‘Me and My Brain’ – Art Competition winners announced!

art competition

During Autumn 2020, EFNA ran a competition on the theme ‘Me and my brain’. The public were invited to create a drawing, painting, collage or digital illustration representing their relationship with their brain, through artwork that explores their hopes, frustrations, or the day to day impact a neurological disorder has on their life.

83 artworks were received from across Europe. The standard, as you will see, was incredibly high. Our judges were extremely impressed by the artistic skill demonstrated and also moved by the meaningful nature of the works and their accompanying stories.

We are pleased today to announce the winners (one overall winner and four runners up).

First place winner:
(€500 prize)

Stacy Hart - United Kingdom

‘Marshmallow Head’

Stacy Hart
United Kingdom

“Apart from extreme exhaustion that hits like a torpedo, Just one of the many symptoms of the complex debilitating condition known as M.E (Myalgic encephalomyelitis) Is cognitive impairment. It often feels like my brain is a wall of marshmallow and the thoughts that I have and the words I want to speak are somewhere right at the back behind it all and they are all jumbled and to process them more clearly so that I can verbalise them I have to try and get them to the front which requires trying to squeeze them through this thick spongy blob. Sometimes it works… and other times they still come through jumbled.”

Runners up:
(€125 prizes)

Debbie Ayles - United Kingdom

‘Cityscape III, Canary Wharf’

Debbie Ayles
United Kingdom

“For many years I suffered terrible basilar migraines which totally disrupted my life. As well as headaches and sickness I experienced fragmentation of vision, twinkling, pulsing of colours and shapes, overlaying of images and my vision becoming two dimensional or ‘flattened’. I didn’t understand anything about aura.
Through a series of chance opportunities I met researchers in visual disturbance and learnt more about them and their impact on my artwork. In fact I was told my paintings displayed migraine aura many years before I began to experience migraine. I discovered my choice and distribution of colours were actually causing photosensitivity and break-through migraines on top of hormonal ones. I didn’t realise that I was painting the ‘twinkling, pulsing’ aura effect in my work. I was fortunate to collaborate with experts in ‘migraine art’ and discover how I could paint, use the colours I love and not trigger migraines.
I usually just have aura but am mindful of not using particular colours or patterns in a structured or linear way. The fragmentation of the picture plane and the ‘flatness’ continues in my work as it now illustrates that fleeting glimpse of something – when only bits of a view are logged by the brain and it ‘re-constructs’ the missing elements.
I have used architecture from the start, initially buildings supported by scaffolding. Unconsciously at first I began to realise these were a metaphor for the support network that surrounded me during those dreadful times.
Networks and grids are still dominant in my work, created by focusing on isolating the shapes of office or apartment windows for example, symbolising the little worlds where people work or live which can be lonely and dislocated from the outside world. Just like the experience of suffering migraine alone or retreating from the world until they have passed.
My artwork is primarily created as an object of enjoyment, a visual escape, a puzzle to explore or a chance for contemplation.
‘Cityscape III Canary Wharf’ was one of the first I painted after migraines reduced and I was able to enjoy the world of colour again.”


Danielle Sysmans - Belgium

‘Lost in my head’

Danielle Sysmans

“Hello, my name is Danielle and I live in Belgium.
I have had MS for many years. Decreased cognition is one of my main symptoms. MS is different for everyone. For me, next to my cognition problems I also have difficulty walking. Sometimes I can’t find the right words, I also forget a lot. My brain feels like a maze in which I continuously am searching for the right direction.


Melanie Hobday - United Kingdom

‘In water I am free’

Melanie Hobday
United Kingdom

“I’ve had cervical dystonia for 24 years and I have been a regular swimmer for most of those years. I find swimming helps me to manage my dystonia by strengthening and balancing my muscles. It is retraining for my brain. In the water I feel free, I move through it slowly and as effortlessly as possible, mindful of the rhythm of my breath and the flow of my movements.”


Ioana Dobroiu - Romania


Ioana Dobriou

“Hi, my name is Ioana and I am a MS patient. I have created a medtech/ digital health solution for ms patients MSing with Trauma (https://msingwithtrauma.wixsite.com/home) , that converts MRI images of invisible disease into therapeutic music compositions. Designed for MS patients to have neurological and psychological effects. This project was born out of my love of technology, art and music.
‘Scattered’ is about when you piece yourself together after a ms attack.”

Congratulations to each of these fantastic winners!
And thank you to all those who entered. This was a close contest and we appreciate all of your work. A gallery of all the competition entries can be found here: https://www.efna.net/brainlifegoals/art-gallery/

Thank you also to our judging panel – Richard Roche, Alexandra Heumber Perry, Joanna Kniaz-Hawrot and Elizabeth Cunningham.

Alongside this art competition, EFNA ran a colouring competition for children. Congratulations to our winner, Szofia Dianis (age 6) from Hungary. Her entry is shown below. Congratulations also to the runners-up: Oliver Hokkanen (age 7, Finland), Rose Tobin Nnabuife (age 6, Ireland), Philip McCoy (age 7, Ireland) and Mustafa Bhatty (age 6, United Kingdom).  Your prizes are on their way!

All entries to the colouring competition can be seen here.

My little daughter Szofia is a six year old preschooler, and lives in a small Hungarian village. Her favorite pastime is drawing, painting, coloring. She found the topic of the human brain interesting, and we talked a lot about it in relation to the competition. She created the work with great love and enthusiasm, because she loves plush toys. She made the coloring completly independently based on her own fantasy.
Szofia Dianis, 6, Hungary