Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. It is characterized by an overwhelming paranoia that may manifest through hallucinations and delusions. Other symptoms can include a “flat personality,” when a person seems expressionless and emotionless.
It can be difficult for those without schizophrenia to understand what the illness entails. Many people who don’t understand the extent of the illness will dismiss its symptoms as exaggeration. However, this reaction can be even more damaging to the person undergoing a schizophrenic episode. Given the limitations of what can be described in words, we have selected a few art pieces from artists with schizophrenia to better paint a picture of the world as seen through their eyes.
1. Kate, an 18 year-old artist with schizophrenia
“I hallucinate bugs quite often, and my depression makes me feel worthless like a fly. These bug illustrations represent my illness.”
2. A paranoid schizophrenic who sketched this in an old asylum
3. Karen May Sorenson creates art while on different levels of medication
“My drawings here are plans for paintings, but they don’t look like most of the artwork I’ve done recently. There is more energy, which I think is because I’m on less medication.”
4. Bryan Charnley was an artist whose work vividly depicts the effects of schizophrenia through a coherent visual record of his experiences
“An extremely complicated picture as I feel I am closing in on the essential image of my schizophrenia. I am transparent firstly. Make crazy attempts at some sort of control over what has become an impossible situation (the man with the control stick).”
5. Louis Wain’s series of drawings of cats throughout various schizophrenic episodes
All art should be considered as an expression of the artist and Wain’s progression into psychedelia is just one aspect of his creative identity. Whether-or-not that aspect was triggered by mental illness is a moot point.
6. Henry Cockburn, who paints stories about his experiences following his schizophrenia diagnosis
One blue morning I walked past an abandoned building and jumped over a barbed wire fence and sat under a bramble bush. Once again, I could hear a voice in my mind talking to me, the voice of the brambles. “Brighton is a complicated place” the bush said. “And we are its Gods”. Then at that moment an old woman came and sat down next to me. At first, she didn’t see me, then she gave a shriek. I think she thought I was dead, because when I jumped out of the bush she was nowhere to be seen. She must have run off in a hurry. I panicked, I felt exposed so I ran down the road and jumped down into a motorway bridge. This is the inspiration for my third painting “Homeless People Under a Bridge”.
7. Linda Sibio, an artist in the Mojave desert, finds creativity in madness
“I prepare for a minimum of two hours by going into a slight trance state where my focus and concentration are heightened,” she says. “When a do a large exhibit, I am in an altered state […] I completely change my thinking patterns. It is from this fragmented state that I create my best work.”