Emerging Mandurah artist finds passion through pain management

Creative streak: Callum Davies hard at work on one of his illustrations, which can take between eight and 30 hours to produce. Photo: Matt Cook Photographer.

Creative streak: Callum Davies hard at work on one of his illustrations, which can take between eight and 30 hours to produce. Photo: Matt Cook Photographer.

Some people might let having a degenerative disease stop them from living a fulfilling, productive life - but not Callum Davies.

Diagnosed at a young age with the rare condition of spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia tarda with pseudo rheumatoid arthritis, as well as complex regional pain syndrome and spinal stenosis, Mr Davies has had a successful career as the director of an engineering and design company in Perth, is a family man with a wife and two young children, and is now an emerging, talented artist.

"I suffer from an extremely rare and painful disease that destroys my joints," Mr Davies said.

"It's so rare they couldn't diagnose it to begin with."

Mr Davies explained the disease isn't hereditary, but was caused by an unfortunate mix of genes from each of his parents.

"It's pretty random," he said.

"My younger brother has it but we have other siblings who don't. It's just the luck of the draw."

Mr Davies likened it to being born with advanced rheumatoid arthritis.

He had his hip joints replaced at the age of 16 and has very limited mobility in his joints.

"My hands are disfigured and it's hard to do things. All of my joints only have a couple of degrees of movement left," he explained.

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A couple of years ago he decided he needed to find a hobby to help deal with the pain.

"The hobby I chose was illustration and I quickly realised that it was a great way to relieve pain through distraction," Mr Davies said.

Then in 2020 he was feeling like he needed to take a break from work as something wasn't right.

"I decided I had to stop working for a bit to try see if my body would stop feeling bad," he said.

"Unfortunately my intuition was right; one morning I was helping my wife bring groceries in and I had a major spinal stenosis at multiple levels. I couldn't move for weeks."

Mr Davies did a lot of art while in hospital "trying to distract" himself.

One of Callum's sea creature-themed ink drawings, inspired by his love of the ocean and many years of scuba diving. Image: Supplied.

One of Callum's sea creature-themed ink drawings, inspired by his love of the ocean and many years of scuba diving. Image: Supplied.

The next 12 months was spent doing everything with great care to avoid another injury which he said was quite a challenge with a seven and three-year-old.

"I can still walk at the moment and get around with the kids," he said.

"The three-year-old is okay actually, it's when they get together, they just fight. She knows how to push his buttons; and my son hasn't figured out that we can hear him when he pushes her buttons," he laughed.

"It's about as challenging as it is for anyone else. I can't really think I'm any different from a normal dad.

"Only bad when you run out of painkillers or try to help with groceries and your back explodes," he joked.

Before picking up pen and paper, Mr Davies said he'd never imagined art could be so therapeutic.

Having lived with severe pain most of his life he'd done pain management courses and learned techniques such as cognitive behaviour therapy, but art was something he'd never tried before.

"I've always done things to distract myself. Pain management courses..., meditation and stuff, but that doesn't gel with me.

"It used to be the drums but it still hurt.

"I used to scuba dive too, but it's gotten too hard to get out on the boat.

Mr Davies said he's never really thought of himself as having a disability and has never liked being on a pension.

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"I enjoy working, so I started to sell my art and here I am now, still working hard to try to build my artwork to a level that I can support my family even when I'm stuck in bed with my back.

"I've only been drawing almost two years but I love it."

Having a self-proclaimed OCD personality, Mr Davies put his mind to practising his drawing as much as possible.

"...If someone says you can't do something I just put my mind to doing it no matter what; no matter how long it takes and how much I have to do and learn. I'm just like that," he said.

Photo: Matt Cook Photographer.

Photo: Matt Cook Photographer.

So once he decided he wanted to draw Mr Davies said he practised as much as possible.

Some days for hours and sometimes just for a little while before bed.

"Depends on the day and what I've got on and if my back's up to it," he said.

"Because I have to sit up in bed to draw, so if my back's too bad I can't do it.

"But it helps to stop thinking about things...empty your mind.

"It's great for anyone who wants to relax or has a high pressure job."

Anyone interested in checking out more of Mr Davies' art can go to his website callumdavies.ink.

This story 'Luck of the draw': Pain no obstacle for Callum of Mandurah first appeared on Mandurah Mail.