Breaking migraine stigmas

Destroying migraine misconceptions one art piece at a time 

Migraine, and particularly the visual disturbances experienced by some sufferers, has inspired many artists through the centuries. Both van Gogh and Picasso were affected by migraine and sufferers of all artistic backgrounds through the centuries have found art the best medium to convey their individual migraine experiences.

Migraine and air pressure

We spoke to artist and migraine sufferer Alexandra on why art was so important for explaining her migraine; “From my own experiences (as well as relatives who also experience migraine), I felt driven and motivated to contact Migraine Action. Migraines can appear silent to others. Physically you can look well, making it hard for non-sufferers to understand. They can be debilitating, engulfing, searing, compressing, nauseating and tiring. All types of migraine can be exhausting.

Weather and air pressure changes have always affected me. Like cotton wool or padding around my head and it is almost suffocating. I feel a sensation like my head is about to implode, or that my head and brain's size is larger than the skull it's occupying. I drew this towards the end and after an attack. It seemed the perfect time to illustrate and capture the emotions in art. 

This image is showing the effects of the aura and ocular symptoms that I experience. Dancing, flashing, glittering lights, like fairies dancing around in the eyes. My neck muscles are also sore and feel twisted, my speech can be altered (which can cause further nausea), and my brain feels fuzzy and slow. Smells might seem overly sulphuric, pungent or sugary sweet. It is the same with artificial lighting feeling piercing. It can be difficult, when from the outside you can appear as your normal self. It is hard to describe the symptoms to others when you're in pain. 

Migraine and aura symptoms

It is tedious not being heard and longing to have symptoms recognised. A striking piece of art is a wonderful form of easily translated communication. So quickly and easily it can act as a reassurance and comfort.”

Migraine Action holds one of the few migraine art collections in the world. The collection, which includes over 500 pieces, contains a huge variety of expressions of what it means to experience life with migraine. The artists come from every walk of life, and include works by both adults and children. The collection includes depictions on a variety of subjects, from visual patterns experienced by those with visual aura, to the pain aspects of what a migraine really feels like. Now for the first time, thanks to the fantastic support of University of Leicester and Dr Katherine Foxhall, Migraine Action’s Art Collection will be freely available for all to access and use.

The collection represents the largest repository of migraine art yet assembled. Building on the aims and principles espoused by our founder and previous president, Peter Wilson, we very much hope that the new access to all through digitisation of the collection, will increase the understanding of migraine and perhaps inspire a new generation of migraine artists.


The art collection will officially launch in Migraine Awareness Week 2016 (4th -10th September). Check here for the latest news on the collection.

Find out more about Migraine Awareness Week

 Migraine Awareness Week 2016


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