Mastering Pain – Artwork of Chronic Pain sufferers

A picture of Pain Peterson

This post is about all those chronic pain sufferers who found their true calling in art!

Often we hear something like: “No pain –no gain”, “We have to endure to succeed” and so on. But for some people, the word “pain” is not a metaphor, physical discomfort or emotional turmoil, but a cruel reality.

I had a spell of mild depression a while back, brought about by drastic changes in my life. For many months, I felt helpless with no wish to carry on. It was a rough time for me, but at least I was not in any physical pain… I cannot even begin to imagine, what all those chronic pain sufferers are going through EVERY DAY FOR MANY YEARS! And how some of them can create masterpieces while coping with excruciating and debilitating pain!

The medicinal benefits of art-making have been known for centuries. Even before art therapy has become a therapeutic option, some great artists successfully used art to “keep their demons at bay”. It is well known that some of the most influential modern artists, such as Edvard Munch, Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gaughin, struggled with depression and serious mental illness.

the scream

Edvard Munch painted “The Scream” in 1893. He once said, “Sickness, insanity and death were the angels that surrounded my cradle and they have followed me throughout my life”

But what about the artists who were paralyzed after an accident or suffer from degenerative disease? For many of them, art became their “magic pill”, their form of communication, a road to escape into a “better” self without pain. Their pain and art become inseparable. Their achievements are simply stunning in the face of the hardship they have to endure.

Here are some outstanding examples of artwork created by artists with chronic pain; I hope they will inspire you to overcome your life hurdles with grace and perseverance!

Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa (1864-1901). From birth he suffered from a degenerative bone structure disorder, which left him severely deformed and prone to fractures. He became an important Post-Impressionist painter, art nouveau illustrator, and lithographer.



The Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907-1954). Her misfortunes started from polio and spina bifida in her childhood, followed by severe injuries in a tram crash and miscarriages. She was operated on more than 30 times during her life. Her self-portraits, dealt with the consequences of the terrible illnesses and injuries she suffered. She is also admired as a feminist icon.

Emily Barletta is a long term spinal diseases sufferer. Her determined experimentation resulted in the production of unique pieces, where traditional textile techniques (crocheting and embroidery) intertwine with clay and drawing methods, blurring the seam between drawing and fabric design. In her crocheted art show My Biology, Emily takes inspiration from cells, tissues and veins, as well as, other microscopic biological structures.

Alice Schonfeld was left with diminished capacity after multiple strokes. Alice is most known for her exemplary sculpting work, primarily in Italian marble.

Alice Schonfeld sculpture

Alice Schonfeld sculpture

Michael Monaco is a quadriplegic who paints with his mouth. His work has been featured in global exhibitions and he is a member of the Mouth and Foot Painters Association.

Dennis Francesconi, who suffered paralysis, is a mouth painter that excels at creating very detailed paintings. He has participated in over 75 exhibitions around the world.

Carol Levy, the author of “A Pained Life, A Chronic Pain Journey.”, has lived with trigeminal neuralgia, since 1976. Trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic pain condition that affects the trigeminal nerve, which carries sensation from your face to your brain. Carol was accredited to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and helped to get chronic pain recognized as a disease.

Carol Levy trigeminal neuralgia

“Trigeminal Neuralgia Strie”











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