My Physical Struggles As An Artist

I started my creative career ten years ago when I decided whilst choosing my A Level subjects that I wanted to pursue a job within that industry. I focused so much time and effort into my work and I fell in love with art to an extent that I would always be looking for it. I can't pass street art without stopping to admire and I could spend hours upon hours in Paperchase perusing all of their wonderful greeting card designs. Stick me in an art supplies shop and you'll loose me to the paints, pens, paper, that varnishy smell...I just adore it all.

University wasn't all it was cracked up to be for me personally so I went down my animal lover route instead for five years but kept doing the art on the side, hoping to one day make it my full time job and work for myself. Then in 2016 I had an accident with my hand and everything changed. Whilst doing some washing up from home, a glass broke whilst my hand was inside it and I severed the tendon to my ring and baby fingers on my right hand. My fingers drooped, I couldn't move them and from the second it happened I knew my hand would never be the same again. I was rushed to A&E only to sit and wait for 5 hours with a shard of glass still implanted within my hand, I had it removed and spent the remainder of that week in despair because no one was taking me seriously when I said my fingers just didn't work anymore. I was told that this was to be expected due to the level of trauma I had suffered but I knew my body and I knew something just wasn't right. I dragged my ass down to my walk in centre twice pleading with them to help me and in the end I was told to return to A&E for another assessment. Even whilst at A&E, two different doctors tried telling me that the swelling and trauma was preventing me from moving my fingers but a third doctor took a look and decided it was beyond their expertise.

pastels, art materials, art shop, artist, rainbow

I was referred to the Derby Hand Clinic and within seconds of placing my hand on the table, my consultant told me I had severed my tendon and would need surgery to repair it. I went down for surgery 20 minutes later under a local anaesthetic and spent the following three months returning to the hospital once a week for check ups and physiotherapy. I had to fill in forms with my left hand so over time I developed some skills with my left and started to favour it for obvious reasons, but when filling out the 'occupation' section I always noticed my doctors and physiotherapists always looked a little shifty. I was told on numerous occasions to rethink my career choices because drawing would be something I would struggle with for the rest of my life.

A year and a half later, I'm still shocked that I have managed to get my artwork to a point where I could quit my job with the animals and return to the creative world full time. I'm incredibly lucky to work from home and continue to build my little business, but there are definitely some challenges I face on a daily basis and some things that I feel prevent me from opening up other avenues of work. For months I've wanted to start doing commissions for people and most of all do pet portraits but I've been terrified to start in case I can't keep up or get work completed within a certain amount of time. I'll eventually find a way of working that suits me and my customers but right now I struggle to hold a pen for more than 10 minutes at a time. Things are improving there is no doubt about it, there was a time where I couldn't even hold my pens! I tried working left handed but the control just wasn't the same. I'm a righty through and through so I took my time and got back on the horse. Even writing my blog when it happened was difficult, I was typing one letter at a time with my left index finger and let me tell you, it's infuriating not working at your usual speed. It's also not just the pain and stiffness that holds me back; I still have nightmares and loose sleep when my brain gets lost in the moments when the glass was removed from my hand with no pain relief and then lying on an operating table wide awake with someone sewing my tendons back together. Feeling the motions but not feeling anything else. I was terrified and it haunts me.

fox art, fox artwork, fox illustration

I experimented a lot with mediums whilst at Sixth Form and uni but a black ink pen is always my number one go to for drawing, it's just not always possible these days. Instead I took up painting again and depending on what mood I'm in, I'll go for acrylics or watercolours. Acrylics are for when I'm feeling a bit more expressive whereas I can still achieve the illustrative style that I love with watercolours so I think it's great having more than one favourite material to go to. The best thing though is being able to hold a paintbrush much more loosely than a pen meaning there isn't as much strain on my hand. If anything this whole experience has taught me to be stronger and if one way doesn't work, just try another. It's as simple as that.

I never used to be a clumsy person before all of this but I'm now one of those person who drops things, I can't count and hold change especially when it's cold which is a nightmare for craft fairs, I can't lift heavy things or grip onto something if I need to. But I have recently taken up yoga to try and gain some strength in my wrists and arms to hopefully support myself a bit better with all of that. As for the finger movement and stiffness, all I can do is carry on and with a bit of luck over time it should become a bit easier and if anything, art was never something to consider giving up - it was and is the very thing getting me through it all.

Thanks for reading,

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