Sandra Woods
Art despite pain

In the news

(posted on 10 Dec 2023)

Last week, during Miami Art Week, Pantone announced the "Color of the Year" for 2024. The trendiest colour for next year has been named as... "Pantone 13-1023 TCX", or "Peach Fuzz". 
As soon as I saw the colour swatch, I realized that I'd seen this shade just a few days earlier - in the last watercolour that I'd painted!
This colour is described by Pantone as:
"A warm and cozy shade highlighting our desire for togetherness with others or for enjoying a moment of stillness and the feeling of sanctuary this creates ... Peach Fuzz presents a fresh approach to a new softness." ~ From the Pantone website.

I was aiming to express a sense of peacefulness and sun-kissed warmth in my painting, so their description could fit.
Apparently I was just a bit ahead of the curve in creating this now-fashionable shade with my watercolour pigments. Or more likely, this was simply a coincidence.
Either way, enjoy this painting of what I call the "Sentinel" tree. It’s lives in a forest clearing within walking distance of my home, and I walk past it often.

(posted on 3 Dec 2023)

The special Holiday Art Exhibition at the Trestler House national historic site (La Maison Trestler, in French) is drawing to a close, and will wrap on December 19, 2023. There's still time to get out to Vaudreuil-Dorion for a visit, just a few minutes west of Montréal Island.

The site includes not only the gallery spaces, but also a local history museum recounting the past 225 years of the area. It's well worth a visit, as are its stunning lakefront grounds.

The final day of this art show will also mark the end of the site's 225th anniversary celebrations, as Trestler House will then close until after the New Year; it won't reopen until January 2024. 

The current exhibition features holiday-themed pieces from thirty or so local visual artists, in a variety of mediums. My watercolour painting - of pinecones, pine boughs, and red berries - entitled "Festive boughs", is just one example.

Opening hours for this exhibition are Tuesdays through Fridays from 0900 to noon, as well as from 1300 to 1630.

On Sundays the opening hours are from 1300 to 1600. Trestler House is closed on both Saturdays and Mondays.

As they host occasional private events, Trestler House suggests calling before each visit to ensure that they’ll be open: 450.455.6290.

La Maison Trestler

85 chemin de la Commun

Vaudreuil-Dorion, Québec J7V 2C3 



(posted on 26 Nov 2023)

I have an event coming up that's art-related, but not in a way that you might expect.
Earlier this year I presented a 3-hour guest lecture to students in a pre-medicine program at a local university, on "Perception & Pain", as one class in their 300-level psychology course. It was such a success that the students asked their professor to have me give another guest lecture. 
My second 3-hour talk was on "The Limbic System", as part of a 200-level psychology course "Brain & Behaviour".
That second class covered the basics of the Limbic System, and how it relates to anxiety, chronic pain, depression, PTSD, and other health issues.

In two weeks I'll be giving a shortened one-hour talk at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), here in Montréal, based on my second pre-med lecture.
My new presentation will focus on the body's Limbic System, and how it affects chronic pain. You may have heard the Limbic System referred to as the "Fight or Flight" response, or as the body's "Stress Response" to danger and other challenges.
This talk, for the MUHC's Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit (AEPMU), will include my art practice and other forms of art.
I'll be describing many of the techniques and 'tools' that I use to calm my own Fight or Flight response, to try to calm my high-impact chronic pain from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).
Some of these tools, of course, are art-creation and art-appreciation - along with listening to different forms of music, and even dancing.
In 2021 I began learning to paint and sketch specifically because of my rare pain condition, so I'm looking forward to sharing this more positive aspect of my pain-patient journey with others.

This is another example of how my Art Despite Pain #ArtDespitePain initiative combines my art practice with my volunteer chronic pain advocacy, awareness, and education activities.
Unfortunately this event is reserved for team members and patients of the AEPMU pain clinic, so I've hidden the log-in information on the hospital network's poster.

(posted on 18 Nov 2023)

I’m truly honoured to have my chronic pain awareness activities and #ArtDespitePain initiative featured in the Fall 2023 Newsletter of the Canadian Pain Society (CPS). The CPS is Canada’s national organization for pain science, pain research, and pain medicine, bringing together clinicians, researchers, students, trainees, and people like me who live with chronic pain and advocate for others still suffering with pain:

"The CPS connects healthcare professionals, scientists, researchers, policymakers, and people with lived experience through evidence-based education.
Our purpose is to drive innovation through advancement and advocacy and revolutionize access and care for those living with pain.
The Canadian Pain Society is a chapter of the International Association for the Study of Pain, and “has been a leader in pain research, education, and advocacy since our inauguration in 1974.
It’s a feature of the almost 50-year history that the Society has retained the Chapter’s core belief of fostering an all-inclusive national network of multi-disciplinary members.
Championed by a history of distinguished presidents from a wealth of disciplines, we continually cultivate our contributions to evidence-based education in the face of ongoing voids in health care.” ~ CPS website


The current CPS Newsletter features two of my recent patient advocacy and awareness activities, both part of my Art Despite Pain initiative to increase awareness of chronic pain through art. This initiative uses my art practice and art-learning as means to help manage my own pain condition – and the resulting artworks are applied to raising awareness of pain, for all who suffer with pain conditions.

My Art Despite Pain activities encompass my volunteer work on projects with organizations including the CPS, the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists, the Pain Science Division of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association, and university health faculties across Canada.

You can read the CPS Newsletter piece here, as a series of four screenshots, as the actual Newsletter is restricted to members of the CPS: 

​Screenshot 1:


Screenshot 2:

Screenshot 3:

Screenshot 4:

Thanks so much for stopping by, and feel free to leave a comment over in the Guestbook section - I always love to hear from you.

(posted on 11 Nov 2023)

On Remembrance Day I'm thinking of family members and absent friends ...
And all those still in uniform - and their loved ones.
Mostly of my dad, who proudly served on the HMCS Restigouche in the era when she was a new cutting-edge vessel of the Royal Canadian Navy.
Also of my great aunt Flossie Ross, one of the rare women Pipers of WWII, serving with the Canadian Women's Army Corps.
And my uncle Geoff Turrell who served in the British Army during WWII, fighting Rommel's troops in the deserts of North Africa, in horrific conditions.
Of a younger friend gone far too soon, Sgt Chris Karigiannis, 1975-2007.
Lest We Forget.

The first Monday of November is CRPS Awareness Day, an appropriate way to begin National Pain Awareness Week here in Canada.
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is best known for "excess and prolonged pain and inflammation that can occur following an injury or other medical event such as surgery, trauma, stroke, or heart attack.
Although CRPS can occur anywhere in the body, it usually affects an arm, leg, hand, or foot...
If you have CRPS you will have changing combinations of spontaneous pain or excess pain that is much greater than normal following something as mild as a touch.
Other symptoms include changes in skin color, temperature, and/or swelling on the arm or leg below the site of injury.
Although CRPS improves over time, eventually going away in most people, the severe or prolonged cases are profoundly disabling.
Because of the varied symptoms, the fact that symptoms may change over time, and the difficulty finding a positive cause in some cases, CRPS is hard to treat.
There is no treatment that rapidly cures CRPS."
There are also "associated cognitive, physical, and emotional symptoms" with chronic CRPS, particularly after several years with this condition - including the CRPS-related mild cognitive impairment that ended my bioethics career in 2018.
This is why I began learning to paint in 2021, as a form of brain-plasticity training for my cognitive issues as well as movement-therapy for my severely-affected right hand and arm.
My Art Despite Pain initiative uses the resulting artworks raise awareness of CRPS and other chronic pain conditions.
The information quoted above is from the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH):

NINDS webpage for CRPS 

The Trestler House historic site (La Maison Trestler, in French) is celebrating its 225th anniversary this year, and has chosen to cap off 2023 with a special Holiday Exhibition. I'm honoured to have been included in this event, and to have one of my watercolours on display in such a stunning setting.

Running from October 26 through December 19, 2023, this exhibition features the works of more than thirty local artists in a variety of mediums. And in keeping with the theme of this art show each piece has a holiday motif, including my watercolour painting of pinecones and berries entitled "Festive boughs". 

Opening hours for this exhibition are Tuesdays through Fridays from 0900 to noon, and then from 1300 to 1630, or on Sundays from 1300 to 1600. Trestler House is closed on Saturdays and Mondays. As they host occasional private events, Trestler House suggests calling before each visit to ensure that they’ll be open: 450.455.6290.

Although we don't have snow on the ground yet in Montréal, I've posted a photo that I took of Trestler House last winter as it looks so festive with the surrounding snow!

La Maison Trestler, 85 chemin de la Commune, Vaudreuil-Dorion, Québec J7V 2C3 

This weekend I'm participating in the juried 2003 "Gathering of Artisans" in Montréal, being hosted in the lovely lakeside community of Baie d'Urfé. Taking place today from 1000 to 1600, and on Sunday from 1000 to 1500, this is a fantastic opportunity to come out and meet local artisans and artists. 

The art and artisan fair is being held in two adjacent buildings, the Baie d'Urfé Curling Club and The Red Barn recreational centre. My booth features a number of my watercolour paintings as well as  information about chronic pain, as part of my Art Despite Pain (#ArtDespitePain) pain awareness initiative.

Feel free to drop by and say hi! I'm in The Red Barn, just past the big Canadian flag hanging from the ceiling. There's a lovely vibe here this weekend, with a few food trucks set up between the two buildings and already plenty of people dropping by to chat.

With more than thirty-five juried artisans and artists, and a number of food and other vendors, there are about fifty booths set up so far!

Free parking for this event is available at the Whiteside Taylor Centre/Library (20551 Lakeshore Road and then take the sidewalk towards the right) and the Curling Club parking lot (63 Churchill Road, Baie d'Urfé).

My biggest art event of this year is coming up next weekend, so I spent most of the day packaging original watercolour paintings for tabletop displays. After getting my latest covid and flu vaccinations this morning, that is.
Taking place on both Saturday and Sunday, October 28 and 29, the 2023 "Gathering of Artisans" is being held in a charming waterfront area of Montréal Island, in support of the Baie d'Urfé Curling Club.
More than thirty-five local artisans and artists were juried into this indoor art fair, spread across two adjacent buildings on this site:
. The Curling Club; and
. The Red Barn.
My watercolour paintings will be on display in The Red Barn, along with information on my "Art Despite Pain" chronic pain initiative.

. The Red Barn: 20609 Lakeshore Road.
. Curling Club: 63 Churchill Road.
Parking for both buildings will be at 63 Churchill Road, Baie d'Urfé, Québec.

Event hours:
Saturday  1000 to 1600, Oct 28
Sunday     1000 to 1500, Oct 29

Featuring a wide variety of artisanal and art works, this event will include "decorative painting, woodworking, wire art, chocolatier, sewing, knitting, jewellery, soaps and much more" (via

The annual Gathering of Artisans is the perfect opportunity to pick up locally-made gifts for birthdays, holidays, hostesses/hosts, or special occasions - or something for yourself.

For anyone who's looking for easy-to-mail gifts, I've created custom art-mailers, featuring my painting of a Kingfisher [shown on my poster, below].
Each art-mailer can hold either a 4 x 6" or a 5 x 7" original watercolour painting, matted to 8 x 10" [using acid-free mats, backboards, & framing-tape].
The recipient can then pop the (unframed) matted painting and backboard out of its protective sleeve and into any 8 x 10" frame that they already have lying around - even a photo frame.
If you're in the area and planning to visit, please stop by early for the best selection.
Each of my watercolours is an original painting - no reproductions - so once a particular scene is gone, it's gone!

(posted on 15 Oct 2023)

My husband and I recently spent a few days in the Lake Placid area, hiking in the High Peaks region of the Adirondack Mountains in northern New York State. This has been one of our favourite places to visit ever since I introduced him to this spot during our honeymoon, almost thirty years ago.
He'd never done any alpine hiking before, but happily agreed to try it. So we got him good hiking boots, wool socks, a backpack, and a few other outdoor sports goodies.
At that point I was still a reserve officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force, an aircrew (wilderness) survival instructor with my Squadron, so I already had plenty of hiking equipment.
As you may have guessed, because I convinced my better half to spend our honeymoon hiking, I already adored this outdoor sport - along with its winter counterpart; snowshoeing. From the first few steps of his very first alpine hike - two days after our wedding - thankfully he also fell in love with hiking, particularly in those mountains.
This weekend was our twenty-ninth wedding anniversary, and we now stay in a hotel and choose slightly shorter hikes; our days of ten-hour hiking routes are likely behind us! And that's fine, because we continue to enjoy the time outdoors together - and each summit still feels like a challenge ... and a victory.
Because when I was diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) in 2016, now called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), we didn't know whether I'd ever be able to complete summit hikes again.
Although I don't take the time to paint while on the mountain trails, I did bring my travel easel and a small selection of watercolour painting supplies on this trip.
Our hotel room had a balcony overlooking Mirror Lake and the surrounding mountains, so I was able to get out for scenic plein-air painting whenever we'd spend any time in our room.
It was rather chilly, just above the freezing point most mornings, so these plein-air paintings were very quick studies - with lots of clouds as we had quite a bit of rain during this trip.
I'm already feeling inspired to paint a number of these scenes, along with many others that I photographed during our hikes. Although we had been visiting the Lake Placid area several times a year for twenty-five years, the last time we were there was four years ago - before the pandemic began.
It was wonderful to be back, and to reconnect with the mountains that we both adore. Keep an eye out for watercolour paintings of the Adirondack Mountains this winter, when I get back to doing studio paintings indoors - when it's too icy or cold for me to do plein-air painting off the back of my bicycle.

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