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© 2019 by Annalisa Rivera, all rights reserved. Accessibility statement.

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Get A Grip! Adapting Art to Your Needs

Updated: Oct 12, 2019

I'm on the hunt for an elusive beast - tools and techniques that make the creation of art as comfortable as possible. Maybe you're in the same situation?

Having worked and participated in disability and nonprofit communities for about a decade, I've been lucky enough to meet artists with a wide spectrum of disabilities. One thing seems to hold true: what works for one artist may not work for another. Some artists swear by egg shaped, easy grip brushes for painful hands (the brush shapes I've seen are rather limited); there are mouth-sticks for those unable to paint with their hands.

In my own case, my life is lived "spoon theory style"- doing things in small bursts, every day and hour is different. Hypermobile Ehler's Danlos (hEDS) or dysautonomia can cause fatigue, pain and injury- no matter how enjoyable and activity is, it's important to prepare, take care, and rest well afterward. So far, these are the tips I can share with any aspiring artists who experience chronic pain or fatigue issues:

  • A little goes a long way: it's better to have a few small sessions of painting and be able to get back to it, than to lose yourself in one long session and incapacitate yourself for a very long time. For acrylic painting, I love having a stay-wet palette. I literally have had paints wait for me for weeks on end fresh as when I mixed them.

  • See things from a differing angle: when it comes to painting, you'll often hear the "right way" to paint is on a standing easel. If holding your arms up for extended periods isn't doable for you, or your back just screams at the thought of staying put in one place, then just say no! Maybe the right thing for you is a travel easel while you sit; maybe like me, you'll put your painting flat. If I can't reach a part of my canvas, I'll rotate it sideways or even upside down to get it done! An advantage of rotating the canvas (easel or not) is that you'll look at your subject in a different way, and it may help you see the overall shapes better.

  • Give your back and hands lots of loving: As mentioned at the start of this post, until I can find a way to paint lying totally flat in bed without covering my bed in acrylic, I haven't found it perfect set up yet, but I encourage you to find brushes with ergonomic grip, add foam grip or make built up grips on your own with self adhesive wrap. Consider ring splints for achy hypermobile fingers, and the best possible back support!

Which tools or techniques that make creating comfortable? Share your story and tell me how you adapt!


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