Q&A: Annu Kilpeläinen for Doctors’ Mess

The Doctors’ Mess at West Middlesex University Hospital is the break-out and common area for Junior and Senior Doctors to take their lunch, have a break from their long shift, catch-up with their studies and reading, and perhaps most importantly, it is a major point of social interaction for colleagues, where they can discuss medicine, their work, or generally spend social time together away from the often stressful clinical environment.

Generally associated with being a drab, uninspiring space with few facilities for the staff, the Doctors’ Mess is an essential staff space that is often overlooked when it comes to refurbishment, decoration and artwork.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, CW+ were able to carry out extensive consultations with Trust staff who use the Doctors’ Mess at West Middlesex, in order to establish key areas for improvement. This included one-to-one discussions and online surveys. Following this consultation process, feedback reported that the space needed a colourful uplift, with artwork that would transform the space into a more inspiring and welcoming environment.

Annu Kilpeläinen (photo credit:

We had the pleasure of commissioning London-based illustrator Annu Kilpeläinen to create a bespoke body of work for the Doctors’ Mess which would cover the walls of the computer and TV areas. Known for her radiant and colourful works, Annu worked with CW+ and the West Middlesex team to design two pieces that echoed the warm and friendly environment of the hospital, and also paid tribute to the exceptional work of the staff who use the Mess, by including quotes of thanks from the public which had been sent in between March and June 2020, at the height of the pandemic.

Following the installation of her work, we spoke to Annu about the commission…

Hi Annu! Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.

I am a Finnish illustrator/artist living and working in London. I work on a variety of mediums, from editorials and packaging design to clothing and glass works – and I have even painted a real car! My work is very bright and usually filled with clashing patterns, cars and flowers.

How did you get into illustration and what inspires your vibrant and playful aesthetic?

I studied Illustration at University of the Arts London – LCC and have been freelancing as an illustrator for seven years now. Inspiration comes from everywhere, I take photos and write down notes and sketches daily and somewhere down the line things merge and new ideas come about.

How did you become involved in working on the Doctors’ Mess commission for West Middlesex?

I was contacted by CW+ and was super excited to take on the project.

What has your experience been like working with CW+ and within a healthcare setting, particularly during COVID-19? And how have you generally found working during the pandemic?

It has been such a joy to work on this project. An honour to work with the NHS, especially at a time like this. The beginning of the pandemic felt surreal, staying indoors watching helicopters come and go from the hospital near my house. It has been a strange time but it has also been nice to slow down. Living in a hectic city like London, it’s rare to spend so much time at home just reading, cooking, and sketching. Luckily for me, working from home was fairly easy – my set-up is quite mobile so I just had to pack the essentials from my studio. The biggest thing I was missing was, of course, the company of my studio team.

What do you hope the staff at West Middlesex take away from your artwork?

I hope the work creates a mood-lifting atmosphere and the quotes from the public serve as a nice reminder to all the doctors and nurses of the amazing work they are doing.

Finally, tell us about what exciting projects you have in the pipeline!

This year has been great for collaborations so there are definitely more of those coming. Commercial works are always top secret but as for collaborations with friends, there will be more clay works, fabrics, and other fun experiments coming for sure!

How can we see more of your work?

You can find more work on my Instagram and my website.

Annu has also created a special limited-edition print for CW+, taken from one of her designs for the hospital. The Smiling Sun, an edition of 30 signed and numbered Giclee prints, is available to purchase from us. For more details, email