Some people suffer for their art. There have been occasions when I’ve been one of them.

Colour Rush: 60 x80 cms.
Supracolor pencils on Canson Framing Board. Own reference.

I suffer from arthritis and have done so for almost 2 decades, but it’s only really concerned me over the past 6 years. I had hoped that moving to warmer climates on the Australian Mainland 5 years ago would be of benefit, but alas, it wasn’t. Now I’m back in Tasmania and little has seemed to have changed. The past few years have been particularly challenging. There have been days when I could not even physically hold a pencil. Having arthritis in both hands has stifled the idea of changing to left-handed drawing.

How am I treating this condition? I have the prescribed gloves, take specific medication when required and use arthritis cream for my hands when things are bad. The best way to deal with this condition is to stop drawing altogether. I have entertained the idea of giving up drawing but I’ve recently benefitted from extended periods away from my easel and I’ve taken up digital painting, something that has (as yet) not resulted in any pain in my hands.

Now that I’m 70, my previous 5 decades of producing art has finally caught up with me. Being older than when I first noticed the signs of oncoming arthritis, I’ve had the sense to ‘pace’ myself in my daily activities. Anything physical such as gardening is treated with respect. When my hands get too sore, I stop. Well, usually!

My drawing style is rather physical at times and that has over the years, put a good deal of pressure on my right hand. Unfortunately, I lost my left index finger in a shooting accident when I was 18. My left thumb often reminds me of this with bouts of inflammation!

‘Rest’ is often prescribed in such situations and it works, but it’s hard when you want to get back into the studio or the garden! I know there are thousands of people like me across Australia, many of whom suffer way more pain and discomfort than I do. I’m doing my best to avoid as little deterioration in my condition as possible. 

After a 4 week break from drawing I picked up my pencils and produced my first drawing for the year. Holding round shaped pencils was difficult, but I found that the hexagonal barrels of my Supracolor Soft pencils much more comfortable to work with. I took about a week to complete the drawing, but I made sure that I had plenty of breaks to rest my hands. 

Pencil extenders are highly valued!

I consider Supracolors  the best all-round pencil on the market. They have the greatest coverage, are lightfast, water soluble and have a range of 120 colours (150, if you count the 30th anniversary tin). They are truly a delightful pencil to work with.

Brilliant pencils!

Time will tell if my approach to drawing will work.

Meantime, I still intend to keep my arsenal of coloured pencils.


About artkleko

artist, art curator, art teacher, art judge, art critic
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12 Responses to ARThritis

  1. Katherine McLean says:

    I’m sorry that drawing and gardening are causing you such pain Richard.😥

    I worked for the Washington State Department of Transportation for just a month shirt of 30 years, somewhere around 20-25 years of that doing Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) work. By the time I retired 7 years ago, I could barely hold a pencil, as my wrists were in an agony of pain (Carpal Tunnel problems- repetitive use problems). So be careful of over using the mouse and computer as well. I also have Osteoarthritis. For me, hemp oil works wonders. If I can keep at it, the Keto diet works well for me, too, in reducing pain, inflamation, etc. I can’t seem to stick with it for more the 3 weeks before my immune system and lack of fiber cause major problems. So I’m still working on diet alternatives. I wish you the best of luck at finding a solution that works well for you.

    I love the pictures that you’ve posted of your garden. I’m in eastern Washington State, USA. With windchill factors, our temperatures are below 0 today. So looking at something green and growing is wonderful. Thank you!

    Here’s to being active, creative artists for the rest of our lives!

    • artkleko says:

      Thanks for your comments, Katherine. You are doing it tough, but we must ‘keep on, keeping on.’ I sincerely hope you have success health-wise and creatively. 😊

  2. Robin Lim says:

    So sorry to hear of your arthritis problem. I’m amazed at what you have produced, in varying styles and I envy your talent. I enjoy seeing your masterpieces online, so please keep it up as long as you can, Richard.

  3. Maxine Donald says:

    Thanks for yet another interesting blog Richard. A prolific drawer over the years I too find the pain in my hands increasing rapidly now, especially in my thumb joints. I hope that you will continue to ‘work’, either on paper or digitally for many more years as it brings joy to many.

  4. Mike Menius says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience with arthritis in both hands. The pencils must be a real challenge. I have developed a hand tremor and now use both hands to keep the pencil steady.

  5. Noelene Johnston says:

    Hi Richard,
    I’ve always lived your work. I too am an artist and nothing will stop me being creative. 40 yrs ago my fingets were becoming swollen and painful. My doctor said I was going to have severe arthritis. I read up on it and gave up red meat, all nightshade such as tomatoes, capsicums and white potatoes. Not easy and I’m no longer fanatical about it. But, it did help heaps and I’ve avoided all the painful misery, take no medications. Using your pencils is very precise and detailed. Try something different! Artists are very versatile and maybe you are being steered toward something new! I’m very undisciplined so jump around trying different things! Have you ever wondered how long it takes to cover a certain area with a paintbrush, compared to your colouring? Don’t stop Richard, change what you do! I’m sure you’ve heard it all, but I couldn’t stop being creative, it’s me!

    • artkleko says:

      Thanks for your comments, Noelene. You’ve done a great job looking after yourself. Well done!
      I do paint and I enjoy computer- generated art. I’m looking after myself physically and watch what I eat and drink. You’re right in that there are other avenues of creativity. I shall pace myself accordingly.
      Warmest regards, Richard

  6. Isn’t the body frustrating? As we get older we have more time to do the things we love, but body parts conspire against us! One thing that may help (you may have already tried of course) are fat rubber grips that slip on to pencils – they used to be available to help children hold pencils, but they could be useful in ‘fattening’ up the pencil. There were triangular ones, or rounded ones.

    • artkleko says:

      Thanks for your comments, Anna. I have found ‘thin’ pencils better to hold. The hexagonal shape and size of Supracolors is ideal for me to work with. The shiny surface of Luminance pencils however, are hard to hold. It’s a battle some days, but I’m managing okay at this point in time. 😊

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