Drawing Alongside My Brother's Schizophrenia

By Joan Boxall
Illustrated by Stephen A. Corcoran

Categories: Memoir
Imprint: Caitlin Press
Paperback : 9781773860022, 184 pages, May 2019

A sister's discovery of the healing power of art as she searches for connection with her schizophrenic brother.


How do you establish trust and meaningful connection with a sibling who suffers from schizophrenia? In an attempt to rekindle her relationship with her estranged brother Steve, Joan meets him at the Art Studios in Vancouver, where he takes part in art classes for individuals with a mental illness in a safe, supportive environment. This marks the beginning of a remarkable journey into the healing power of art.

Schizophrenia had already done its worst, confounding Steve with voices, hallucinations and delusions. At fifty-five, Steve was in a burn-out phase of schizophrenia with a hunger for creativity. Joan's efforts to connect with him through art soon become the vehicle of change. Over the next eight years, Steve progresses both artistically and personally. Together, Steve and Joan explore their art, drawing upon their own resources as they learn to trust one another. Steve's artwork provides a glimpse into his perspective, at once both troubled and beautiful. His paintings and drawings are eventually displayed in two solo exhibits at Basic Inquiry Gallery. He attended what would become his final solo show shortly before his death in 2013.

One in five North Americans experiences a serious mental health crisis; DrawBridge: Drawing Alongside My Brother's Schizophrenia offers a path of hope for the afflicted and for their advocates. In memory of her brother, Joan has established the Stephen A. Corcoran Memorial Award at Emily Carr University of Art and Design to assist students coping with mental health issues.


“Boxall’s narrative will move you and make you reflect on issues of love, intimacy and loss in your own family… This is a love story for adults, without any simple resolution or cheap redemption.”

Vancouver Sun

“A lyrical portrait of a challenging relationship, Joan Boxall’s memoir about meeting her mentally ill brother every Tuesday for art class is a striking illustration of how art can both save and remake us.”

—Jane Silcott, author of Everything Rustles and co-editor of Love Me True

“This marvelous, honest story is many things: a helpful, well-researched guide to understanding the lived experience of schizophrenia; an insightful glimpse into making art; and, above all, an example of the immense power of combining loving empathy and the act of creating art to reclaim one’s life. I highly recommend it.”

—Dr. Ron Gibson, MD, clinical associate professor of psychiatry, UBC

“Thank you, Joan, for this thoughtful, sensitively rendered journey through art, love and mental illness.”

—Clem Martini, co-author of Bitter Medicine: A Graphic Memoir of Mental Illness and The Unravelling