1 December 2023 in Illustration
Earlier this year we worked with the fantastic illustrator Natasha Chitolie to create some artwork for an information leaflet about “topical steroid withdrawal”, a debilitating condition that can arise from the use of corticosteroids, commonly prescribed to treat skin problems such as eczema.
Recovery from topical steroid withdrawal (TSW) requires discontinuing use of corticosteroids, resulting in a cluster of withdrawal symptoms, the main identifying symptoms being erythema (abnormal redness of skin, resembling a sunburn, or darkening depending on skin tone), and intense itching, burning, stinging. It can take months to years before symptoms abate, often having profound impacts on quality of life physically, emotionally, socially, and financially.
Common places for TSW rashes to start/intensify are on the face, neck and hands, so we concentrated on these areas in our illustrations. As anyone can be affected by TSW, we wanted to represent a range of ages and ethnicities, so chose to create four digital portraits to resemble a range of demographics.
These portraits show rashes in varying positions, and we also featured different rashes on an assortment of hands, wrists and arms, one highlighting “red sleeves”, a common TSW rash that is sparing of the palms and soles.
Our aim was to help create a leaflet that was engaging and intriguing, and so we wanted to avoid photo-real illustrations which can come across as rather sterile. Natasha’s digital paint style had a perfect amount of warmth and emotion that perfectly suited the style that we were aiming for. Natasha did a fantastic job in visually depicting the effects of TSW on the skin. And because TSW is not just a physical condition; it also takes a toll on mental health and quality of life, we also believe Natasha managed to capture this holistic perspective, ensuring that both the physical and emotional aspects of the condition were addressed.
It’s been fantastic to work on this project. Incorporating art into medical information leaflets, especially for conditions like TSW, can evoke empathy and connect with the viewer on an emotional level. When individuals see visual representations of the suffering caused by TSW, they may better empathise with those who are going through it, which can lead to increased awareness and support for the condition.