I used to enjoy drawing and painting before my injury and have tried since, but found it too painful for my injured hand and too difficult with my non-dominant hand. I wanted to find something creative that would be fun and easy to do, without needing very fine motor skills.
I dug out a bunch of art supplies from my Art GCSE days and tried them out to see which techniques lend themselves best to non-dominant hand use. I decided to avoid using my dominant hand altogether which left me with my uninjured left hand that’s bad at aiming and still not used to holding a pencil.
Pastels seemed like a good idea because there’s no equipment needed and no washing up. They’re also chunkier than pencils or paintbrushes. They needed more pressure than I had thought and I found them difficult to manipulate. It was also hard to aim because of the pastel’s blunt style combined with my lack of precision. The difficulty caused my right hand to tense up and move around in sympathy, so had the unintended effect of causing pain anyway. I was happy with my picture but I found the style frustrating and painful so I won’t be trying them again soon.
These paints need water to be picked up and mixed in with the brush, which is difficult if you have problems stabilising your arm. A solution to this could be to add in water with an eyedropper, or to use tube watercolours. The paintbrush was thin and difficult to hold, so wrapping tape around it or using rubber pencil grips might have helped. Watercolours were good because very little pressure is needed, but adding details was hard and needed concentration to aim. It’s also not a very forgiving type of paint- if you make a mistake, it’s tricky to cover up. I think I’ll try again with watercolours, but using a different technique and style.
These paints are thick, squishy, and slow to dry so allow lots of corrections and alterations as you go; I used a palette knife to spread and mix the paints together on the page. I found this easier than using a brush because I didn’t have to be as accurate and the movement didn’t need as much dexterity. The only problem with oil paints is that they are tricky to clean up if you don’t have the water-soluble kind.
Acrylic paints are faster to dry than oils but still thick. I premixed some different colours, dotted them randomly on a canvas board, then spread them with a palette knife for an abstract effect. This was quick, fun, and easy to do. It is also easy on the hand and wrist joints and didn’t need much pressure.
- I found the thick paints to be easier to use than watercolours or pastels which needed greater accuracy. I liked the tactile (but low pressure) approach.
- An easel would have been useful to stop the paper or canvas moving around on the table and I’ll look into that in future.
- Working on a bigger scale would make adding details easier. I was working on A6 size paper for all except the acrylics (A5).