What I Did When I Broke My Drawing Arm

Last June I fell and hurt my right arm and hand. No, it was not technically broken but it was hurt enough so that I needed to wear a splint 24/7 and had to avoid using the limb while in recovery. It was a real bummer since this is the hand I use to draw and paint. Being that I needed the use of this hand to make art, I am an artist and instructor after all, I had a couple weeks when I felt extremely sorry for myself and was ready to write off the entire summer.

Yes, it was a very difficult time. There was much income lost. And this loss was especially painful because I had not yet gotten back to earning as much as I did before the pandemic cut my earnings in half. When my arm got hurt, my income all but disappeared. After many months of having to stress about money, this truly was a blow, one that I did not know how to deal with.

Making art and drawing in my journal are often what I fall back on when I am feeling lousy. In my journal I document things that that have happened, how I feel about events, my goals and dreams by drawing. This practice grounds me. I also use my art practice as a soother, to help me navigate my emotions. When I hurt my arm, these coping tools were also taken away from me. Not only did I stop making art, but I also stopped doing anything else. The other usual things that made me happy no longer seemed so appealing. It was such an effort to do anything other than sit in front of the TV and numb my mind with whatever show or series that was currently trending on Netflix. And this was vicious cycle since the more I sat and did nothing, the worse I felt. It became even hard to get out of bed in the mornings. Why should I, I can’t do anything anyway?

But thank goodness I have my family that I did not want to let down. I have friends that I saw regularly (even if just online) that helped cheer me up. And I found an online community of people that inspire me. Because I had these individuals, I learned that I can focus on the things I can do rather than the things I could no longer do. My right hand was out of commission but my left hand was not. So I started using my left hand more for daily things I needed to do but also I decided it was time for leftie to take up some more of the slack. I started drawing. I started writing. It was slow. It was trying. It was painful. And what I made was pretty horrible. But then I started again concentrating on the things my left hand could do instead of lament what it was not great at. I focused on what my left hand did well, or well-enough. My left hand could not draw straight line so instead I made curvy lines. It could not use scissors but it could tear paper. It could not control a brush but it could drop or smear paint with an eye dropper or palette knife. My left hand can stencil and stamp, it is decent at mixing paint and is great at making random lines.

I learned that my left hand was not supposed to become just like my right in order to replace it. I learned that my left side had its own very unique and wonderful gifts and qualities. After a while the art I created changed. I did things a different way because I had a different instrument to use. After a while, I started liking a few of the works I made with my left hand.

Right now I am on the mend, my right arm is recovering well and at this point I can use it carefully for short periods of time. I am slowly making art with it. I am very grateful than I am getting better and can’t wait for when my right arm is back to 100%. But I will continue to use my left hand to make some art to help keep things fresh. And although I am still reeling from the loss of income, I am grateful for the life lessons I have learned during this challenging time.

Visual Artist and Art Instructor