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Art & Life with Priya Rama

Today we’d like to introduce you to Priya Rama, migraine artist.

Priya, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
My paintings are born from visions I ‘see’ inside my head during a migraine. A few years ago, my working life came to a standstill due to the increasing frequency and severity of my chronic migraines. One particular migraine was more vivid and colorful than usual, and I decided to paint it. That was the beginning of this newfound artistic career.

I have been an artist for as long as I can remember. I painted whatever I was drawn to—landscapes, florals, figures, Indian themes/motifs, and pen and ink drawings. I have worked as a copywriter, graphic designer and elementary school teacher. Along the way, I completed my BFA in Communication Arts and Design from Virginia Commonwealth University, Master’s in Art Education from DAAP at the University of Cincinnati and Doctoral Studies in Arts Administration, Education and Policy from The Ohio State University, with the intent to pursue a career in art education. But the migraines got in the way. Or perhaps I should say that the migraines put me on a more fulfilling path. Today, I say proudly that I am “an artist”: this is what I do; this is what I am.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I experience. Then, I paint. When a migraine comes on, following the tightening pressure and pain, colors and shapes slowly flood my mind. This is not something that I can control. The images just appear! It is an almost dreamlike state, wherein I’m physically down, but the mind awakens! Capturing what I ‘see’ on to my canvas is what I strive for. The textures, vibrant colors, depth and dimensions dance and permeate my mind, my being.

Painting through a migraine isn’t easy, but I have slowly trained myself to do just a bit more with each episode. Paying attention to the imagery is a meditative process, with the mind and body becoming one. When I can’t get out of bed, I am able to recall the imagery at a later time and commit that to canvas.

I paint with acrylics because there is no odor and they dry quickly. My paintings have layers and layers of colors, textures and shimmer. This enables me to develop the kind of translucency and richness that I see inside my head. Every mark made on the canvas is a deliberate one, yet I’m not completely aware of doing so. The process of painting doesn’t cure the migraine, but it slows down my breathing, calms and relaxes me and makes me less angry about yet another interruption to my day/life. The more I paint, and I paint every day, the more dynamic these images are becoming!

I really hope that when people look at my work, they are not turned off by the source, rather are mesmerized by the mind’s beauty. I hope that the wider medical community and the public in general, take note at what the brain can do!

I would urge people to do something creative during moments of pain, stress, or any negativity. It doesn’t matter whether you are skilled or not. The important thing is to just do. Doodle, scribble, color, draw, paint, make…And, take art classes or workshops, whenever and wherever you can. Explore, learn, and have fun!

Do you think conditions are generally improving for artists? What more can cities and communities do to improve conditions for artists?
There are plenty of opportunities for artists to show and share their work through art galleries, art fairs etc. However, the public doesn’t seem to understand the importance and value of supporting artists or owning original works of art. With advances in printing technology today, you get beautiful prints at low prices. Consequently, people expect originals at print prices. Also, patronage of the arts and artists is not at the levels it used to be.

Cities can initiate and foster more art programs, develop art/gallery walks, widen art education, and offer more art-making opportunities. Cities can also identify more local artists and present them regular chances to display their work. Finally, feature more artist stories in local publications, just like Voyage Chicago is doing!

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
I’m represented by ADC Gallery, Gallery 708 in Cincinnati, OH; 124 Pike Street Gallery in Covington, KY; online at,, and

Follow along #priyaramaart #migraineartist #transformingpainintobeauty. I also regularly participate in art fairs and do gallery shows. Updated information can be found on my website.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
©Priya Rama

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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