Switching Sides pt 1: The Background

Switching Sides pt 1: The Background

On July 6th 2018, I started training myself to use my non-dominant right hand with the goal of being able to draw as well with the right hand as I do with my left hand.

To begin to understand this project a little more, I thought I’d start with some background.

At the beginning of this year I clocked in about two years of straight up drawing almost every single day. Before that, I had not drawing regularly in years, so this not only meant a change in my artistic ability, but also my lifestyle. It is something that have benefitted me hugely in terms of being an artist, but it has also taken its toll on my body. Drawing for hours on end, even with exercising and stretching, is a huge strain on your arms, your neck, back and hips.

For me, the strain on the body has lead to issues and pains in my left arm and hand, which is my dominant hand. It has been building up throughout the past year, but I’ve been ignoring it because I’ve been so determined to reach my goals and making progress with my art. I guess that in hindsight, that was really stupid of me, but as a person who has used my art to put bread on the table, it’s very easy to keep going no matter what. In February, the pain got worse and I realised that I had to do something before I made any permanent damage.

Unfortunately, this is something we rarely talk about within the community, or at least in my nook of it. People who are artists themselves generally knows about this, but people on the outside, who only see the results, don’t hear much about it. I don’t really know why that is. Maybe because we want to keep the magic of art secret or because we are afraid to show our vulnerability. Regardless of the reason, it’s something that is not addressed enough and something we need to talk more about.

Anyway, after much consideration, I took about two months off from drawing in February. It seemed to do the trick. The pain got better and I got back to work. I kept doing my stretching and exercises, so I hoped that I’d be fully healed. However, as I’m sure you understand, this is not the case. I was fine for a while, but around the beginning of June, things started to go downhill again. I kept piling up my workload again, and in order to get through it all, I didn’t really want to admit that my arm was getting worse. Unfortunately, the body doesn’t care about what you think or believe, and a couple of weeks ago, the condition of my arm and elbow was almost as bad as in February. I decided to take a week off from everything, which seemed to help, but just a couple of days coming back from my holiday, I realised that the situation was unbearable.

My diagnosis now is Lateral Epicondylitis, commonly known as Tennis elbow. What it means is that some of the muscles in my elbow are worn out from overuse, and even though I really hope that treatment will help me to recover, the damage is there and I will always have to be careful not to tear it further and create permanent damage. I don’t even want to think about what something like that would mean for me. I’ve been drawing my whole life: it’s the way I express myself; mediate; relax; find happiness and interpret the world around me. To not be able to do this scares me more than I even want to admit. So, something had to be done.

When I started researching causes and treatments for LE, I came across lots of articles that discussed ergonomics and ways to adapt your workspace and tools in order to prevent further damage. I have gotten a lot of help from those types of articles, but one line from one of those articles in particular stood out to me. The writer said, and I’m paraphrasing here: ”If something you do hurts, find another way to do it”. And it hit me. It was that simple. If I couldn’t work with my left hand as much as I want without hurting it, then why don’t use my right hand too and divide the workload?

Ambidexterity is not super common, but it’s not unheard of either. Leonardo da Vinci was said to use both hands, Frank Frazetta learned to draw with his non-dominant hand after suffering from a stroke and I have a friend who uses both hands to draw. In fact, my own mother was somewhat ambidextrous because when she was a girl, she wasn’t allowed to write with her left hand, so she learned to write with her right hand. Natural ambidexterity occurs in less than 1% of the world’s population, but if others can learn, then why can’t I?

Thus, I am about to embark on my journey to learn to draw as well with my right hand as I do with my left hand, and I thought that I’d share this exploration with you all. A lot of people out there seem to share my pains, and also my fears of being forced to stop drawing, so I want to document my progress in order to open up to discussions about artists’ health, the fears of losing what you’re passionate about and maybe even inspire others to find new paths and options for their creativity. Furthermore, I want to explore my right hand as I would a new art medium. From what I’ve drawn so far, there seems to be many interesting new aspects to my style and drawings that would be interesting to analyse and explore.

So, here we are. Let the journey begin.