My friend, a fellow artist, has Parkinson's. It is changing him. He is mourning his loss of manual dexterity. It is amazing how our bodies are so essential for artists. They give us the means to convey our ideas to others by means of our craftsmanship. So what happens when the ability to craft changes. Are we still the same? This is an open letter to my friend.
As an artist, loosening up has always been a struggle. Working tight and loose into the same painting is a principle of chinese brushpainting.
As the Parkinson's progresses, you will have to mourn the loss of the skill of execution on demand with the expectation of precision and perfection. But on the other hand, you have a new skill, the ability to be loose without having to work at it. You will have to embrace it as a possible good to explore it.
Open your mind to what you are now instead of what you were. All artists adapt. Your skill is not in the manual dexterity in applying your marks, it is in your ability to edit, form designs, plan, see what others do not and then make it happen in a way that others can see. You have lost nothing of real value in your capacity as an artist. You can pay someone to execute on demand. You cannot pay anyone to see the world your way instead of the common way.
Being forced to change your style of working is infuriating, but it is not the end of your being an artist of great skill. You will have to use materials differently and approach your process differently, but you have been doing it the old way for a long time. Change is good for artists. I worked tight for so long that I thought I could not loosen up. Something happened to me and I finally was able to let the lines not be straight. My work improved. Your lines may not be straight any more. That may not ever come back. That is ok. You have to learn to make beauty and express yourself with lines that are not straight. You can do it and it will be awesome.
It is like the taichi, starting is the important part. Not knowing where you are going might be an incredible journey.
I had to build a wood kiln to set myself loose. I made extremely tight and controlled work for most of my career. Letting the fire control the work was the only way to let it go. And then I embraced the process of randomness into my painting as well. And now my work is truly beautiful. One extreme is as bad as another, but it is an opportunity to start over knowing everything you know about completing works with the raw sketching coming from a completely different place. That is kind of cool.
It really sucks how this is coming around, but life is still good. You might need to collaborate with an executioner to do some of the finishing, but you just got a new skill if you can learn to work with it. If elephants can create beauty with their trunks and tempera paint....well, you understand what I am saying. And I am not blowing smoke or trying to buck you up. Your friend's comment about pointillism coming on got me thinking.
I have confidence in your ability as an artist, and that has not changed in any way. If you sucked and were only mediocre, you would be fucked, as you would not have the skill and experience to know how to adapt to new materials and process. But that is not the case, you are a professional. Trust yourself and give yourself a chance and some time to adjust. Play with the new skill.
I cried as they put me through the training to strap this insulin pump into place and put on the continuous glucose monitor. But I have had five days now with no insulin injections and my BG is finally coming into a normal range. I did not want to do this. And I am still having moments of doubt like when I jammed the sensor with my purse and it fucking hurt because it is a canula imbedded in my skin. I joke about going full borg but I am working with a mechanical pancreas that uses two machines to make it work, both of them embedded in my skin. I am going to have to figure out how clay dust and finely adjusted medical hardware are going to work in my life. I may not be much of a potter any more. I may have just transitioned into being primarily a painter that works in clay sometimes. And that was seriously not my plan.
So here I am, with no shots for five days. So it is a trade off and an adjustment to my own mental understanding of who I am as an artist. I have to trust that the good shit is still here with me and that I am smart enough to keep up with the cards as they come. I can do it. The alternative is just not an option, right? Right.