“The journey often seems arduous until you gain perspective.”
Brian Sherwin’s article on Artists with Disabilities for Fine Art Views Newsletter touched me. I have lived for well over twenty years with what they now tell me is misdiagnosed Chronic Lyme Disease. Originally thought to be Multiple Sclerosis or something like that, unending pain and strange symptoms have plagued me for half of my life. Frustration ruled my life for many years as I tried to continue my painting. Not only am I an artist, but a mother of three, which added new challenges. Once I made peace with the fact that this was how my journey was to unfold, things got better. I began to look for coping strategies.
There are days of double or blurred vision and excruciating migraines, exhaustion, and inability to walk without assistance, or even raise my arms up on a tabletop. On other days my memory waxes and wanes similar to a person with Alzheimer’s. The symptoms are endless and constantly changing, as medications can cause new symptoms. Then there are my duties as a mom and parent. I have learned to embrace it all as best I can. Learning to cope minute by minute has made me unbelievably attune to adapting. I am grateful for that gift since many people have issues with change.
When I am bedridden, I now sketch with watercolor pencils that I can wet and rework at a later date. The sketching alleviates the frustration of not being able to create, as I would like to. It gets new ideas flowing and spiritually connects me to that creative muse waiting patiently in the wings.
Memory issues have affected my abilities to just get in the car and drive to a site to work en plein aire like I used to. I am not able to carry my supplies and hike out into the landscape as easily. By adapting my techniques, I can set up in my car and work from there, or just outside it, taking photos so if I get exhausted I am able to continue working later on in the studio.
When working on a painting, I often forget exactly where I was trying to take it. I used to try to write copious notes, so I would have a direction to follow if I drew a blank. Now, I am going to try the Dragon Dictate software, which enables me to wear a headset and it will do the typing for me, so I can leave reminders for myself of things I want to work on later, or change.
The biggest change is in having to adapt and change my style of working, based on how dexterous my arms and hands are on any given day. If I am having tremors, I need to work more loosely. All of the years of my training in photorealism cannot help me with this. I view it as the universe’s way of helping me branch out into new styles and ideas. I am enjoying letting myself experiment with my work again.
Today we are rearranging my small studio, setting up a new station for me to develop some techniques to work on my sculpting. It is a journey of adaptation day to day. Some days, I feel like my old self again, and on others I feel devastated that I cannot paint and wonder how I got into this body.
Currently, there are about twenty, large and small-unfinished works amassed my studio. On a daily basis, frustration over the fact that I have taken them as far as they could go, in my current state of health plagues me. Somewhere in the near future they will have their day of recognition. Each day offers new accomplishments. I am determined that my past will not control my future; I have much I want to say with my works. A quote posted in my studio reads….”I Came To Live Out Loud.”