Monday, September 5, 2011

Casey Shannon

I came across this inspiring story of artist Casey Shannon.  Casey is an artist that lives in Carmel Valley, California. At the age of 36, already a mother, wife and high school art teacher, Casey had a massive left hemispheric stroke.  The stroke was debilitating, leaving her aphasic, wheel chair bound and with no use of the right side and little use of her left side.

She writes about the loss of identity and longing for her old self on her website here.  As a part of her recovery she learned about Wabi Sabi which is the Japanese tradition of celebrating the beauty in what's flawed or worn.  She also turned to art, writing that, "as soon as I could sit for more than just a minute in my wheelchair, I began practicing holding a pencil in my left hand and started doodling and scribbling and such. I intuitively knew that, for me, I needed to get drawing again. And fast, if I was going to save myself"

She ended up drawing 5 pictures a day, having incorporated it into her daily home rehab program. The act of creative expression helped to improve her self-worth and self-esteem.

It's been 19 years since her stroke, and Casey has regained her speech and the ability to walk, though has lost the use of her dominant right arm.  She continues to paint, teach and inspire other stroke survivors with her story.

Casey graciously includes art work on her website from before the stroke, during recovery and current pieces. The first piece above is a sketch done in the year or two prior to her stroke. Her drawings from her recovery period, are taken from about 4 years post stroke. At that point in her process she combined inspirational sayings with her drawings, like the picture to the right.

As she has recovered,  her style completely changed, not only because she now uses her left hand, but because she now does contemporary sumi-e paintings. Sumi-e painting incorporates meditation before painting. As Casey describes on her artist's page, "I concentrate on trying to capture spirit as the ink is transferred to the paper with the stroke of the brush....If your intention is correct, the object in the picture seems to 'breath and take on life'"

I find Casey's story a good reminder of the power art can play with our patients dealing with debilitating disease.

For more of Casey's paintings check out her galleries here.

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