'n True Adaptations for Painters
Carolyn (Lyn) Horan
think that most artists' works are largely autobiographical,
consciously or subconsciously, whether they are visual artists,
writers, or musicians. We incorporate aspects of our individual
experiences, positive and negative into our work ...divorce,
loss of a loved one, human relationships, pain, and joywhatever
it is. So in that sense, my experience with illness and disability
finds its way into the content of my work through issues of
In a literal sense, it has impacted how I hold a brush, the
materials I use, how long a period of time I am able to paint,
and professional adjustments. But it ultimately serves to
strengthen my commitment to my art and the way it satiates
Carolyn (Lyn) Horan
Lyn Horan painted Belladonna Lily (above) on a 36 x 36-inch canvas,
in watercolors. Lyn uses a drafting table that her mother (also
an artist) gave to her, and the table allows Lyn to raise or tilt
her work to various heights and angles. An adjustable table is very
useful for artists with limited mobility or motor coordination.
Lyn is a professional artist
and watercolor instructor in Maryland for the Ginger Cove Retirement
Community. Having M.S. for 17 years and arthritis for 15 provides
Lyn with special insight and sensitivity to seniors in her classes
who have physical limitations that can interfere with enjoyment
of art. Lyn's job is to re-ignite talent in people and help them
find new talents.
Lyn has exhibited her work in galleries throughout
the country and abroadGreece, Turkey and Israel. She's exhibited
at VSA Arts in Washington and served on VSA discussion panels. Lyn
also serves as vice-chairwoman of the Coalition for Balanced Excellence
in Education, an organization that protects and supports education
programs. Lyn acts as an advocate in arts education for children.
|There are all sorts of things I
have learned to do to continue to be a productive artist who
just happens to have MS and arthritis:
||The biggest issue is learning
to pace myself because one of my biggest obstacles is
fatigue. I try to be sensible about not working too long at
a time, as I will get stiff and tired. Take regular breaks
to stretch and rest.
||I sit at a large drawing board
(as I can't stand for long periods of time) in a chair with
wheels and a lumbar support to protect my back. This
is very important, as folks who walk long-term with crutches,
such as myself, often put extra stress on their back and joints.
The drawing board can be adjusted in order to angle the
painting surface slightly, almost flat.
||Initially I concentrated on watercolors
as I was told early on that people with nervous system disorders
needed to stay clear of toxic substances and chemicals.
Clean up is easy, etc.
||Many folks with MS (as well as
many of the seniors I teach) suffer from a hand tremor,
making it difficult to control a brush or pencil. I have learned
to always rest and support my drawing and painting hand and
arm on the painting surface to counteract my tremor and
give me more control.
||Hand and arm supports can
be purchased at many art supply companies to protect your working
||Artists with difficult to control
tremors should not be discouraged from continuing to
create original artwork. Often the loosening of control of our
work gives us a more interesting, freer-flowing brushstroke,
conducive to abstract, emotive work.
||Remember that creation is very
often about personal choices. Personal choices of color,
shape, composition, and rhythm are part of the process for every
artist, and choices are made from our hearts and souls, not
||Small- (but not minute) to medium-sized
artwork is easier to accomplish for many disabled artists though
larger pieces can be made by "piecing together"
||I have recently started back to
painting in oils with less toxic materials. I can still use
my drawing board when I am painting on gessoed 300 lb.
watercolor paper or a braced canvas so it won't slide
down the drawing table surface.
||I also invested in a lightweight,
portable, French easel (for watercolor or oils) that I use
in my studio or outdoors. Its height and surface angle can be
adjusted so I can sit and paint.
||It is important that everything
you do in between painting periods to enhance your health such
as a good diet, physical therapy, de-stressing activities,
and rest will help you be more efficient, relaxed and creative
when you go into your studio to work.