Why I’m Painting – Healing from RSI

Paints, computer keyboard and mouse | bethcarson.co.uk

OCTOBER 2016 UPDATE – This all feels very long ago, it’s amazing how much better I am doing these days just from consistently looking after myself!

SEPTEMBER 2015 UPDATE – Since writing this blog, I’ve been doing a lot of resting and healing, taking my glucosamine tablets, adding more gelatine to my diet – and it’s helping a LOT.  I also have come to realize that since taking up web design, my interaction with the computer has changed fundamentally from the way I used to work with computers.   I had moved away from creating art and more towards technical work.  This move was a sea change in the way I am used to working with computers.  I went from drawing with a nice big ergonomic, body-friendly Intuos tablet for 8 hours a day with no discomfort  – to typing and mousing 8 hours a day.  This realization seems obvious in hindsight, and the realization that I won’t have problems using computers to make art has given me a huge morale boost.  And just one hugely positive thing to come out of all this, is that I am still painting and I have plans for a gallery show with some friends in the works, which I am really excited about!

So, as you’ll see, I’ve gone completely bonkers about abstract painting and painting space scenes lately.  I’m doing it because it’s great fun and feels awesome.  But, there’s also serious reason I’m painting (and trying to sell the paintings!)

I hemmed and hawed about sharing this on my blog.  It’s something my friends and family know about, and it’s something that affects my work and me as an artist.  I woke up this morning and realized, if I want to use my blog to connect with people, I should be willing to share more than just posts that amount to “Look at this thing I made!”  I want to share my process, and let you know a little bit more about me.

This year had two stark warnings from two different doctors:  stop working with computers or risk permanent damage to my hands and wrists.  As someone who has spent their entire adult life mastering the Adobe Creative Suite and earns their bread and butter from it – this news was bad enough.  Considering that I have taken my physical ability to actually make art at all completely for granted – it was a terrifying wake-up call.  I’m talking, cold-sweat and sleepless nights what-am-I-going-to-do fear.

I felt faced by a choice: continue to work with computers and risk not being able to make art (or do anything with dexterity) ever again – or scale back the emphasis away from computers, and make art.

I’ve been doing The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron since February this year and have been made very aware of my own internal prejudices.  What I mean is that I’m aware now of the little inner voice that says making a living as a ‘fine’ artist might be a nice dream, but it is simply not practical.  This is the voice that tells me that my main skill is and will always be working with computers.   It’s the little voice I’ve decided that I want to try to prove wrong.

So, thanks to my terrific diagnosis I’ve started making some changes in my life.  The first one was to start by scaling back my day  job to four days a week.  Currently I work in web design which places heavy emphasis on computing and keyboarding.  Intellectually I’ve adapted well to HTML, CSS, website management tasks – but physically it is crippling me.  In the past 99.9% of my work was done on a large Wacom Intuos tablet and I did not experience this kind of pain and discomfort.  Luckily my office is flexible and I have been allowed to make this change.

Secondly, I am painting.  A lot.  It’s flowing out of me.  I can’t fight it, I want to paint abstract.  It doesn’t exacerbate my RSI, and it’s fun, and it feels right for me for where I am now.  I expect it to evolve naturally.  This time next year, I don’t know what I might be painting – and that excites me.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to or even want to leave computers completely behind.  And when my daily computer tool is a wacom tablet, I am fine.  But I can make keyboarding a secondary element to my life and work instead of the primary one.   I’m lucky  because I’m still at a stage where I can paint and it isn’t making my pain worse.  There is a gentleness painting in goauche and watercolour – and I can use a light touch to express myself.  It’s perfect for me at the moment.

Listing some paintings on ebay is just the beginning.  It’s just me dipping my toes in.  It’s probably not the absolute perfect place for my work, but it’s a beginning.  I want to start connecting with other artists in my area.  Ideally I’d like to get some art in a gallery.  I want to try selling at an art market.  I want to get involved with the arts activity in our local community.  I want to push the emphasis in my life away from the computer and towards the creation of art.   I want to get out from behind the screen, get my hands mucky with paint – I want to engage in the world as an artist.

If you’re reading this, and you’re an artist or my story resonates with you, get in touch!  Leave a comment below or connect with me on twitter @bcpasnadersnips.  If you’re an Oxfordshire or Berkshire artist and you know some cool events or galleries I should know about – I’d love to hear about it!

Thank you, lovely reader!

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