in earnest in 2016. The agreed site would be a major refurbishment within an existing space adjacent to the children’s ward and outpatient department. This co-location would allow teamworking and interaction between staff from all areas, and would build on the Tayside Children’s Hospital concept. The Archie Foundation’s ‘making the difference’ has allowed the facility to have a design and features beyond the building infrastructure which the NHS could provide. Suzanne Scott, Whimsical Lush, was invited to create unique artwork and storytelling to adorn the unit.

Suzanne is well known to Archie and to the project team having been involved with the incredibly successful Oor Wullie bucket trail in 2016. The phenomenal event raised a very large sum of money. It also engaged with the public the length and breadth of Tayside as children and families explored the region searching for the ‘cheeky chappie’ in all his guises. As a sponsored artist herself and the trail artistic coordinator, Suzanne contributed hugely to the success of this major event. Indeed she followed this up with the 2nd bucket trail a few years later. One of her own designs, ‘Oor Dreamcatcher’ was created working with the help of children. Much loved, an NHS staff crowd fund allowed for a successful bid to secure the dreamcatcher at auction. He sits with us proudly to this day and will welcome children to our new children’s surgery unit.

Suzanne was an obvious choice to create the artwork for the new unit. Her background as a social worker and her working with children and young people was an obvious benefit. Moreover, she had been active with a variety of wonderful projects around the city. Her Discovery Walk bronze plaques just one example of a lasting legacy for Dundee. She has such a unique style, that is fun, quirky, individual, instantly recognised. Huge thought goes into the creation of her work, that turns each project into a bespoke one, with her personal stamp and trademark always recognisable. Her warmth and natural sense of fun is infectious. She listens and grasps the nature of each project very quickly, so that she is able to adapt and incorporate the ideas given to her.

The design includes a selection of bright illuminated sky panels in the ceilings, displayed throughout the unit. Looking upwards, images of sky, clouds, balloons, kites, wildlife are visible above. These panels were selected by children in the hubs established for key workers’ children during the Covid lockdown in 2020. Suzanne has adapted and added and linked to these quite beautifully. A major piece of her work adorns the front reception area. Her ‘Riverside Adventures’ was selected as a theme for the front end reception space and was chosen by staff, children and families in an online voting and selection process.

Suzanne will describe her work and its intricate themes and interwoven threads and links throughout the unit. It all comes together quite beautifully. A strong call is that of nature and wildlife inspired by the beauty of the Tay, and of it surrounding hills. Children of all ages (and adults) are able to let their imagination run riot as the journey continues through the corridors to the operating theatres. Here the themes of journey, of travel are reinforced as balloons and carriages and trademark birds, with links to the worlds of space and underwater themes, which were selected by children as the sky panel choices for the 2 anaesthetic rooms. And from there it’s onwards to recovery after surgery and the bright yet calming environment of the ward and recovery area.

Suzanne’s distinctive style is unique yet individual for each and every one of her projects. This is no more evident than in this Tayside children’s theatre suite. Her imagination and the depth of detail in her work is stunning. It inspires and appeals to the imagination of children of all ages. And uniquely also to adults. It appeals to the inner child in us all.”

Grant Rodney, Consultant Anaesthetist, 09 May 2022
Grant Rodney being interviewed in front of the finished reception mural

Thank you Grant, this project has been an incredible honour and huge pleasure to be a part of. I firmly believe that art has a huge role to play in healthcare settings, whether it be in the form of large murals (like we have created for this project) or small intriguing pieces that can distract and inspire. I hope that my work for the CTS will go on to help many and ease anxieties when they are high. I hope that it might even be a helpful tool for children and their parents to add to their life toolkits.

I hope that my learning from my own life journey has translated into these illustrations enough to help others to look at the world in a slightly different way, in a way that is helpful when a wee helping hand is needed. I have kept in mind stories from children and families that I worked with when they were anxious and stressed and included things that hark back to things that helped them manage difficult feelings. If nothing else, I would hope that this space inspires everyone to go out and enjoy nature in any way they can and find all that it can give us. It’s all around us and we are so lucky here in Dundee that it is so easy to find, whether it’s a daisy in the park, ducks on a pond or a rare sighting of seals and otters in our river!

More sketches, illustrations and test pieces that went on to become the CTS murals

The ARCHIE Foundation

I’d like to talk just a little more about The ARCHIE Foundation. Without all the fundraising there would be no artwork and no lovely wee extras that go into making this already incredible and welcoming facility even more friendly to be in.

Outside the ARCHIE office on level 7 in Ninewells Hospital, Dundee

In 2012 NHS Tayside launched a partnership with children’s charity the Archie Foundation and two years later a £2m fundraising drive for the theatre suite was launched.

The fundraising included donations, two Oor Wullie Bucket Trails, the ARCHIE Mountain Challenge, Santa Dashes, abseiling, Beards for Bairns, and countless more sponsored challenges. There have been so many people involved it’s incredible.

Initial drawing for small section of reception mural ‘Sunny Dundee’

Paula Cormack, chief executive of Archie, said to the Courier: “It’s fantastic to see this project finally come to fruition after so many years of hard work and inspirational fundraising from so many people.

“It’s an incredibly proud moment for all of us at Archie and it is great to be able to show our supporters and service users the impact that the £2m raised for this project has had and will have for years to come.”

Paula also wrote: “… the incredible artwork, which has really transformed the facility from what would otherwise have been a clinically excellent children’s theatre suite, that is already a million times better than the previous facility, but which Suzanne’s artwork has literally propelled to out-of-this-world levels (and I use the world “literally” carefully) …. “

Paula Cormack, April 2022
Chris Duke (ARCHIE Foundation) & I in front of the finished reception installation

Big Thank you to my Awesome Art Team

I may have designed, illustrated and handpainted all the artwork with a bit of cutting and sanding in between but I could not have done this without the brilliant team at Phoenix Design. They helped me figure out templates, drawing dimensions and let me ask all the dumb questions in order to help me create all the murals and pieces for the unit. They then not only printed everything out onto huge rolls of textured antimicrobial vinyl wallpaper but installed it too. When faced with my huge wooden painted treehouse and mounted pieces that were the finishing touches, they were only too happy to install them for me as well. I honestly could not have done this project without them. Professional, helpful, trouble shooting masters… and also heaps of fun to work with, I look forward to hopefully having another project to rope them into soon!

Wooden birds laser cut by Ross at Altered State. Wooden treehouse blank cut by Douglas and team at Wallace Panel Products. Extra tree help from my dad.

Thanks also to the guys at Balfour Beatty and your teams (who built the CTS) for all your help with site visits, questions and much much measuring.

More Special Thanks and lots of ❤️

Thanks to my fabulous family, friends and my amazing other half, AJ, for all the moral support, general cheering on (with bonus you can do this chats when I was stressing (it wasn’t all drawing fun birds all the time 😅)).

A shout for my wonderful friend Emma who got me involved with the ARCHIE Foundation in the first place too. She first asked me to illustrate an old beautiful suitcase for auction and then had myself and AJ abseiling down the side of the Tower Building at Dundee University in the Autumn of 2015 to raise money for ARCHIE when she was first fundraising for Tayside. Little did I know that by the end of the year I would be working with the ARCHIE Foundation as the art co-ordinator for the first Oor Wullie’s Bucket Trail with another incredible team, that went on to fundraise so so much for elements of the CTS, such as the artwork!

Shouts to the Oor Wullie Bucket Trail team too. Look… we did it! Look what Oor boys have helped do! ☺️

Thank you to D.C. Thomson for permission to use your precious wee boy Oor Wullie in these murals. I hope he’s enjoying his adventures.

I’ve been sharing lots of sneak peeks of the creation process, time lapses, videos and behind the scenes on my social media. Come join me at @whimsicallush on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!


June 2021: If you’d like more news about the building of the Children’s Theatre Suite at Ninewells, please do read this lovely article in the Courier here.

9th May 2021: The Children’s Theatre Suite at Ninewells officially opens to the public. Check out the STV coverage HERE – including an extra bit of footage from my studio!

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