How can illustration universally reflect individual experiences of invisible illness?
Hollie Woodward is an illustrator interested in methods of communicating experiences of physical, mental and neurological conditions that aren’t visible to the onlooker. As someone with an invisible illness herself, Hollie uses auto-ethnographic processes to explore and present invisible experiences visually through illustration.
Hollie was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2016, after suffering with symptoms for many years prior. Fibromyalgia is described as a long term medical condition that causes widespread pain, chronic fatigue, cognitive issues, insomnia, to name a few. With no known cure, a now impaired quality of life and no physical signs to show for it, Hollie became frustrated at her experiences of society’s attitudes towards invisible illnesses and lack of stories available to educate oneself on experiences of health.
This body of work is a reaction to the void of accessible information, but also an exploration of methods of communicating experiences that are often difficult to quantify. Through experimenting with different media and mark making, Hollie has started to build a glossary of visuals for different sensations related to her illness.
Equipped with a better understanding of her own illness, Hollie has been able to translate these findings using collaboration through illustration. She created the Invisible Letters project, where people living with invisible illness could write a letter to whomever they chose regarding aspects of their health. This has offered a new insight for those suffering with invisible conditions as well as those who have no experience also. With initial intentions to compile the experiences to create a one off zine, the overwhelming response in submissions has led to each letter being illustrated into its own individual publications, allowing for a more flexible and tailored approach to image making.
Instagram/ Twitter: @hollie_woodward