by Robert Potter
There is a lot to be said for the benefits of making art when dealing with a chronic degenerative disease like PD.
Eleven years ago, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. To say the least, it was a difficult period of my life, but out of all that came an unexpected benefit — a burst of creative energy that expressed itself through art-making. There is a lot to be said for the benefits of making art when dealing with a chronic degenerative disease like PD. It was a Godsend in that it offered me an escape from the daily stress of coping with my condition and prognosis. I could become lost in creative projects, forgetting about my PD while still grappling with whatever the personal issues of the moment. To me, creating happens on both a conscious and an unconscious level. Consciously I make decisions about subject matter, color pallet, composition, etc., and then those decisions reflect unconscious moods, feelings and personal issues not directly related to the subject matter. Both creating art and then interpreting and analyzing are therapeutic. Some psychotherapists incorporate art therapy as part of their formal practice. This is for me one of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of creating art is creating something that offers depth with various levels of meaning.
When we talk about the traditional artistic mediums such as painting, drawing, photography and sculpture, we too often assume it requires skill, training and or talent. But the truth is that you don’t have to have any formal training to enjoy the pleasure and benefits of creating art. All that’s required is motivation to get started. Some people may enjoy taking a class in drawing or painting. Personally, I’ve had some art training over the years, mostly in film and photography, but not a lot. Most of my current work involves creating mixed media collage – probably the result of a misspent childhood of building too many model airplanes. But I have found collage to be an easy and rewarding art form. It can be as easy as cutting images out of old books and magazines and pasting them on to a board or it can be done digitally, cutting and pasting images found on the internet using a computer program like Photoshop.
PD is an insidious disease that brings a creeping sense of isolation and depression. Creating art can be an antidote to this, providing a badly needed means of escape while also providing a means of expressing and coping with the many conflicting feelings and emotions that are otherwise hard to articulate. Finally, sharing your artwork can be the culmination of this process, that offers the rewards of feedback and reflection.