People often ask me how I manage to paint with the tremors of Parkinson’s Disease. While shaking hands are great for mixing martinis or shaking cans of paint, they aren’t ideal for drawing or painting.
Over the last few years I have developed a number of different tricks to help. By modifying some artists tools and techniques I have made it easier for me to handle a brush or pencil and made it more comfortable for me to work.
If you are really inspired to do something, you shouldn’t let anything stop you. There is always a way to do what you are meant to do.
Here are some of the ways I have modified my tools and environment to make it easier to paint and draw. It’s not perfect but it helps.
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How I Modify My Studio
I have arranged my studio so that the materials I need are easily accessible. I never need to over extend to grab a brush or tube of paint. Which is a good thing because my lack of balance totally rules out any career as a tight rope walker.
My chair has ample back support and can be raised or lowered as needed. It is actually a bar stool but it is very comfortable and adjustable.
The chair I use at my drawing table is a very comfortable office chair. It has great back support and can be raised or lowered depending on how my muscles are feeling.
The water bucket I use stands inside an aluminum pie plate to minimize sloshing onto my work surface. It is a 2 well bucket so I don’t have to go get fresh water as often.
I have an adjustable table top easel that allows me to rest my arms on my painting bench for support or on the easel itself. I can stand to paint if I am having a good day or sit in my adjustable bar stool.
For drawing I use a small drafting table that I can adjust and tilt as needed. I sometimes use this for painting as well.
It has holes to hold the pencils and other tools as well as drawers to keep my pencils and paper in so everything is handy.
It would probably be easier to paint or draw on a flat surface, but looking down makes me dizzy and causes some problems with my vision. A tilted surface is much more comfortable and easier on my neck and shoulders.
How I Modify My Artist Tools
To help steady my trembling hands, I have modified an artists mahl stick. A mahl stick is a thin stick about three feet long. It is covered with a ball shaped pad at one end.
The artist holds the stick in one hand and gently lays it against the painting. The painting hand rests on the stick to steady the hand and prevent fatigue.
In my case, because my head and hands shake, I have had to make my own version of a mahl stick. I use a stick about four and a half feet long with a tennis ball on the end.
The ball is covered with a piece of leather chamois to protect the painting surface. I can then brace the stick between my knees or feet depending on how I am sitting or standing at my easel.
It is a great steadying tool for my hand…..or a magic orb wand for my grandson. 😛
Drawing Straight Lines
The tremors in my hands also make drawing or painting straight lines a challenge. I use a ruler with a foam backing to draw straight lines. The foam backing keeps the ruler from slipping when my hand shakes or decides to jerk.
A T- square is better for painting since the top of the ruler can be braced on the top of the canvas.
This doesn’t always work so I make sure to keep several different sizes of erasers handy when drawing as well as a damp cloth for wiping painting mistakes and the mess I make when I drop a fully loaded paint brush.
The challenges will increase as my disease progresses, but I always find an adaptation. It can be frustrating and some days I just can’t create anything but a mess.
However, for the most part I enjoy the challenge of finding a new way to do the things I love.
Have you found other ways to adapt to your challenges? I would love to hear about them.
Thanks for reading.