Art and Disability: Tips for Making It Work

 


So art is fucking hard. Every artist knows that (stop thinking, “I’ll just read this even though I’m Not A Real Artist™” you are real, we’re all real, or else none of us are but it comes to the same – this is for YOU).

Being disabled is also hard, in some ways. I’m a wheelchair user with joint problems, postural hypotension (I think; will eventually find a doctor who checks), and unpredictable muscle spasms. I am also autistic and multiply mentally ill. Here are the things I do to keep me from not doing art:

Financial:

– Apply for the benefits you should be entitled to. You’re not sponging off of anyone. Those benefits are there for you.

– It is okay for you to spend money on shit that makes you happy.

– Art supplies are not a luxury you don’t deserve. Art supplies can be necessary for a happy, fulfilled life. Making shit makes my head be quiet and keeps me on an even keel. That is not a luxury.

– If you need something you can’t afford, write to the people who make it and the people who distribute it. Explain your situation. At worst, you spent some time writing an email that didn’t go anywhere. But more people than you think want you to be able to do the thing. So try it.

Physical:

– I have bed tables. Two of them. The folding ones, but they also have over-bed ones that stand on the floor and roll under your bed so the table bit hangs over you. I use one by the sofa and one by my bed, which means I don’t have to carry them downstairs. I can sit in my bed and have a table, because sitting at a table isn’t often an option for very long (my house is not wheelchair accessible).

– I also have two laptop chargers, one downstairs and one upstairs (yes, I am a wheelchair user who uses stairs, life sucks for us all, but I haven’t fallen down a flight of stairs in some time. Try sitting down on them to travel, take it slow).

– Art supplies? You fucking guessed it. I put together kits of my favourite pencils, pens, and some rubber erasers. I have 2 pencil cases, and two blocks of paper. I only have one watercolour set and brush set, but I mostly just draw so it’s fine. I actually have a third pencil case containing a set of pens I don’t like, for travel.

– If you can, do it. I draw even on days when my hands are being shit. I’m learning how to incorporate the results of ill-timed spasms. Shit, scan it later and fix it digitally. MAKE THE THING.

Mentally:

– If executive dysfunction has you in its awful grip, step it down. The thing you want to make is a massive undertaking with a thousans steps? Fuck it. Pick a step. Launch in head-first. Or draw up a rigorous list of all the steps. Or sit and daydream about it. There is no losing in art, as long as you remember that there is no losing in art.

– Not everything has to be Deep And Meaningful. It’s okay to draw a squirrel eating a Oreo. Fuck, go do that right now and send it to me, I would love to see it. Or a squirrel mermaid. Or a mermaid that’s top half fish, bottom half squirrel. I’m getting too excited now.

– Accept that your art may not live up to your expectations. That’s okay. That is, in fact, an unavoidable and necessary step to making the art you did imagine. And that makes it cool as hell! I’m excited about it! It is possible that I’m just too excited about stuff tonight.

– Don’t forget that the whole point of it is to make YOU happy. Not your mum, or your teacher (even your art teacher). Not Deborah from accounting. Just you.

Basically, this is how I do the thing. I hope it helps you do the thing. I’m proud of you and I want you to thrive, and also I really want that squirrel mermaid.

 

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