When I was 21, I was finally on the brink of “making it”.
After developing an injury in my hand that made it too painful for me to draw, I had to let my illustration dreams go. Although I’ve never been a sporty girl, I could suddenly relate to the elite athletes who had to quit their profession after an unexpected injury.
It was devastating, because ever since I could remember my identity and future had been built around becoming Carla The Illustrator.
Art wasn’t something I did on the side; it was my life and obsession. My bedroom was overflowing with sketchbooks, loose drawing paper and art supplies. I always had bits of paint and ink on my clothes and hands.
That’s why it was so hard to let it all go. Even now, almost 10 years after I stopped illustrating, it still bothers me that I’m not drawing any more.
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I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve planned to “make a comeback” and optimistically purchased a sketchbook, only to panic once I saw all the blank pages. I’ve tried everything – digital illustration, drawing exercises, life drawing classes, creativity courses – but nothing can bring back the excitement, peace and love I used to feel while drawing.
I was in my final year of design school when I first realised something was wrong with my drawing hand, my precious right hand. I was working on my final major project and often spent up to 18 hours a day illustrating. It was normal for my hand to hurt a bit after drawing, but this time around the pain wouldn’t go away.
By the time I graduated and began freelancing, drawing for even a couple of minutes would hurt. I began to get other symptoms, too – numbness in some fingers, a tingling in my hand, a searing pain that shot up my arm and into my shoulder. I started to drop things, because my grip had become so poor. Ordinary activities like doing the dishes and washing my hair began to hurt.