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25 Inspirational Artworks by Artists with Cognitive Disability

Art therapy is a unique form of treatment and intervention for people suffering from mental impairment, as it Channels their behaviors into a creative, expressive outlet, and offers them a medium to express their feelings and thought processes better. In fact, the University of Granada recently performed a study that confirms the contribution of art therapy to aid in the treatment of mental disease. While channeling self-stimulating behavior into more creative activity, some of these artists take their art forms to a whole new level, creating mesmerizing pieces of art which can leave you awe-struck. As such, here are 25 artists who portray their lives and thoughts in breathtaking creations.

1. Inspirational Artworks

Jeremy sicile-Kira is a nonverbal Autistic artist with synesthesia. Jeremy paints with the colors of emotions and color plays a major role in everything he does. Due to Synesthesia, he sees people’s emotions translated into colour, and also feels them. For instance, when somebody laughs, he sees blue, and when they are angry, he sees red. The artist then proceeds to transpose these hues into flamboyantly chaotic portraits of experiences and auras, a selection of which are compiled in to his curated art exhibit, Inner Dimensions. A majority of his works are based on the impressions left on his mind from those around him. The subjects of his portraits run the gamut from his family members to strangers he meets over Facetime, on skype, online, or in his studio. With his paintings, Jeremy hopes to make a positive impact on the community and raise awareness about his condition which is affecting millions others. View more of his works here.

2. Rachel Deane

As featured on nprED, Rachael Deane’s long-term relationship with dyslexia manifests itself in her work indirectly. Her paintings and drawings are a nod to the way she learns information, and views and processes the world. Rather than learning through standard education practices such as memorization, she finds solace in learning visually and through narratives. She comprehends things visually, and tries to find them in paint. View more of Rachael’s awe-inspiring paintings here.

Rachel Deane

3. Sanchita Islam

Sanchita Islam is a Schizophrenic English artist, writer, painter, and filmmaker of Bangladeshi descent. When Sanchita became pregnant in 2010, nobody forewarned her that she might be vulnerable to postpartum psychosis. Three days after she gave birth, psychosis made a reappearance, this time changing her life irrevocably.

Struggling with the nuisance of multiple visions and having very little mental health support, she realized that the only thing that would help her would be to draw. She began by assiduously drawing her son as he slept or breastfed, which stemmed the negative voices in her head. She sometimes allows her child to participate in her artwork to suppress the psychosis that endangered the relationship with her son and also to create something indelible. Peruse through more of her artworks in a recent exhibition.

*Her latest book, Schizophrenics Can Be Good Mothers Too, explores her own experience of psychosis and brings to light serious mental health problems associated with motherhood.

Sanchita Islam

4. Sarah Hirst

Currently pursuing a fine arts degree in her final year of college, the theme of Sarah Hirst’s work revolves around exploring the masks people wear in everyday life. She blogs on a regular basis on Disabilityonline to record her progress and thought processes while completing her final film piece. Her hallucinations and dreams reflect her subconscious, and so her research has led her to discover the path of surrealism. Her numerous experiments with automatic drawing have helped her stay in lectures. Each of her paintings depict her current state of mind and her daily struggles. Peruse through the gallery to view more of her paintings in the “Dream Watercolors” series, fabricated in response to her dreams.

Sarah Hirst

5. Harry Matthews

I'm sure we have all seen pictures in trees, in the rhythm of landscapes, and in moving clouds. Harry Mathews is so intrigued and delighted by these images that he harbors an urge to share his experiences with others, and art is a less embarrassing vehicle of expression for him. When he sees a man in the trees, he transforms it in to a painting title, rather than something ushered to a bewildered passerby! His mental illness enabled him to explore a particular gift of creativity, rather than get frustrated about it. His pictures come in part from his artistic imagination, and in part a response to the world outside; the out-scape and the in-scape. View more of Harry’s paintings in his gallery .

Harry Matthews

6. John P. Kelting

Special effects in movies, such as Death Becomes Her and The Terminator, have always enthralled John Kelting since an early age. The impact of strong imagery, the experience of learning to draw alongside his sister and father in Portland, and his own struggles in expressing himself, inexorably led John to express himself through art. One can conjecture from his myriad artworks that John's visual language is uniquely insightful and eloquent. This Down-syndrome artist’s wide ranging illustration skills include sculpture, Ceramics, water colors, and pencil drawings. His predilection towards Hollywood is also visibly evident in his portraits of favorite celebrities. Peruse through more of his wonderful artworks here.

John P. Kelting

7. Anne Ambrose

Anne Ambrose's childhood was split between residing in Nashville and living on the bayous of Louisiana. Her mental disability is reflected in her paintings, which are imbued with psychological stories, and include bright colors, spirits, angels, and fairies. Many have described her artistic style as fantasy, expressionistic, or a beautiful heady combination of the two. Her paintings echo the struggles she has to go through in life. View more of Anne’s amazing artworks here.

Anne Ambrose

8. Laurel Burns

Laurel currently works in mixed media incorporating found objects. Born and raised in New York City, frequent visits to the museum since she was a toddler introduced her to the world of art. Laurel attended the LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts to begin formal training, and received a BA from Hunter College with a focus on black and white photography and ceramics. She has exhibited at the Art Students League, Materials for the Arts, Bread and Roses Gallery, and SUNY Fredonia. The creative process has empowered her to foster a sense of humor, make peace with her mental illnesses and past traumas, and introduce an element of clarity to this messy soup called life. View more of Laurel’s mesmeric artworks here.

Laurel Burns

9. David Guhl

Well appreciated for his vibrant Western Australian landscapes, Dave Guhl first exhibited his art work in 2001, and has since submitted a plethora of works into several art awards including the As We Art award and exhibition, and the Town of Vincent Art Award. Dave’s art work was proudly displayed by Down Syndrome WA in 2009 for their gift card and Christmas packs, and the Government House, Perth exhibited his work for the World Down Syndrome Day. He has also received numerous awards and accolades for his generous contribution to the visual art field. His deliriously animated landscapes which mesmerize and float need not be abstractions, but a possibility of seeing with open eyes and an actuality of existence. View more of David’s enthralling artworks here.

David Guhl

10. Doreen Kay

Doreen Kay attends Project Ability's Aspire program, a visual arts workshop program designed for adults with learning disabilities. Doreen takes paintings to be a free practice portraying the most simple and treasured pleasantries: nostalgic, decorative, photographic, figurative, and meticulously recalled scenes from films, landscapes, holidays, or iconic on-screen relationships. Doreen leverages minimal depth and a sharp clear colour palette to create contemporary and fresh landscapes and portraits. View more of her beautiful artworks here.

Doreen Kay

11. Paul McGown

Paul is one of the most grateful human beings you could ever stumble across, always expressing his gratitude for each new day despite suffering from mental disabilities. His work reflects his deep appreciation for life in a multitude of ways. He likes to experiment with different mediums and materials, and meticulously considers the little things in each of his pieces. His landscape and floral pieces are beautiful and vibrant, and his scene specific and narrative pieces speak to his broad interests and experiences. View more of his marvelous artworks here.

Paul McGown

12. Eric Sadowsky

Since Brooklyn based artist Eric Sadowsky was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 3, he has been relying on art to communicate his feelings and thoughts when words fell short. In 2012, Eric started attending Pure Vision Arts where he now overlays drawings of objects and figures with text. Eric’s work has a Pop Art quality to it, often referencing imagery from pop culture such as airplanes, Jeopardy contestants, advertisements, logos and fast food items. His signature color palette of pastel and neon adds a vibrant and unique touch to his drawings. Peruse through more inspiring artworks of Eric here.

Eric Sadowsky

13. Colin Hambrook

It took Colin Hambrook a long time to make peace with the fact that he might never be deemed ‘normal’. He grew up petrified of mental illness and damaged by experiences of psychiatry. While he couldn’t easily accept that he was different from the norm, he was proud of his sensitivity, despite how impossible it made being able to function in the world. His life was plagued with hallucinations and out-of-body experiences that he dared not tell even the closest of family members. Creating paintings about his dreams, hallucinations, and experience of visions, brought him in touch with an emerging Disability Arts; a world where his images were appreciated and understood, rather than feared or judged, a place where he felt most at home. View more of Colin’s entrancing artworks here.

Colin Hambrook

14. Maria Iliou

Maria Iliou is a Greek artist who doesn’t let her Autism Spectrum Disorder get in the way of her success. Being a lifelong resident of Long Island, New York, she has been deeply involved as an advocate for the rights of Autistic people. As for her artworks, her subject matter varies from family life and picturesque scenes of nature to abstract. Maria has even organized her own Autism group, called the Athena Autistic Artist. This versatile artist also writes poetry in addition to creating mesmerizing artworks, and is soon to have a book of her poems published. Maria has also won several awards for her poetry and paintings. Maria paints in a variety of mediums, such as watercolors, acrylics, oils, and mixed media. View more Enthralling artworks by Maria here .

Maria Iliou

15. Edward Immar

Throughout his life, Edward’s appreciation of art is what made life worthwhile for him. While Edward’s mental impairment thwarted him from advancing in the business world, luck favored him in that he was able to raise a family before his disease progressed out of control. For years, he aspired to let his creative side come out and reign supreme, but he tried in vain at myriad methods of expression, until he took a fancy to digital photography. It inspired his senses in a way that brought some positive beauty back into his world. View more stunning artworks from Edward here.

Edward Immar

16. Mara Clawson

The gorgeous artworks of Mara are inspired by the beauty and colors she perceives in the world around her. She leverages oil pastels and charcoal to bring her compelling compositions of animals and people to life. Mara believes that the best art comes from the heart, and not the mind. This honest and emotional attitude towards artwork is echoed by each of her hypnotic creations. View a stunning array of her collection here.

17. Jonathan Glass

Jonathan Glass was first diagnosed with mental health issues in college, where he suffered through numerous schizophrenic episodes. His diagnosis was schizoaffective disorder and severe depression. For the first four-year phase of deep depression, Glass would take his sketch book around New York and developed a habit of deliberately drawing in the worst conditions New York had to offer. However, art helped Glass come out of that phase and now for the last ten years, he has entirely dedicated his time to hanging out at jazz clubs and sketching jazz performers in the midst of concerts, where he is famous for spreading out across tables and kinetically sketching to the rhythms of music. Check out more of his breathtaking sketches here .

Jonathan Glass

18. Emma Phillips

Emma Phillips, based in Branston, Staffordshire, UK, is a mixed media visual artist. After being laid off her job on accounts of her mental illness, Emma took her art up a notch by expressing her inner turmoil and the turbulence she suffered due to her enduring illness, Borderline Personality Disorder. Emma devoted her artistic ability to the mission of ASLI and became a major part of the change in the world, especially when it came to educating people about mental illness, addressing the design needs of disabled people, and eradicating the old stigma which people with mental health issues contend with almost on a daily basis. Check out more amazing artworks from Emma here.

Emma Phillips

19. Christopher Chronopoulos

Diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome as a teenager, Christopher Chronopoulos has spent his entire life in the Manhattan neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen. Christopher started attending Pure Vision Arts in 2011 to enhance his artistic interests. His work is influenced and inspired by his knowledge of the ancient world, interest in martial arts, and a Greek heritage. Chris has built an imposing collection of sculptures constructed from mixed media that portray weaponry from Viking, Medieval, Roman, and Greek cultures. View more awe-inspiring artworks by Christopher here.

Christopher Chronopoulos

20. Gilles Trehin

With its extensive infrastructure, its challenging architecture, and a sprawling population of 12 million, Urville is one of the most important cities in Europe (an imaginary city existing only in the mind of the Autistic savant artist). French artist Gilles Trehin has been meticulously developing and devising this whimsical megacity since the last 20 years, perfecting every detail from its stunning architectural features to fabricating its cultural context drawn from real world history. He even factored in WWII’s impact on the city and how it’s being altered by the forces of globalization.

Gilles Trehin

21. Payman Jazini

Payman is the consummate showman, loved for his cheerful spirit. Payman is so proud of his artwork that he happily escorts visitors to view his drawings. For Jazini, his family is an indispensable part of his life, which is why his artworks often appear autobiographical in nature, narrating stories of experiences with friends and family frequently. With his bright and vibrant color palette, his drawings exude optimism and happiness, and everything and everyone bares his trademark smile. View more amazing artworks by him here.

Payman Jazini

22. Ruby Elliot

After Ruby Elliot convalesced from Anorexia, she became Bulimic and fell prey to depression and self-harm, and was later diagnosed with a severe Bipolar disorder. From a tender age of 14, the talented author and illustrator found herself in a vicious cycle of hospitalization, with each return to the school ever more excruciatingly stressful.

Ever since she left education at the age of 17, her sketchbook was her only sanctuary from a life in "constant crisis mode". Drawing was her catharsis. The "inexplicable" nature of the mental health system proved to be her source of inspiration, from the mood stabilizers to an incessant stream of therapists.

While giving an Interview to BBC, Ruby says, "Often when I'm feeling really down I'll draw very silly things to take my mind off it all. Other times I might be feeling okay, but want to focus on something a little deeper or more serious."

Ruby Elliot

23. Richard Cloake

Richard has an illustrative quality of drawing, often based along themes consisting of his favorite things, such as Scooby Doo, Doctor Who, and Harry Potter. Down-syndrome hasn’t bereaved Richard of his creativity knack. Richard has a penchant for drawing and creates a score of images every day, especially when driven by white drawing paper and a brand new pack of black pens. We are awe-struck by Richard’s Imagination and attention to detail, such as deciding to draw a plane crash when traveling with his mom who has a fear of flying, augmenting the grotesque scenery with illustrations of the crash survivors being eaten by sharks in the sea.

Richard Cloake

24. Bobby Baker

Bobby Baker has always loved to explore the complexities and intricacies of an average human being’s routine life, but when she publically exhibited 158 of her 711 daily watercolors in a spectacular exhibit at the Welcome Collection, 'Diary Drawings: Mental Illness and Me' (1997-2008), she came out clean about her condition and what it means to live in her shoes. Her often excruciating vision has produced a profoundly important and singular body of artwork about the joys and struggles of living. Read on to know about her project.

Bobby Baker

25. Amanda LaMunyon

Ever since Amanda was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at an early age of 8, her spirits started to wane when she couldn’t fit in at school. However, she began to bloom once again when she adopted arts to express herself. She started to communicate through her mesmerizing paintings and has grown up with the goal of raising awareness for Autism causes. Currently, Amanda sells her artwork and a portion of the proceeds goes to raise money for improving the lives of Autistic children like her. Check out other works of Amanda here and be prepared to have your breath taken away.