by Olea Nova
What is happening on the edges of real and unreal worlds?
This question defines my interest in human psychology and my interest in the subject of Migraine Art. Working on this commission I combined my studies in psychology with my passion for painting.
The project started when I was asked to illustrate the image of a migraine headache from verbal descriptions of symptoms and visualizations given by others.
A medical specialist verbally described many visual aspects of migraine pain to me. Asking questions such as how a migraine starts, what triggers the pain, what a person feels or wants to do during the migraine, etc., helped me understand what migraine pain is.
I also interviewed people who suffered from migraines. I asked them to describe how they visually perceive their pain. Some of the artwork in the series is based on those stories. And some pieces are a combination of what I learned from my interviews and my personal understanding of this phenomenon.
Portraying what another person feels without experiencing the symptoms myself was challenging and exciting. I am often asked “how can you create art so graphically depicting various types of migraine pain, do you have migraines yourself?” I answer, “I don’t have migraines. And I believe that this is an advantage. I am not comparing what I hear from others with personal knowledge, this way my own experiences are not 'getting in a way' of the creative process.”
The focus of the project was to show people who suffer that they are not alone and to help people who don’t have migraines understand what a migraine is. By visually combining experiences of those who suffer, documenting them in a visually accessible form, the art that you see now was created.
I feel fortunate that I was asked to work on this project. I have received positive feedback from migraine sufferers and from medical professionals in the field:
"Thank you for what you are doing. You are such a wonderful instrument for those who suffer from pain. Your art is beautiful and inspirational. I posted a site last week for those suffering from pain to post poems, artwork, stories, imagery and other creative coping mechanisms. WE all need a voice as we suffer in silence. I suffer from RSD/CRPS in my leg and foot and know how important it is to feel like others understand.”
"I appreciate you allowing us to use your picture of a migraine for our upcoming Northeast Florida Medicine issue on pain management, for which I am a guest editor. The picture graphically depicts migraine misery...."
"I admired your artwork in downtown Madison lately, after reading about it in the Capital Times. I am a pediatric neurologist with longtime interest in headache art. As you can see from the enclosed article, I have recently published the results of a study having children draw their headaches are like. I had them use pencil and paper only and the results were dramatic. I can also get a sense of psychological factors, coping strategies, and self-esteem from the artwork.”
”… I am intrigued by your incredible artwork! You can totally get inside of my head, literally, and understand the pain and magnitude; the aura, the swaying, all of it, so well. I have often longed to have the ability to put it so well on canvas or a wall at home; as you seem so easily have done here. … In any regard, I do find your work eerily familiar.”
Artist Olea Nova Captures Migraine Symptoms in Watercolor
Northeast Florida Medicine Journal, Focus on Pain Management, June 2005
Art & Pain: Migraine
The Tapestry magazine, October 2003
The Capital Times, March 20, 2002
Works of migraine art presented on this page are part of the "Piercing Conflict" series completed between 1998 and 2011.