Art in the Type 1 diabetes community


Hello, and welcome to my editorial My name is Weronika Burkot (@blue_sugar_cube), I am a Polish artist and content creator based in Belgium. I’ve been living with Type 1 diabetes since 1995. I create diabetes art to inspire, motivate and support the diabetes community. Among others, I love to travel, I am passionate about cooking (love carbs) and I have a soft spot for cute stuff (such as unicorns).

The therapeutic role of art

Art functions as an intermediary between your brain and who you are as a person. It works on the thought level, the feeling level, and behavioral level. Through the art process, we are acting out emotions. When creating art, our defenses go down and it allows our unconscious self to come out. Creating art can effectively support our thinking in many ways, like igniting our intuition, bringing beauty into our lives, helping us understand more, developing our imagination and communication with other people.

“Art Therapy is a Mental Health Profession that uses the creative process of art-making to improve and enhance the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages. It is based on the belief that the creative process involved in artistic self-expression helps people to resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight.” – The American Art Therapy Association

It is normal to see a doctor when we feel unwell but is still seen as an embarrassment to see mental health professionals when we struggle in life. This misconception can stop people from getting the help that they need. Going to therapy is not a sign of sickness or weakness but indicators of strengths and survivals. 

Life with diabetes brings us many challenges every day. Diabetes is often unpredictable, and this can be very frustrating. Anyone living with diabetes knows that having a chronic disease can affect both mental and physical health. Constant checking, testing, estimating, calculating, observing, and solving various diabetes-related issues without even a single day off. Feelings of frustration, exhaustion, and even hopelessness can build up and, if ignored, potentially lead to more serious mental health problems. It is not a secret that people with diabetes are at greater risk of depression and suicide than the general population. 

For many people with diabetes, it is hard to talk about their problems. Image-making makes a good tool because words can be hard to find, and they can be even harder to speak when you are traumatized or overwhelmed with some event, e.g., diabetes diagnosis. When you express yourself creatively, the tension is released and in the art form you can see your problem, you can touch your problem, you have the chance to contemplate, reflect and find ways to cope with it. The method is different, but the goal is the same: to have a more fulfilling life.

Type 1 diabetes artists community

With the advent of many amazing diabetes artists, diabetes became a part of the art world. These artists are striving to make a change for the diabetes community through their creativity. They are not only inspiring, motivating and making people with diabetes smile, but also raising awareness by showing life with diabetes in an original, visual way. As it is often said that “A picture is worth a thousand words”.

Instagram @appletonpictures

Appleton is an artist and photographer from the USA. He has been living with Type 1 diabetes since 1977. With his art, Appleton wants to show people with diabetes that they are not alone and inspire them to carry on. He is often creating street art to raise awareness by making passersby wonder what they see (one might even call him “diabetes Banksy”). In his works, he often uses the iconic 10 mL insulin vials, which he has been collecting since his diagnosis.

Instagram @missdiabetes

Janina is an illustrator from New Zealand. She has been living with Type 1 diabetes since 1994. She is creating relatable comic strips about all ups and downs of life with T1D. In her artworks, you can find many references to pop culture. Through her art, Janina is also often commenting on current events in health and political scene, with focus on diabetes-related topics .

Instagram @thediabeticsurvivor

The Diabetic Survivor is a visual designer from the USA. He has been living with Type 1 diabetes since 1997. He created The Diabetic Survivor to raise diabetes awareness using design to connect with, raise questions, and empower people with diabetes. He wants to bring some joy and happiness to the diabetes community by touching certain aspects of the “diabetes world”. Among his various illustrations, he is sharing interesting facts from the history of diabetes in “The Diabetes Time-Machine” series.

Instagram @gina.pillina

Gina is an illustrator and designer from Mexico. She studied graphic design and got a Master’s degree in 3D animation. She has been living with Type 1 diabetes since 2007. She loves expressing herself through her characters. Gina Pillina is the funny protagonist of her comic strips. Gina wanted to create a character with diabetes that could be beloved not only by the diabetes community, but also by people who are not familiar with diabetes.

Instagram @diabetesbydesign

Alex is a digital designer from Scotland. She has been living with Type 1 diabetes since 2018. She creates captivating diabetes awareness posters that are touching on all the aspects of living with diabetes. Alex had an opportunity to present her art at the “Diabetes by Design” exhibition in Edinburg. She proved that you can turn around your diagnosis into a passionate project.

You can find more inspiring diabetes art on Instagram by looking up hashtags:
#diabetesart #diabetesartist #diabetesillustration #diabetesdoodles #diabetescartoons

My art story

I am a Polish artist and illustrator based in Belgium. I have been living with Type 1 diabetes since 1995. Art has always been a big part of my life. Sketchbooks were my safe place and canvas my confessional. I learned that art has healing powers and it helped me go through difficult times. I started creating diabetes art to support the diabetes community and show my unique perspective on life with this chronic disease.

Instagram @typeone.bluesugarcube

Doodle and explore. Draw what you feel, visualize your dream, paint a heartwarming memory… Have fun exploring and discovering yourself. Get in touch with your inner self and find out more about who you are. Your artworks do not have to be pieces of high art. What matters is how you express yourself, how you make sense of your art, and how you find connections between your art and your inner life. We are all artists in our own way.

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