How to Be a Healthy Visual Artist

If you are a full-time artist or an art student, you can get so involved in your work that your health can suffer. If you develop a health condition, your creativity and productivity will suffer, so it is important to take care of your health while you build your career.

Develop Healthy Habits

You know you should eat good food but you end up eating fast foods or junk to survive. The last time you worked out, well, you may not even remember when that was.

To avoid spending a lot of time in the kitchen, prepare all your meals one day a week and freeze them, then thaw them out when you need them. You could cook up a week of brown rice or whole wheat pasta, and use it for several different entrees. Make a big veggie tray to snack on while you're at it. The slow cooker is your friend too -- just think about how nice it would be to relax with a cooked meal of veggies and meat at the end of a work day.

You can take a break and quiet your mind with yoga or a brisk walk for ten minutes three times a day. You will be surprised how this can help you to be more creative as well as improve your fitness. It will also help you see your work with fresh eyes and help you to improve it.

Avoid Toxic Substances/Use Proper Ventilation

There are some chemicals that are toxic to artists and need to be avoided or used properly to prevent problems. Toluene is in fixatifs, permanent markers, and spray paint.  It is also used as a solvent for paint and other products. It can cause permanent nerve damage if you breathe in too much of it.

Many artists use products that contain lead, cadmium, cobalt, or chromium but these are toxic. Use chemical grade gloves to prevent exposure to skin when using them, and make sure there is adequate ventilation in your work room.

You should also be aware that

  • Just because something is labeled natural doesn't mean you don't need to be cautious about it. For example, turpentine is a natural product but wide exposure to it can harm your health.
  • Non-toxic is a label given loosely to materials that don't sicken or kill test subjects quickly. That doesn't mean long term exposure or ingesting them is safe.
  • When something will break down eventually into non-polluting substances it is termed biodegradable but that is not a synonym for non-toxic or safe.

 Always read the labels of the products you use, and follow the warnings.

Take Some Time Off and Develop a Social Life

When you are preparing for a show, naturally you will be preoccupied with it for a short period of time.  However, if you live single-mindedly for long periods of time, the stress will take a toll on your psyche and body. Your social relationships will suffer, as well.

Schedule regular working hours and stick to them even when you don't feel particularly inspired. You can always make canvases or do other prep work. 

Sometimes the stress of an artistic life can lead to overuse of prescription or OTC drugs, alcohol, or illegal substances. These can be destructive to your health too, so abstain or do use these things in moderation and watch who you hang around with. A bohemian lifestyle can be fun for a while, but ultimately can take a toll on your health and you may even end up with some legal problems.

Build a Relationship with a Primary Care Physician

To live a long happy life as an artist, you will want to have regular checkups and a great relationship with a primary care physician who will help you to maintain good health and prevent problems.