I’m an artist and photographer in my mid-40s who’s chosen this path to create a better life for myself after becoming disabled at age 30. I’m a parent of a married adult son and live with my partner and my mobility dog.
I was born and raised in the upper Midwest, and spent the first 35 years of my life in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Chronic pain and the subsequent diagnosis of an autoimmune disease at 30 left me unable to work, but with too much time on my hands, and I started studying photography and design with a view to supplementing and eventually replacing my disability income by selling my creations. I moved to east Tennessee and lived there for about 10 years because the warmer winters allow me to avoid the November-through-April autoimmune flareups. I relocated to central Arkansas in 2018, and live up on a mountain about 30 minutes from Little Rock; the natural setting combined with the nearby urban area provides endless inspiration, and all of the specialists needed to keep my health under control are within a relatively easy drive.
My artistic interests lean towards photography, drawing (especially colored pencil), hand-lettering and typography. I’ve been interested in photography and typography since I was about 8, though I thought I had no skill at drawing or painting up until about 2015. I gave myself permission to go for it after surviving a series of health issues that required surgery and then a readmission to the hospital a week later that kept me in for 19 days; somehow giving myself that permission unlocked previously hidden talents.
The photography bug bit me when I was about 10, when I received a small Kodak 110 camera as a Christmas gift. I didn’t get to do anywhere near as much as I’d have liked until I got into high school, though, because the cost of getting a couple of rolls of film developed and printed ate up what money I was given for getting good grades, and my parents didn’t believe in giving children an allowance. I shot a LOT of photos for my high school’s newspaper and yearbook, though, and was one of the darkroom techs who developed and printed the film in a converted dressing room in the wings off the auditorium’s stage. I had to set it aside during college and for a few years afterward, but I picked it back up shortly after I was deemed disabled, and started studying composition and light balance in earnest; at the time, I was hoping to sell my photos for supplemental income, and maybe open a portrait studio. I’ve since realized my preferences lie more in shooting nature and mockups, though. Both of those lend themselves easily to shooting on days when I’m up to standing and climbing and walking around, and to editing photos and preparing them for sale when I’m having days where I need to rest with my feet up.
I taught myself to draw objects in order to create unique items for my digital scrapbooking kits, and I still love creating them. My favorite medium is colored pencil, though I also work in pencil and technical pens. I also dabble in watercolor and acrylic paints, though I consider myself very much an amateur with them. I sell some of the elements I draw over at my scrapbooking site.
Type has fascinated me since middle school, when my parents got a program that could create banners and signs on a dot-matrix printer attached to their 286. It’s the first time I can recall being more than superficially aware of the existence of different lettering styles, though I saw them regularly on the shop signs downtown. Working with the high school newspaper and yearbook let me learn a little more about typography, but again, that wasn’t an interest my parents supported. I also dabbled in calligraphy and illumination when I was a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism during my 20s. Once I got out on my own and had my own computer, though, I started collecting fonts in earnest, just for the love of type. Dafont was one of my favorite sites when it first started up, though I’ve learned in the intervening decades how bad most of those free fonts were, and that many of the font CDs I purchased were renames or pirated versions of fonts from the big foundries. But it wasn’t all bad; they gave me the building blocks I needed to learn to create effective typographic layouts for resumés, greeting cards, and the occasional poster advertising a garage sale or small community event; while the initial cards and posters were pretty horrible, design-wise, I improved a lot when I started studying composition after getting sick.
When I started designing digital scrapbooking kits, and needing to create “word art”, that necessitated really learning how to pair fonts and arrange type to be truly beautiful; my font collection got a major boost in the number of commercial-use fonts at that point. Then I started creating some hand-lettered “journal cards” that I then scanned in, which allowed me to make some truly unique word art; this led to designing hand-lettered quotations for my walls, too. I started wanting to create alphas to go with the kits, and I ran into needing fonts that allow for selling digital products made with individual letterforms; this is a use case specifically against most font EULAs, so I was pretty much restricted to Google Fonts and other open-source types. I got hold of a copy of a font creation program back in the Windows 95 days, but gave up because I hadn’t yet learned how to draw anything, let alone make it look good; I didn’t really attempt type design again until 2019 when I started to draw my own versions of some classics like Bodoni and Garamond and Helvetica. I learned some about type design while drawing those, but the limited number of open-source fonts that lend themselves well to pattern fills or kid-themed kits pulled me more toward learning type design in earnest so that I could draw my own display fonts.
My health issues mean that my level of functionality varies day by day, and while I might be able to haul boxes for half an hour at a time one day, on another day (perhaps even later the same day) my back will be pinching nerves so badly that I have to use my wheelchair because my legs literally won’t hold me up; most days are somewhere in between those two extremes. Chronic fatigue is also an issue. It’s impossible to predict when I’ll have a physically good day, though stress, sunlight, weather changes, insomnia, and poor diet are all relatively reliable in producing sub-optimal days. That variability is a huge influence on my choice to pursue individual digital creative projects which can accommodate the day-to-day fluctuations, and which can be sold online with a simple website rather than needing to be shipped or physically delivered. It’s proven to be a fantastic solution to the challenges posed by my health.