Creating the above design and trying to find the right words to write this I am overwhelmed by a mixture of emotions – pride, frustration, determination and despair. My journey as a self-taught autistic artist has been a rollercoaster of highs and lows, victories and defeats, but above all, it has been a testament to the power of perseverance in the face of adversity – something that isn’t always easy to embrace.

Being nominated and a finalist for these awards in such a short time, and also winning my first award last year, all while navigating the uncharted waters of my condition without any external support, has been both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it has validated my talent and hard work, showing me that my art has the ability to touch hearts and inspire minds. On the other hand, it is a lonely and exhausting road, full with challenges that most people cannot comprehend.

Living with a condition that is still being investigated – Autism, ADHD, C-PTSD, brain scans – has magnified the impact of my daily struggles. The overwhelming sensory input, the constant battle with intrusive thoughts, memories and nightmares, the relentless search for validation and understanding in a world that often dismisses or misunderstands neurodiversity – these are the demons I face day in and day out.

The lack of support from the mental health system, and at times, the outright ignorance and disbelief I have encountered, have only added fuel to the fire of my determination. The feeling of hopelessness and emptiness that often creeps in is all too familiar, but it is outweighed by a stubborn resolve to keep fighting, to keep creating, to keep pushing for change.

Autistic individuals have a strong sense of justice and fairness, often advocating for equality and standing up against injustice. They have a keen eye for detail and may approach situations with a logical and principled perspective, valuing honesty and integrity in their interactions with others.

What does it mean to be a self-taught autistic artist nominated for awards, battling inner and outer demons, and still standing tall? It means showing the next generation that resilience knows no bounds, that persistence can help pave the way for societal change, and that art has the power to change and transform how you process your emotions, feelings and thoughts.

I feel like a small voice in a sea of noise, but I know that my voice matters as so many relate to my words. I know that by sharing my story, by creating art that speaks from the soul, by refusing to be silenced by the stigma and ignorance that surround neurodiverse and mental health conditions, I am making a difference, no matter how insignificant it may seem to me sometimes.

To all the dreamers and fighters out there, to all the kids who feel lost and alone, to all the artists who use their pain as fuel for creation – never give up! Your voice matters. Your art matters. You matter.

It’s more than just Art..