Over the past few months, I have been injuring my right hand through overuse. It’s a super sexy injury; the sitting-at-your-desk and painting kind. My thumb has partial numbness, my wrist stiffens up and radiates pain through my elbow and into my shoulder. My right hand likes to drop things in the morning.
During this time, I had been working on four pieces for an upcoming summer show at Gallery M Squared. I was going to make intricately illustrated board games which themes are based around life. The images would require great precision and control, and with David and I on the road, I had to work quickly.
As David and I rambled up and down the California coast, we would find coffee shops to sit and work long hours. Our weeks were framed by the mantra; eat, surf, drive, set up work station, find a place to sleep. Eat, surf, drive, set up work station, find a place to sleep.
Toward the completion of the second painting, the grip on my right hand started to stiffened and a new sensation emerged; there was a clear line of pain from the base of my thumb to top of my wrist. It was time to give my hand a significant break before I caused any permanent damage. So, I decided to become left handed.
I got out a new sheet of paper and with my left hand, I started drawing. Without the efficiency of my right hand, I was going to have to put the other pieces on hold and create something within the limits of my unpracticed left hand. I struggled to simplify the compositions. One side of me wanted make large, simple shapes, and the other fiercely fought for intricate, controlled patterns. The process was very slow and lacked precision. I would start to paint a fluid line, then a jagged streak would shoot out from nowhere. Often times, my left hand was blocking my view of the positioning of the brush. I found myself leaning in just inches away from the paper as if that would help me have more control.
The results are unsophisticated, jumbled, and naive visions of where my right hand goes to heal.
I am sad that I cannot work the same hours and with the same efficiency that I had just a few months earlier. I would eventually like to finish the board game series, but for now, I will be relieved when I paint within the lines and I will appreciate drawing a curve with ease. I will enjoy the struggle between my analytical, controlled, and measured mind, and my free, creative and forgiving spirit.
Now that these projects are over, I have taken a break from painting and have been focusing on other small projects that don’t require as much patience or precision. Sometimes though, when I am uninterested in those small projects, I sit and think how much purpose painting has given me — and in those sad moments, I’ll squeeze my wrist, and just sit there and breathe.
I try and use my left hand for the cursor, texting, and opening various bottles. It is difficult to open toothpaste and lip gloss. Chopping vegetables is a dangerous and messy task. My left hand feels weaker and all around, I move a bit slower — but hey, at least I can brush my teeth.
If you would like to view the first two right handed paintings, click on these links: Stern Halma, The Game of Life. They will also be on view at Gallery M Squared the second week of July, through the end of August. And of course, stop by the opening reception’s July 10th and August 7th from 7-9pm!