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.
It was hurting too much to draw so I decided to stop. Illustration work was hard to come by, so it all seemed a bit too convenient for me to give up my passion. Maybe I was just sick of it, and wanted a change. The doubt that had always niggled away at me loomed larger: maybe I just wasn’t very good.