Thoughts in Progress Presentation

Recording of Presentation

I recorded the audio of my presentation. This is unedited. Unfortunately, the sound quality isn’t the best because of the acoustics of the room but hopefully, most of it can be made out. Below are also the slides from the presentation along with my presentation notes. I did not have a script, but had some notes in case I forgot anything or lost my place. Hopefully, a combination of these things can give a sense of the presentation on the day as well as what my project is about and where I am with it so far.

The Presentation Slides with Notes

  • Hollie and studying illustration
  • Project is about how I can illustrate my reality of living with a chronic illness
  • Stems from being diagnosed with fibromyalgia over a year ago
  • What I have learnt about myself, the condition and the gaps in information

  • Fibromyalgia (FMS) is all over pain in the body
  • Other symptoms include chronic fatigue, insomnia, sensory overload and cognitive issues including memory loss
  • Depending on where you look, over 60 symptoms, everyone experiences the condition differently.
  • No cure, just ways to manage the illness
  • Trial and error in treatments, lifestyle changes, meds
  • Affects mainly women over 40, so I’m relatively young to have the condition

  • When I was diagnosed, I was given this booklet (show booklet)
  • From Arthritis UK through NHS
  • 20 pages of text with stock images
  • Found quite overwhelming, didn’t answer the questions I had about what my new lifestyle would be like
  • With one of the symptoms being cognitive issues, I struggle to read so much text and have to have it read to me, losing another part of independence.
  • Info like this cold and disconnected, not written by fibro patients
  • Only deals with the physical aspects of health, touches on mental health
  • Doesn’t look at the little things, such as changes to morning routine, the clothes you wear, adjust to new limitations

  • What I want to achieve from this project
  • To illustrate the experiences I have with fibromyalgia, relatable to other illnesses
  • Accessible to fellow sufferers and those affected by the condition
  • Loved ones, medical professionals
  • Create something comforting to sufferers
  • Something ive found most helpful,
  • You are not alone, what your feeling is “normal”

  • When I first started the course, wanted to come to terms with giving a face to the condition
  • Wont show up on any tests, no physical signs of it, really bothered me
  • Started to look at human anatomy, cells, nerve cells
  • Created creatures from these, using elements from the cell structures and using them as a visual for the feeling. 

Wanted to imagine that if you were to look under the microscope, this is what you’d see

  • Still felt a disconnection

  • Started to draw how I was feeling during flare episodes
  • More pain than usual
  • Shaky, don’t have full use of hands

  • From this i mapped my pain over time
  • Focussing on hands, most affected area at the time
  • Played with gifs, layering images

  • Visited Basquiat’s “Boom for Real” exhibition
  • Barbican centre in London
  • Inspired by his use of symbols, words and simplification
  • Could feel and identify with the anger and frustration in his work
  • Was relatable even if our lives are completely different

  • Brought these ideas to my own work
  • Did many of these quick images, documenting how I was feeling t the time

  • Largely physical
  • Tried to touch upon the mental aspects
  • Disconnection between mind and body

  • Whilst in london, attended exhibition
  • Can Graphic Design Save your life?
  • And conference “drawing on your own experience”
  • Both looked at how graphic design can illustrate health issues
  • Interesting to discuss these issues with medical professionals and graphic designers
  • Gave me a better idea of what i didnt want to do
  • Oversimplifying , not personal

  • Started to have a dilemma and feel lost in what I wanted to do, so took to reading to try and better articulate what I wanted to do
  • In an expert patient, illness as practice by edgar, he states:
  • Without a resource of stories to draw upon to construct the story of one’s own life, we are left as ‘‘unscripted, anxious stutterers’’ in acting in the world (ibid). Without a suitable story that will tie together the present, past and future, the person will have no coherent framework within which to go on meaningfully in their everyday life.
  • Key to this is narrative.
  • Now feel that ill need words to accompany images to give more context and meaning
  • But how do i encompass a whole experience through a narrative?
  • I don’t feel like my experience is a linear story, more of a series of small moments and experiences that happen in no particular order

  • Starting to play around with creating a diary of thoughts and feelings related to illness, combining text and illustrations
  • A second a day, a diary of what im doing to help manage my condition, illness as practice

  • Over christmas, had a breakthrough in research when i bought this book
  • The tiny book of tiny stories, hit record, production company that encourages cross discplinary collaboration
  • A collection of stories, a sentence long, accompanied by illustrations
  • Each one unrelated to the previous and next
  • This format could really work for my project

  • From there, after a few weeks of feeling uninspired, surge of ideas for narratives
  • Now at a point of compiling these ideas, making a to do list and working through them

  • Scott McCloud talks about how abstraction makes a figure describe more people
  • Want my images to be acessible to most

  • Fibromyalgia affects people of all ages, races, gender, some more so than others
  • Dont want to exclude
  • Now working on character design for the figure in my images
  • Chose skeleton, more universal, everyone has one
  • Can still evoke emotions and actions

  • Also started to play around with colour and how that affects the reading of the figure

  • Next steps are to continue what Im doing with planning of stories
  • Start writing some, work on creative writing
  • Continue with character development, play around with illustrating the stories
  • Work with local support groups im part of to get feedback, including medical professionals, such as the occupational health department of derriford hospital
  • Collaborate with fibro patients, possibly using hitrecord as a source

  • Very open about my illness and more than happy to talk to anyone about it or anything ive mentioned today
  • Want to keep up to date, my research blog and my instagram, which i keep up to date with my work and research



After my presentation, I received some really positive feedback from my peers, which has really validated my project for me. I do worry that sometimes this project may come across as just a big moaning session about my illness, but was reassured that the project has a place and purpose.

One member of the audience found my hand illustration with the pain map of particular interest. The audience member worked as a scribe and assistant for a student with a similar illness and could identify this image with what she knew about her student’s experiences. That is one of my main points in doing this project. I want my work to be relatable, and feel happy that already people can identify with what I am depicting.

Another audience member said that this is something that children could also relate to as well. Communicating feelings like this to children can be difficult, but they said that my playful style and bright colours, particularly with the skulls, made for a fun outlook, and that it’s not all bad, which is true. This was really interesting. I hadn’t really thought too much about communicating this to children but they are part of my target audience for this work. Children can also have fibromyalgia and similar conditions. Communicating to all ages is difficult but not impossible. Whether it wold be an educational tool for children that don’t experience chronic illness is something else. This is definitely something to think about though.

In general, Josh and I were told that our presentations were very moving, showing honesty, bravery which was commendable. I actually found this quite surprising. Maybe because my outlook on my illness is quite open, I have never been secretive about it, so have never considered this to be brave. We discussed how our work has an emotional connection to our audience and by opening ourselves up in this way, we are making ourselves vulnerable. We questioned whether this was all part of being an artist? Are we more susceptible to emotional sensitivity? From experience, I feel like this is true. In my family, I am one of the creative ones. My father is an engineer ad very logical in his way of thinking. It’s like he sees negative emotions as a problem and figures out ways of solving it, where as I want to explore these emotions, learn what they are and play with them. It’s an interesting idea.

Overall, I found this experience extremely helpful. I am relatively confident in my presentation skills, so not too worried about that area. But having to put everything I have done so far into a presentation, with an introduction, research, finished work and concluding to a degree, has really forced me to order everything that I have done. I would also say it has given me a clearer idea of what I’m actually doing. Going back through older work and research from the beginning of this project, knowing what I know now, has allowed me to see the bigger picture.

It has become clear that this project is almost a revolt against the current literature available about fibromyalgia and its limitations. What I aim to do is to not only give my audience an idea of what the symptoms of this condition is, but also what these symptoms actually mean emotionally, on a daily basis and how they affect our lives. To be told that we will experience wide spread pain and not know what this means seems unfair.

It was also really interesting to see what other people are working on. We spend one session a week together as a group, but rarely get much of an insight into what their project is about. I was able to contribute to the dialogue of some of my peers presentations feedback, and was sometimes be able to suggest practitioners to contact or look at, which felt good.

If another opportunity like this comes up, I would be really interested in taking part again, if my work is suitable.


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