Physically disabled and drawing from the shoulder

1:19 PM, Wednesday August 5th 2020

Hey, I'm a wheelchair user with hypermobile EDS, so my joints are too bendy, my muscles are weak, and my bones don't stay in place right. It's like the glue (aka collagen) that holds everything together is too stretchy. I dislocate joints and struggle to hold my torso or head upright. It's exhausting and annoying when I'm trying to work through the exercises.

Getting disability income means I have very few time commitments, so - in theory - I could draw as much as I wanted, yet it's taken me nearly two and a half months to get to the plotted perspective exercise in Lesson 1 in the boxes section.

My problem is that I spend so much energy during exercises trying draw from the shoulder that I end up too exhausted to draw for days after. U/Uncomfortable recommended we keep going with the shoulder drawing to build the strength, which I'm really trying, but EDS doesn't care.

I use a tilted surface to draw on, I support my sides with pillows, but I can't figure out a way to actually draw from my shoulder. I can barely even finish one line from my shoulder, so I need to adapt this process somehow, whether it's a way to support my arm or compromising with the limits of my body and drawing from the elbow, which I can do, but I understand it's not ideal.

U/Uncomfortable mentioned it's not ok to rest your elbow on the drawing surface, though you can rest your hand gently on the paper, because resting the elbow is too heavy an anchor and gets in the way of shoulder drawing, but I've only been able to draw at all by resting my elbow, so I'm unsure how to proceed.

Any ideas for how to accommodate this?

4 users agree
2:06 PM, Wednesday August 5th 2020

To be completely honest, I think this is going to be better asked to a physician who is more familiar with your specific challenges. At the end of the day, every restriction and requirement I set out for students - drawing from their shoulder, not leaning on their elbows, etc etc etc. gets thrown into the wind when we start taking physical disabilities into consideration. While I have to be pretty firm with people who don't have diagnosed disabilities that the muscle exhaustion they experience after drawing from their shoulders is normal, that we are pushing ourselves to do things in a way that inevitably will be uncomfortable for us, simply because people have a tendency to think themselves uniquely unqualified for the tasks, your situation is fundamentally different.

Talk to your physician and find out what kind of stress your body is going to be okay with, and what might actually be harmful for you in the long run. If drawing from the shoulder is simply not an option for you, then that changes things - it means you'll be drawing from the elbow at best, and suddenly anchoring your elbow on the table by leaning on it becomes a useful approach, rather than something to avoid.

Always remember that you are going to have to be extra patient with yourself, and accept that because your situation is more unique, there will be "rules" that simply cannot reasonably be applied to you. This doesn't mean you can't draw, but it does mean that there will be new strategies you'll have to come up with along the way for yourself, and that these more generalized frameworks won't necessarily apply to you in every possible way. There's still plenty of value here for you, but don't hurt yourself while trying to conform to every little bit.

1 users agree
2:13 PM, Wednesday August 5th 2020

Hi, sorry to hear of your situation. I think you really need to cut yourself some slack on this issue as it shouldn't interfere with your enjoyment of drawing. I would suggest two possible options one involves pursuing drawabox and one not.

Drawabox option.

De-emphasise the shoulder thing. Yes ideally that is what we should be doing but if you can't, you can't. Your situation is much different to someone that just isn't putting in the effort. Focus on just doing your best to achieve the results in those lessons you can. Much of the construction approach applies regardless of whether it is one fluid line or ellipse or not. Try to achieve a similar result even if not strictly in the manner specified. Maybe work on a smaller scale, microdrawabox :-) or something like that.

Non-Drawabox option.

Look for other courses or options. You will find that many artists don't particularly follow the from the shoulder approach to produce their work ( most of those on iPads for a start ). Often the limitations that we have actually encourage us to find solutions that create highly unique and brilliant works in new styles. Matisse made paper collages when his health was unwell and couldn't paint.

Hate to thinking of you sweating over this fairly technical aspect when you could perhaps be really enjoying some other style, method or technique.

0 users agree
10:27 PM, Monday August 10th 2020

Have you tried putting a sock or something that will glide smoothly along the table around your forearm/elbow? You would still be resting your arm on the table but some sort of cloth material would likley decrease any friction that would occur with skin to table contact resulting in a smoother line.

I'm a physical therapist and I've used this technique while working with patients who are unable to lift limbs but I still want to target certain muscle groups. I'd recommend just cutting off the end of a tube sock and wearing it like a sleeve. If your arm has a tendancy to get sweaty, you may need to use another type of wrapping/bandage that won't get "soggy."

Please let me know if this does/doesn't work for you and we can further discuss other options

0 users agree
5:28 PM, Tuesday August 11th 2020

Hey, I just noticed your post by coincidence and it really stood out to me. I think it is super inspiring that you are putting so much effort into trying drawabox despite your physical limitations. I'm no expert, so take my advice with a grain of salt. However, I do believe that if you are pushing yourself this much to follow the rules given by uncomfortable, it may be beyond what is necessary. Since it seems you are willing to put in the time, I would experiment with the best compromise that you can find, and don't be afraid to bend the rules to work in your favor. After all, the idea of drawing from your shoulder comes from an assumption that drawing from your shoulder IS the most effective way to achieve smooth lines for the majority of people. If this isn't the case for you, I urge you to find some way to achieve as smooth a line as possible without pushing yourself to the extreme. This may involve resting your elbow, or even drawing from your elbow if necessary. I'm getting quite redundant, but I hope you understand my point. I'd love to talk with you more about what strategies you've tried and what works/ doesn't.

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