If you need help right now, text 988
I hope this article describe a real life story of how art acts as therapy. Please know if you need mental health help at any level, you are not alone. In the United States, please consider contacting Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration or text 988. Look for similar services in your home country.
I've contemplated writing about this for quite some time. Tossing in my mind: do I want to publicly tell this story? Or is this something too personal? Today, I think I'm thinking it is so personal, that it should be shared. In that great big online world, maybe someone is struggling to find alternate forms of therapy and would like to stumble upon my story. So here it is:
From Dabbling to Necessity
I've dabbled as a visual artist for over 20 years. Always too busy to turn it into anything more than a joyful hobby with a few art sales here and there. At first I focused on human figure drawing, studying at the Art Students League of Denver and at Pallet & Chisel in Chicago.
Necessity is the Mother of Invention
Then in 2018 I got sick. Really sick. The treatments were grueling. IVIG infusions 4 days a week, every three weeks with side effects lasting about a week. My schedule became: Week 1: infusions Week 2: Side effects Week 3: Doctors, tests, insurance.
At one point after a difficult doctor appointment in Denver, I got a call from one of my specialists about a worrisome blood test result. It was pouring rain. My dad was in the car with me. When I hung up I said "We're going to Best Buy to get an iPad. I'm going to learn how to do this digital art thing."
Using my iPad to create art during infusions became my Alternate Therapy. I couldn't sit in front of an easel. Or move around much. Or bring paints to the infusion center. I learned how to use the Procreate app (at the time the Adobe products did not run on the iPad). What a joyful creative learning experience!!
I was a bit surprised there are biases out there between "digital artists" and "traditional artists". As if digital art isn't real. That is the dumbest thing I've ever heard.
Digital art is art therapy anywhere and non-toxic
Digital Art is Healing. Digital Art is Portable; can be done anywhere; Digital Art is Non-Toxic. If you want to pursue digital art, just do it. It is very much a real and in-demand artform. Here are a few of my first digital works:
Making Money at Digital Art
The medical treatments cost $80,000 per month. Thankfully I had health insurance. But a health crisis is always partnered with a health insurance crisis. About a year into it, I qualified for a unique program through the State of Colorado Medicaid system. This program acted as a second insurance and covered out-of-pocket and deductible expenses, leaving me with just the cost of monthly premiums. One catch: I had to make $1 per month and no more than about $45k a year. At the time, I was an IT Consultant. When I worked, my income was much higher than that. But, if I didn't work.... hmmmm.... how could I make a little bit of money to reduce my health insurance risks? I opened up an Etsy store with my favorite digital art pieces. Then begged friends and family to buy digital files they could download and print. People I didn't even know did the same!! And some wanted me to print and ship! My art business was taking off, $1 at a time! Here are photos of some of my first sales:
Stop Before You're Finished
I got deeper and deeper into the digital thing. Signing up on too many online platforms, trying to keep everything synchronized, communicating with perfect strangers via phone and email. And of course creating and printing art. My world became 100% online. I had to stop then pivot. As the medical treatments tapered off and then finally stopped, I had more time to be in my home studio. And to create "real" art. Acrylics, oil paintings, inks, resins. I can't tell you how many times I reached for the "undo" button! I kind of left my online world a shambles. Need to clean that up and reorganize someday. But first....
Pivoting to being a local artist wasn't easy because that started during the 2020 Pandemic! And I didn't really know anyone in the local arts community. But I found a few angels out there: Lauren Merrill from the Alpine Arts Center, Tara Novak of Eagle Arts, and Melissa Nelson from the Vail Valley Art Guild plus a long list of many local artists! My little art business took a natural turn: connecting with local art lovers, collectors, and artists; showing works in local art shows, commissions & consignments, and custom work for friends.
This month, I started on Medicare. There is a special Medicare plan that extends benefits for people with chronic conditions. It's free. No more $1 a month, no out-of-pocket, no premium, no deductibles. One simple card for health, dental, vision, hearing, and drugs. Yes I live in the United States. Yes this is available for all citizens who need it. The daunting task of managing medical insurance is over. I can produce art for the fun of it. I can produce what I want, when I want. I can sell it or not. This week, I picked up that iPad again and enjoyed the world of digital art from the comfort of my couch! I wonder what the 2024 Pivot shall hold!
Art Print Give Away
As a thanks for following my journey, I am selecting three people to receive a digital print (size choices 5x7, 8x10, 11x14)!!! Check out the works that are included on this page. You can hover over each photo to see its name. Send an email to email@example.com indicating which art piece and size you'd like. Include your name, mailing address.
Give Away Ends Nov 15 2023