As a professional artist your hands are one of your most important tools. Cape Town artist Danelle Malan was diagnosed with a Repetitive Strain Injury in her dominant right hand and the specialist’s recommendation was to stop using her hand for months, possibly an entire year.

“I have struggled with this condition for more than 9 years now and lately it has gotten to a point where loss of fine motor control and pain make it difficult for me to commit to illustration commissions. I have tried several types of treatments but to no avail. I finally saw a neurologist on 29/03/2017, and he said that what I have is not Carpal Tunnel Syndrome as was previously thought, nor is it focal dystonia (phew!). I need to rest the hand… for a LONG time. We’re talking months, perhaps even a year or more.”

Faced with the reality of being unable to take on commissions which are her main source of income, she set out to teach herself to be ambidextrous, learning how to both write and draw using her left hand.

Right hand firmly strapped up she set about doing the handwriting exercises we all learn in school. It was a long process but she slowly made progress.

From squiggly cats to doing a detailed magician’s inventory scene, Danelle hasn’t let her injury hold her back.

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Learning to write again

“I had to stop my right hand from wanting to grab the pen out of my left hand and just do it. Old habits die hard!”
Photo by Danelle Malan

2015 Inktober

“I was only able to use a giant marker initially, like a child.”

©Danelle Malan

Magician’s Inventory- Inktober 2017

“Today, I’m using dipping nibs and ink.”

Image © Danelle Malan

Watercolor and salt Autumn leaves

© Danelle Malan

Inktober 2017 day 3: ” Teeth!

“Human and animal, done with my non-dominant hand in brush pen with Winsor and Newton ink”
©Danelle Malan

Tiger Tiger tote

“Tiger moths, tiger skulls, tiger teeth! A tiling pattern made from three different Inktober drawings from 2017. I drew the originals with my non-dominant hand.”

All of these wonderful products and more are available on her Redbubble shop
© Danelle Malan

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Watercolor Mushroom Tank top

“A dark variant of my mushroom and blueberry pattern, because the rainbow colors look great against a dark backdrop.” Also available in a light backdrop
©Danelle Malan

A sleeve of teeth anyone?

“A tiling pattern of human teeth! Drawn with my non-dominant hand for Inktober 2017.”

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Paisley Ghosts

“I was walking in the street and spotted someone wearing a paisley shirt. For some reason I got the impression that the paisley was made up of tiny ghosts, and thought to myself, “that’s so clever!” But then when I looked closer, I realised that the shirt was actually just regular old paisley. I must have had halloween on the brain. I immediately decided to do my own haunted paisley design.”
©Danelle Malan

Paisley Ghosts as a pattern

They make such a happy little pattern :) It’s available on a whole range of items over on Redbubble and on Spoonflower

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Follow her journey on Patreon

Here you can support her endeavors and get some cool members-only content starting from $1 a month.

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