As anyone who knows me will be tired of hearing about, I’ve been recovering from a really debilitating outbreak of eczema on my face, which, in total, has lasted 6 weeks. As with many illnesses, my recovery process has not been linear - rather, there have been peaks and troughs. I’ve been treating my eczema as holistically as possible, through diet and plant-based creams, although I’ve had to use standard medication for a secondary fungal infection. At points, I’d be hopeful that it had nearly disappeared - only for a new symptom to erupt and for my face to break out again. It has been an extremely exhausting, emotional process, and all my creative activities came to a complete halt.
However, I had a glimmer of hope two weeks ago, when I felt I had the energy to do a drawing of some giant otters recently. The other night, I also found myself working feverishly on a drawing of some parrots, inspired by a flock of hundreds at a clay lick which I saw while living in the Ecuadorian rainforest. This gradual creative as well as physical recovery has led me to make the following observations about easing yourself back into an artistic life after going through a difficult period in your life.
Easy project - Choose a project which you know will not be a challenge. This is not the time to be taxing yourself. Rather, be kind to yourself, choosing something which you know you should be able to accomplish. When your energy levels are low, you want to be able to meet the goals you set yourself, so that you can give your wellbeing and confidence a boost.
Use a familiar technique - Select a technique that you know inside out. For me, I think this is why I have started with drawing, which I have been doing my whole life. I don’t feel ready to tackle printmaking yet - it’s a complex process. Drawing just requires paper and pen/pencil and it is something I am very comfortable with.
Quick to do - Building your confidence is also about ‘quick wins’ - so go for a project which you can accomplish relatively quickly. Despite selecting what I thought would be a short project, I was surprised how long it took me to finish the otter and parakeet drawings. Usually, I would have produced these drawings in a couple of hours in one evening. Instead, it took me one evening to do the sketches; another to make the draft; and a third evening to produce the final version of the drawing. When you are recovering from a difficult period in your life, it’s important to recognise that you may accomplish things at a slower pace and lack concentration.
Despite all of this, I am so glad that I was able to produce these drawings - they are a mark that I am making progress. And my skin is finally clearing - take a look! For the first time in 6 weeks, I have no broken, red skin!