Schena, a Plaistow native now living in Haverhill, said his grandfather taught him to draw when he was a child and that he’s been drawing ever since. He finds it to be a way of making new friends.
”When I meet someone, I have an image in my head, like a photograph, and I just draw it,” he said. “Each drawing is as different as each person I draw. Every person has their own story.”
Schena completed most of his drawings at Merrimack Valley Hospital in a matter of minutes, while he spent more time on some of them, always making sure they were flattering images, and not comical or silly.
One of his nurses brought him a pack of colored markers and scrap pieces of used copy paper bound for the trash bin.
”I draw mostly with markers and pens as they are easy to obtain and don’t cost much,” Schena said. “One of the janitors brought me copy paper from his home. I like white paper, which is a clean slate I can draw on.”
Schena said some patients would drop by his room and ask if he would draw their picture.
”Some of them couldn’t get out of bed, so their nurses would come in and ask me to visit their room,” he said. “Anyone passing by I’d draw, even college students who came by to learn at the hospital.”
Hospital spokeswoman Jean MacDougall-Tattan said Schena drew pictures portraying the entire staff as happy and smiling.
”He enjoyed his stay and the staff enjoyed having him here,” she said.
Diane Lovallo, chief nursing officer for the hospital, said Schena worked quickly and skillfully in capturing images of staff and patients.
”His remarkable ability to see a person for a brief encounter and capture their likeness through his artistic talent is uncanny,” Lovallo said. “Tom may have been here to address his own health care needs, but in his own way he truly was a practitioner bringing a special joy to the staff.”