Image above: Working sketches for #85,The Lights Are Going Out In My Leg, by Ciara Chapman, 2017

My Chronic Pain Dairy

Graphic artist and printmaker, Ciara Chapman lives and works in Cork city, Ireland. Since January 2016 she has been producing a blog called My Chronic Pain Diary – documenting her own experiences living with chronic pain. Artistically, she has a lightness of touch and real ability to find metaphors from her life to explain how such pain feels – and the uncertainty, insecurity,  judgement and loss of independence it brings.

Over a 5 week period, Ciara’s Digital Gene Pool exhibition simulated her blog, with new images added in when they were complete.

A Facebook event also accompanied this online exhibition, in which Ciara shared her work and process on the Art Gene Facebook page, telling us about what she was working on, showing initial sketches and answering questions about any aspect of her work.

Read an article about this unusual Facebook conversation here.


“My process is: I always get the title of the work first, it pops into my head when something comes to mind or if there’s something really bothering me, then I do some thumbnails of how I think it should look. When I’m happy with the thumbnail I draw a large version that usually looks pretty rough. I re draw it with pencil and black pen so it’s as clean as possible before it goes to the computer. I always start on the black outline to begin with, then pick the colours and texture I want to use”. 

Ciara Chapman, 2017

Entry 82. Where is my memory going?
Monday 9th October, 2017



“The idea behind this illustration is how shocking my memory has become in the past few years. I don’t think I can put it down to age quite yet so I’m blaming a mixture of medication and pain for my no longer being able to retain information properly. Names, dates, appointments, events, doctors, addresses, phone numbers – all things I had a great memory for before my medical issues, I now have a terrible memory for them all. I write things down so I don’t forget, and then I forget I wrote anything down so I don’t bother checking my lists. I have a cunning plan and I’m taking a move backwards in order to move forwards – I’m going old school. I’m going to get myself a lovely 2018 diary – I’ll get a holster and strap it to my hip if I need to! Next year will literally be a year to remember!!”

Entry 84.  I’ve recently started snoring….Poor Dave
Wednesday 11th October, 2017



“This one is pretty self explanatory. Every once in a while I get a new symptom. I’ve been having problems with allergies over the past couple of months and I recently started snoring as a result. It turns out I’m pretty good at it! I was like a fog horn (or dinosaur) the other day and poor Dave woke up at 4.30 and couldn’t get me to stop so I kept going for the rest of the night which meant Dave couldn’t get back to sleep and had to go to work at 9. It’s important for my diary to show a glimpse of how things affect Dave too as my husband without stepping in and trying to tell his story for him”.

Entry 85.The Lights Are Going Out In My Leg,
Monday 16th October, 2017



” I had a trip to A&E recently which was as a result of a surge in pain in my left leg. I found out when I was there that my leg is getting worse. It wasn’t much of a surprise to me, I could feel the pain worsening as well as my leg feeling even weaker and heavier than usual. In my head I likened it to lights slowly switching off from the ankle up. The 4 separate sections of this piece represent Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. The lights are in the pins moving up the right side of my left leg (from the viewers point of view), they’re switching from light to dark across the page or over time in a more literal sense”.


Diary Entry Number 86: You/I Really Crossed the Line
November, 2017



“I recently had my first solo exhibition of My Chronic Pain Diary and was very disappointed when we had to postpone the launch date because I was ill. It felt like my body was sabotaging me”. 


Diary Entry Number 89: Is This Me?
Thursday  9th November, 2017



“This diary entry asks the question I repeatedly catch myself asking throughout this experience ‘Is this me?’.

It’s as if I pop out of my body for a fraction of a moment and I see myself as I am now, even though I know it’s me, I still catch myself asking the question, the answer always being ‘Yes’”.

Diary Entry Number 91: Dancing to the Tune of Physio Again
Monday 6th November, 2017



“This diary entry is another physio related illustration. I had a bout of flu that lasted for ages which meant missing physio for a while. Thankfully the flu is gone now and I’m back in physio again. This diary entry illustrates the sort of physio-cycle I’ve been experiencing since my medical issues began. 

 I use a similar concept for all of my physiotherapy related illustrations. The reason for that is to keep them all connected. The girl appears as a dancer being manipulated by a thread that moves her body into different poses. Though it is a far cry from how I really look in physio, I think the connection between someone going through a rehabilitative physiotherapy regime and a dancer is quite sound in that both types of people are expected to contort their bodies into what can feel like impossible positions at times. Dancers depend so much on their bodies and it’s not until the average person is put into a difficult position with regards their body’s mobility that they too apply that same value to their own body. I kept the dancing girl plain and without colour in this illustration intentionally, I felt any colour would confuse the focus of the viewer”. 


Diary Entry Number 92: Sometimes I just Want to Draw Bunnies
Sunday 12th November, 2017



“The idea behind this one is pretty self explanatory, sometimes I want to shut the world out completely and spend the day drawing (or just with) Opie”.


Linking our Landscapes and Communities

Ciara’s exhibition, with our conversations on Facebook, will become a reference for mental health and wellbeing and the upcoming Art Gene project, Linking our Landscapes and Communities for The Coastal Communities Team.

Over the coming months, Art Gene will be examining improvements in health and well-being by engaging people in events based in the under utilised – but award winning – landscapes around Barrow-in-Furness. As with all Art Gene projects, this involves consultation with a huge variety of experts and specialists, locals, community groups and other stakeholders –  look out for press about these events in the new year.

Ciara’s computer screen

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