Spot The Difference!

Here are two photos: One is a photo-library image of:  'Woman with CFS,'
and the other is what you look like when you have ME/CFS. 
Can you spot the difference?! ;-)

In this Blog,  I am going to compare my 'image' as a 'vertically challenged, bed-dweller, ' with probably the most famous artist to ever rest a paintbrush on her blankets :Mexican surrealist painter Frida Kahlo (1907-1954). How very dare I?!!  For anyone not familiar with her work: can I suggest a lengthy visit to Professor Google, who will be happy to show you many fine examples of her paintings. Including many self portraits. 

It was when I was contemplating asking my husband to take some photos of me drawing in bed, that I realised just how tricky a thing this is. To explain we will need to take a closer look at Frida  Kahlo at work- or more correctly, how she was portrayed when she was at work.

Any artist from the advent of commercial photography onwards, has had the additional decision to make of what image of themselves they would like in the public domain. This has only worsened with the growth of social media, and every artist  now has to have their own twitter account, blog, photos of them 'at work', and of recent exhibitions to share on Facebook etc.

 'How to portray myself as an artist,?' is a tricky question. If you are me, (and thankfully you are not), you will spend most days with hair scraped into an unravelling ponytail, will be wearing brightly coloured, loose layers, and have on zero make up and zero jewellery. It is something that only another chronic pain sufferer could understand: yes, my earrings just feel too uncomfortable, and lippy gets on the pillows. 

The side of the bed is littered with drugs, drinks, sunglasses and gizmos. The bed itself is the repository of everything I will be using during the day- notebooks, snacks, toiletries, cardigans etc...Pens may turn up anywhere..or remain AWOL, 

Unless you're Banksy (and just to set the record straight- I'm not), you can no longer be anonymous: photos of what you look like when you're 'being creative' are now demanded by your public. Think Francis Bacon looking manic in his room, with big swathes of  paint crusting all over the walls. Think  Andy Warhol, pasty faced in his glasses and wig. Think Elizabeth Frink surrounded by her clay heads staring back at her.

So the question for me is: do I put on the ( metaphorical ) wig and glasses  OR do I have the cahonnes to go au naturale and let people see how chronic illness REALLY looks .

This photo is beautifully composed and the background reminds me of a still life, with its collection of timeless  objects- old books, a fat jar of brushes.The frame has been carefully chosen, no doubt from many, many shots. Her hair is beautifully braided, her nails carefully polished, she is wearing make up and earrings AND the gown and sheets are snowy white. This tells me that like me, she had to pose in that moment pretending to do something she undoubtedly did a lot but in a less clinical way. 

Decisions have been taken in producing this photo and there will have been many photographic opportunities discarded and denied to us, because Frida did not want to be shown, messy, crying, with grotty skin, taking medications or staring miserably at the wall. She was a deeply emotional person in serious pain, and I do not believe she could have spent every day( even WITH servants) so pristine and put- together. If she was a millennial today she would no doubt have been using apps on her selfies! We women have our pride.

Ok, so now we come to MY photos..and the decision- do I let people see how I actually look when I am drawing in bed...or how I would like to look???? Tricky!  As someone with a disease that the medical profession is yet to take entirely seriously, I feel it is important not to sugar the pill, not to make things look better than they are...but dear reader, vanity dies really hard
The typical photo you get if you google 'woman with cfs'  I am guessing this is not a real sufferer !!!!!!!!!
. Ahead of the photo I find myself contemplating putting on some make up, doing my hair differently. Suddenly a new level of denial rises up in me:I don't WANT to be this... or look like this. On the day the problem is solved by being too ill to care! Yay me!

BUT,,,this is what we came up with. I look like me, doing what I do. I am 'drawing' for the camera, but with everything else just as it is.

Frida Kahlo is almost as famous for her image as for her fact the two are practically indivisible. Her 'look' is emulated by fans, and there has been an attempt to break the world record of the largest number of Frida's in one room at the same time.

As I am a typical introvert and don't enjoy being the centre of attention, it seems unlikely that at some future date my 'fans' will be producing an action figure of me as they have done of Frida! No, I am happier in the shadows, quietly drawing....

Thank you for reading!  Please SHARE this blog on your favourite social media, and feel free to leave a comment.


  1. Just found your blog through a comment on mine where I wrote about chronic pain. Thanks for showing your bed studio. It gave me good ideas.


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