This week at Behind the Mic, part two of Chronically Creative, a series of posts about working with chronic illness. Today we have Sarah Marie Lacy, fine art painter and chronic fatigue survivor since age 12! I met Sarah when she was doing a stint of live painting on line at Watching Paint Dry. Her youth and her talent inspire me on a regular basis. Sarah, set right up…
Art Practicalities with Sarah Marie Lacy
Art definitely inspires me when I’m relapsing or ill. If I’m in a bad relapse, I’m usually too sick to make any art, and of course that’s frustrating. But it gives me something to focus on. It acts as a lifeline, something to hold onto when the seas get rough. It gives me something to look forward to – “When I get better, I can do this and this and this!” I can paint in my head, I can plan paintings, or I can ponder new directions I want to take and new skills I want to learn.
When the pain or the exhaustion is really bad, it allows me to look forward, into a future that’s much more pleasant.
I think art is literally how I stay sane. It gives my life purpose, and it gives my pain expression. I think that’s why my art isn’t necessarily about rainbows and sunshine. It’s about pain and hope, at the same time. For me, it’s about expressing the hurt, but it’s also about finding the light. What can I say? I’m a paradox.
Q: How do you manage the ebb and flow of productive times, and rest/healing-up periods? How do you talk to yourself about success during these periods?
I actually find this the most difficult part of managing a chronic illness. My creativity is very cyclical. I’m learning to respect that, while slowly trying to change it.
My current creative rhythm is to be intensely creative for a month, and then have a month or two off. I’m working to steady that out, as it takes a lot out of me. I’d much rather have a few hours a day where I’m creative and then take time off, rather than be intensely creative for 6 hours a day, but then after a month, be completely brain dead and unable to even face my easel.
I’m also incredibly hard on myself, so in my down periods I’m not very good at talking to myself about success at all. I have a tendency to beat up on myself and compare myself to others who are creating more steadily.
I’m learning to cut myself some slack, but that’s a process too.
And sometimes your body just vetoes everything that you want to do, and you just gotta take a nap. Some days I’m okay with it, others it drives me nuts. Again, it’s something I’m learning to make peace with.
This part of my life is such a process. I’m a Type A personality, and having to stop and do nothing is always where my struggle lies.
Q. It can be hard from someone with a chronic condition to 1) work enough to meet their monetary needs (ie pay the bills) and 2) rest enough to not have chronic-pain flare ups, and 3) do their creative work. How do you manage this challenge?
I actually have to give myself some credit here – I’ve managed to work this out really well for myself, but don’t ask me how. I think Lady Fortune was just smiling on me.
I currently manage 2 jobs on top of my art, but I don’t work more than 55 hours a month for other people. The rest of the month is my time. I do some freelance social media marketing for an arts company out of Texas and some freelance web development for a web designer in Colorado.
What I also did was move to one of the cheapest (and prettiest) places to live in Canada, so my basic expenses are really low. I’m also quite frugal – we don’t have a car, or cable or a cell phone. We also live in the downtown so we can walk to everything that we need.
So with the money I make, I can pay for all of the rent and bills, and my boyfriend pays for the groceries (he’s a student, so he isn’t making tons of money and we don’t want to run up unnecessary debt.)
What all this means is that most of my energy and most of my day is mine. It also means that all of my work can be done from my bed – I can be pretty sick, and still be able to make money to support us.
Like I said, I’m not sure how I got into this situation, but it works beautifully and allows for lots of nap time if I need it!
More importantly, none of the work takes creative energy from me, so I can dedicate it all to my art. I couldn’t ask for anything better.
Behind the Mic: You can find Sarah’ work on her website, where you can sign up for her newsletter and find out when her new collection of notecards will be available. Live in PEI? Visit her work in person at the Pilar Shephard Gallery in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. She’s also good company on Twitter , and has a backlog of live paintings recorded here at Ustream.
Are you working with a chronic condition? How are you managing to live creatively with both your work and your illness? Please add to our Giant Pool Of Wisdom by commenting below. Stay tuned next week for another addition of Chronically Creative. Thank you for being here today.