Art is therapy. Art is work. (Power of Occupation)

Occupational Therapy for Long Covid are pleased to share people’s experiences of finding hope, purpose and meaning through occupation whilst experiencing Long Covid.

In the first post of what we hope will become a series Rosie, 17 and her father (members of the Long Covid Kids Community) share with us how she has used Art as both therapy and work – the way Rosie has engaged with Art encompasses self-care, productivity and leisure.

In May 2022, Rosie submitted her work to her AS-level art examiners. Among other core
elements of the course, Rosie focused on her experience of chronic illness.
Rosie is 17 and she has Long Covid. This is her exam piece.

Rosie became interested in how Long Covid has changed her life. From the bright and exciting future we all expect as young children, to the painful grey half-life of existence after a mild infection with SARS-COV-2.

So in her exam piece, she juxtaposed two photographs: one, in colour, from when she was little; the other, in monochrome, from this year. A Long Covid self-portrait. The colour is still there, but now it is fragmented, buried, jumbled up with her new self.

She made other works exploring this theme.

In this one, she took the same image of herself as a little girl but reflected on how the colour has drained away from the life that she lived then, leaving a fragmented patchwork of colour and grey.

As a parent, it is awful to witness these creative howls of pain. Yet it is also wonderful that Rosie has found a release for the darkness, frustration, ache and longing.

The community arts people have recently recognised both Rosie’s talent, and the power in her work. She has been given a slot to exhibit in Lisburn City Council’s Island Arts Centre later in the year.

For a young woman who has been disabled by post-viral illness at 17, it is wonderful to have this opportunity. Not many artists get a solo exhibition so young.

This is, of course, great. Great to have a creative outlet. And also to build her skills before starting a new Art and Design course at Belfast Met in September.

But this is not the whole story: before Long Covid took hold of Rosie, she was making and selling art through her Facebook page.

Part of what she has offered are what she calls Faceless Friend portraits, which she hand paints from customers’ treasured photos to give as gifts.

And she made little canvases to sell as stocking fillers.

It is wonderful for a chronically ill artist to make herself some income through art. It’s been a boost to her self-esteem as well as her pocket. Having something positive to do when she has the energy is powerful, too. As long as customers understand that, at the moment, it takes her a bit longer to work (she needs plenty of rest periods) than it did, then it is super for Rosie to know she can work, be productive, and work towards supporting herself.

Lately she has tried signwriting for a local café…

…and making line drawings to order of people’s favourite flowers.

Most of all, it is crucial for Rosie to let the world know that, despite the very real challenges ahead, she is still here.

Rosie’s ultimate aim is art college and then to train in art therapy to help others learn how to express their pain through images or other creative ways. 

Rosie takes commissions via her Facebook page. Prices start from £25 + postage for bespoke Faceless Friend portraits. If you’d like to get in touch, she would love to hear from you.

If you have a story to share about the Power of Occupation during your Long Covid experience please email us at and do feel free to add any comments on this post below, or on twitter.

A huge thank you to Rosie and her father for sharing.

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