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Participant Information

Susan E. Whitney


Mixed media: entitled "Sleeper's Meadow Farm" (July, 2005)

The role of art in my life as a person with Parkinson's disease is an outlet for release as well as inspiration. Having been as artist since childhood, I look for the beauty, uniqueness, and positive aspects of people and surrounds.

As a portrait painter, capturing the essence and character of the person is sometimes difficult. The subject may be relaxed at first and then become self-conscious or vice versa. This is true with landscapes, as the sunlight and clouds are always changing minute by minute.

Art has taught me to look at the whole picture. However, applying these theories to myself produces a dichotomy in coping mechanisms. Sometimes the whole is too much to consider and I dwell on each minuscule ache or pain or movement problem.

Other times, I live each minute to the fullest so as to fill up my being with the beauty of life and share it with others. The key is to find balance. Art is my salvation.

The role that Parkinson's disease plays in my artwork and creativity is one of being continually challenged by movement, stamina and fatigue issues.

Since I was diagnosed in 2001 at age 54, I have had to make adjustments with the use of my hands and arms. I am by nature right-handed, so I am learning to be ambidextrous.

Therefore, I see a new style and technique emerging. Certain mediums, such as cray-pas (oil pastels), are more difficult because blending and rubbing with pressure tightens my arm and exacerbates tremor.

Standing at the easel for long periods produces fatigue, so I sit more often. The height and angle of the easel or drawing table makes a big difference in comfort. Sometimes just carrying my easel and/or tote bag of supplies is difficult, as I need to save energy to do the actual painting or drawing.

I have three easels: one in the dining room, porch and bedroom. The drawing table in the dining room with two other tables and eight chairs makes things a bit tight, but I can leave my supplies out and ready for use.

On a positive note, there are times drawing or painting that my right hand is amazingly steady as a rock when I am concentrate for long periods. Wow, what a rush of confidence that all is not lost! So look for my New Style and Fresh Outlook.