Your body is arguably the most important asset in your art business. If something goes wrong with it - guess what? You are not going to be doing your art in what ever form that takes. I recently came across the work of Solly Solomon and her story:
Have you ever worked so hard on your art that your health suffered? Maybe you've pushed yourself for a deadline like we all do when we have an exhibition coming up. Or perhaps you're the kind of person that just has to have every last brush stroke perfect. Or your art may require incredible detail which means very exacting motor control.
Here is what happened to Solly several years ago now. In 2017 she was working on a painting with very fine detail using very tiny brush strokes. Many hours even up to ten hours a day were spent in this way in her studio.
Then slowly as the painting progressed she began noticing pains in her hands and wrist. She sounds a lot like me because she just ignored these messages from her body and soldiered on. And what happens if you do that for long enough?
You can cause irreparable damage sometimes, that you then have to live with for the rest of your life.
In Solly's case she was diagnosed with repetitive-strain injury called tendonitis. She said,
"It was completely devastating, and I wish I had known then just how important it is to take care of your body and have regular breaks. I had no idea that it is possible to get seriously injured from painting, "
She had to take several months break from her work and even resorted to painting and drawing left-handed.
It was about a year before she was healed enough to attempt finishing the painting that she was working on at the time of her injury.
I believe that Solly's story is a wake up call for all of us.Her are some questions to ask your self.
# Do you take regular breaks when you are working?
# Is your studio adequately ventilated?
# Do you have your easel adjusted to the right height to avoid back strain?
# Do you ever stop to limber up your hands, wrists, neck and shoulder - especially if you
especially if you have spent a long time in the studio?
I could go on..... I'm sure there are plenty of other questions you might ask your self about your own health and well being in relation to your particular art practice.
What if you started treating it with the same care you'd give to your most expensive art tool?
The inflammation in her wrist was so intense, she couldn't even brush her teeth with her painting hand. Solly tried everything: ice packs, anti-inflammatory meds, pain-relieving gels, ultrasound therapy, TENS machine (nerve stimulation) therapy, acupuncture... But the most crucial element in her healing was simply this: Not doing anything.
Rest. Time off. Even though all she wanted to do was go back to painting. But her body demanded healing. So she had to listen. There was no other option. After several months off, Solly returned to sketching for short sessions. Just 20 minutes at a time, with long rest breaks. Even though she couldn't paint the way she wanted to, she looked for creative ways to keep making art. She taught herself to draw and paint left-handed. She played with making monoprints. And she returned very gently to painting, starting with abstracts instead of her usual photorealistic style. A year after her diagnosis, Solly completed a new work -- based on the MRI scans of her wrist. The toll of her injury hit in invisible ways as well. Who was she if she couldn't create the work she wanted to? Making art from the experience helped her to process emotionally. And in September 2018, Solly returned to the painting that led to her original injury. She wore a brace to support her wrist. Her brush handles had foam wraps so she could hold them with less effort. It was a bit like learning to paint while wearing heavy winter gloves. But she did it -- and another year later, she completed the painting. Solly has a message for visual artists everywhere: "Working those extra few hours is really not worth it if it takes you out of action for months, or even yearsâ¦. This isn't an injury that I have recovered from. It's one I live with every day. "I would implore fellow artists to look after themselves and take regular breaks when working. My injury was totally preventable, and this type of injury can happen to anyone." Your body is one of the most important assets in your art business. What if you started treating it with the same care you'd give to your most expensive art tool? Sometimes it is the negative space that makes a painting work. And sometimes as an artist, it becomes essential to do nothing at all. As I mentioned last week, there is no "balance" -- only the creative act of "balancing". So, it's important to spend time making art... ...but not so much that your health suffers. It's important to spend time building your business... ...without sacrificing your most creative hours of the day. And, it's important to make time for yourself and your familyâ¦ ...without feeling guilty about not doing more for your art or your business. So if you find yourself caught up in the December holiday rush, or just feeling especially anxious -- take a minute to pause, breathe deeply, and focus on the moment.