Sandra Woods
Art despite pain

A bit about me

My art is inspired by the natural world, from the beauty of our landscapes to the intricate details of the fauna and flora that surround us. I’m intrigued by particular moments outdoors; the reflection of sunlight off the petal of a flower at dawn, or the glimpse of a wild animal in an urban setting. 

After being diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) in 2016, a rare autoimmune and neuro-inflammatory disease, I began using my nature photography to raise awareness of chronic pain conditions.

To-date, two of my nature photos have been recognized. From October 2018 through May 2019, one was included in the juried public art exposition “New Beginnings” - presented by the RBC Art & Heritage Centre in Montréal in collaboration with the McGill University Health Network (MUHC) - in the main entrance of the Montréal General Hospital.
In August 2021, one of my photos took second place with an Honourable Mention in the national “State of the Forest” nature photography contest run by The Bateman Foundation; a non-profit nature-art initiative established by Robert Bateman, one of Canada’s preeminent wildlife artists.

In early 2021 I expanded my artistic horizons by learning to paint, to help deal with the chronic neuropathic pain and cognitive impairment from CRPS. My goal was to create impressionistic yet identifiable scenes. While most beginners opt to learn with acrylic or oil paints, I rarely shy away from a challenge. I’ve always been drawn to the transparency and luminosity of watercolours, so adopted this as my medium. 

My watercolours, both plein-air and in studio, embody a form of joyful stylized realism. I've participated in more than twenty gallery and online exhibitions to-date, and two  of my paintings have won awards; the national Art Awards of the Canadian Pain Society in 2021, and the City of Montréal's Pierrefonds Art Contest in 2022.

In addition to the regular challenges of painting with watercolours, I also cope with a mild cognitive impairment as a result of my CRPS along with its chronic neuropathic pain in my right – dominant – hand and arm. I create Art Despite Pain (#ArtDespitePain); happy, playful paintings and photographs that celebrate life and the beauty of nature.



Dec 2022
1st prize, City of Montréal Art Contest ("Pierrefonds Art Contest"), in the Amateur Artist category for "Watercolour & Gouache" paintings (for a watercolour)
Nov 2021 1st prize, “Imagining Pain” Art Awards, Canadian Pain Society (for a watercolour)
Aug 2021 2nd prize, “State of the Forest” Contest, The Bateman Foundation (for a nature photo)


Solo exhibitions

Apr 2024 Upcoming: Solo watercolour show, McGill School of Continuing Studies (MSCS) lounge; Sherbrooke Street West, Montréal


Group exhibitions & Art fairs (juried*)

Oct-Dec 2023 "225th Anniversary Christmas Exhibition", Trestler House Historic Site, Vaudreuil-Dorion, near Montréal * 
28-29 Oct 2023 "Gathering of Artisans" art & artisan show, The Red Barn, Baie d'Urfé (Montréal Island) *
Sep-Oct 2023 "Tune into YES", Le Lion d'Or (The Golden Lion), Montréal, and paired online show
Sep-Oct 2023 Autumn "Art Expo d'Art", West Island Artists' Circle, Pierrefonds Cultural Centre, Montréal
Jul 2023 "Marvelous Montréal", Artists in Montréal, Valmi Gallery, Montréal, benefitting St. Justine’s Hospital *
Jun-Jul 2023 "Pierrefonds Art Contest Exhibition", City of Montreal, Pierrefonds Cultural Centre *
May 2023 "Women in Nature", Women’s Art Society of Montréal (WASM), Gallery Gora, Montréal *
Apr-May 2023 "Pain and Social Life", Art Awards, Canadian Pain Society, Virtual *
Mar-Apr 2023 "Spring Show", West Island Artists’ Circle, Pierrefonds Cultural Centre, Montréal
Jan-Mar 2023 "Entre-Nous, 225th Anniversary", Trestler House Historic Site, Vaudreuil-Dorion, near Montréal
Feb 2023 "Valentine Virtual Art Show", Artists in Montréal, Virtual
Jan-Feb 2023 "Painted Postcards", Laguna Plein Air Painters Association, LPAPA Gallery, Laguna Beach, CA; USA
Dec-Jan 2022/3 "Pierrefonds Art Contest Exhibition", City of Montreal, Pierrefonds Library, Montréal; 1st Prize *
Sep 2022 “Fall Exhibition”, West Island Artists’ Circle, Kirkland Library, Montréal
07 Aug 2022 “What the Pop!” outdoor art fair, YES Montréal, Village of Hudson, outside Montréal *
Aug 2022 “In my childhood”, Artists in Montréal, Virtual , to benefit the Make it Matter charity for children
May 2022 “Chrysalis”, Women’s Art Society of Montréal (WASM), Galerie Gora, Montréal *
May 2022 “Pain and Mental Health”, Art Awards, Canadian Pain Society, Virtual
Jan-Mar 2022 “Entre-Nous 2022”, Trestler House Historic Site, Vaudreuil-Dorion, outside Montréal
Apr-Jun 2022 “Art Expo 2022”, West Island Artists’ Circle, Virtual
Feb 2022 “Valentine Virtual Art Show”, Artists in Montréal, Virtual
Feb 2022 “Painted Postcards”, Laguna Plein Air Painters Association (LPAPA), USA, Virtual
Dec-Jan 2021/2 "Pierrefonds Art Contest Exhibition", City of Montreal, Pierrefonds Library, Montréal *
Nov 2022 “Anniversary Exhibition”, Centre d’art Montréal Art Centre (CAMAC) *
Nov 2021 “Imagining Pain”, Art Awards, Canadian Pain Society; 1st Prize (National), Virtual
Nov-Dec 2021 “Autumn Art Show”, West Island Artists’ Circle, Virtual
Sep 2021 “Fundraising Auction”, Lakeshore General Hospital Foundation, Montréal *
Aug 2021 “State of the Forest” Contest, The Bateman Foundation; 2nd Prize (National), Virtual
Oct-Jun 2018/9
“New Beginnings”, RBC Art & Heritage Centre, McGill University Health Network (MUHC),
in the main entrance and atrium of the Montreal General Hospital, Montréal *


Since 2022 Two of my watercolours are on display at the Hôpital Enfant-Jésus Hospital in Québec City, within the Cancer Pain & Supportive Care Research Lab of the Oncology Division of the Research Centre of the "CHU de Québec-Université Laval"


Juries & Committees, as a volunteer

True Patriot Love Foundation (National): Committee Consultant, for a creative arts initiative for Military Members & Veterans
Healthcare Excellence Canada (National): Jury Member for the selection of a new commissioned artwork


Artworks published in magazines (not as advertising)

OT Now; July 2023 "In Conversation: #ArtDespitePain; Sandra Woods": Featuring my paintings "Echinacea White Swan", "Moving ahead, with pain", and several works in progress (including a plein-air watercolour, using my bicycle as my easel) as well as my use of art to raise awareness of chronic pain; Jul 2023; vol 26.4; page 8; or click here to view this issue of OT Now
Zine; in print
"From Idea to Reality": Featuring my watercolour "One in 5 Canadians live with chronic pain", along with a 3D model that I created of one of the semi-abstract figures in my painting, and noting that my art practice is intertwined with my chronic pain advocacy; Fall 2023, vol 3;2023; pages 15-16


Education - Studied under (since 2021)

Renée Dion, SCA, Sainte-Anne-des-Lacs (near Montréal)
Mary-Anne Bartlett, Art Safari; Suffolk, England
Visual Arts Centre, Montréal
And workshops with Fabio Cembranelli, Andy Evansen, Mike Hernandez, David McEown, Michael Solovyev, Thomas W. Schaller, and other award-winning artists.


Memberships (since 2021)

Artists Circle of the West Island, Montréal
Artists in Montréal (AiM)
Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour (CSPWC)
English Language Arts Network (ELAN), Montréal
Laguna Plein Air Painters Association (LPAPA), California, USA
National Organization for Arts in Health (NOAH), USA
Northwest Watercolor Society (NWWS), USA
Women's Art Society of Montréal (WASM)