|journal page from Aug '07; altered Seurat|
Over the next 2 Lost Coast Studio Saturdays, I thought I might offer some tips & tricks I've learned over the years to adapt my artistic life to my health demands. Right off, I have to say that I am not a doctor so please don't take my words as gospel. By all means listen to your own body (and the M.D. in your life) first. These are just some things that I have found to help me; perhaps they will be useful to you as well.
Part One - Hands: I am most familiar with adaptations to hand issues and so this is where I'll begin. (You can read the lowdown on my hand saga here.)
- Vary the type of hand activity throughout your art session. Using scissors requires a different combo of hand & wrist muscles than writing or stamping or sewing and so on. Don't work too long at a single task.
- Fingerless or compression gloves can help keep your hands warm while you work or, in the case of the latter, maintain good circulation. I find circulation gloves to be too tight and all my hand surgeries have made my hands very sensitive to touch. Some artists swear by them.
- Increase the size of the grips on your pencils and brushes. Crayola's Model Magic© and tape wrappings are permanent solutions while pencil grips and old-fashioned curler sponges can be temporary fixes.
- Spend time mark-making with your non-dominant/uninjured hand. If you're like me and both hands are impaired, it is still a good idea to spread the workload. A session spent making serendipity papers is also good if you have the shakes, anxiety, or creative block.
- Limit time spent using the Xacto knife, punches, or hard clays that need a lot of conditioning. Book binding involving multiple signatures and/or complex stitches can also be very hard on the hands.
- Regular contrast baths can be soothing to aggravated appendages. If you have a double sink (or 2 deep bowls/basins), fill one side with warm water (95 - 100 degrees). The water should be "Oooh! That feels comfortable warm!" NOT "Damn! That's hot!" Fill the other sink or basin with cool water. Cold water directly from the tap can be too cold so add just a little warm. Please don't try ice without a doctor's permission. Dunk your hands and hold for 3 minutes in the warm and then rotate to the cool for 1 minute. Do this for 15 minutes total. (Note: This often helps sore feet as well.) Contrast baths encourage circulation. Super easy alternative: I like to have a load of dishes soaking while I'm working and I periodically get up to scrub & rinse a plate or two. The warm (and cool water) is like a quick pick-me-up for my hands.