Local grandmother and mother of three, Lisa Geddes isn’t letting a rare disease stop her from developing her passion for art. With limited wrist movement, Lisa has developed her own technique of painting – with amazing results.
How did you develop a passion for painting?
I come from a very creative family; art, craft, cooking and music have always been an important part of our lives. It has been the thing that we have shared through many generations; even today, I am lucky to have five generations of my family alive – and most of our gatherings focus around the creative pursuits of family members. When I was at school, I would have been happy to do art for every subject. Since we moved to the Pacific Palms area 10 years ago, I have been even more inspired by these surroundings to develop my painting abilities further.
You suffer from a very rare disease called Madelung’s Deformity. Tell us a little about it?
Madelung’s Deformity affects approximately one in 1million people in Australia. It occurs predominantly in adolescent females, who present with pain, decreased range of motion and deformity. It is found to be a genetic deformity and is associated with mesomelic dwarfism and a mutation on the X chromosome; they have discovered that it occurs around every fifth generation. If detected at a young age, it can often be helped through surgical correction of the bones as they are growing, so my children and their children and so on will be tested. In my case, the ends of the Radius in both arms didn’t grow and the joints, bones etc. in my hands and arms are deformed and the muscles and tendons are under a lot of strain. Unfortunately, mine wasn’t diagnosed until I was about 30, so can’t be fixed. At this stage, I need to wear specially made arm splints through the day and wresting splints at night. I have had several operations to relieve pressure on nerves etc. but it will keep deteriorating, until the joints will need to be completely fused. It’s constantly painful, but I just deal with it according to the level of pain each day and tell myself not to complain, because there is always someone worse off than me. Hopefully someone will come up with a wrist replacement or something similar for adults in the future.
You’ve developed your own technique for painting based on your inability to move your wrists. How hard was it to learn a style that worked for you?
I decided that when the time comes to have my joints fused, I want to be able to continue with my art. So, I have been teaching myself to paint while wearing my arm splints, which restricts movement in my wrists. At times it gets frustrating, but I am getting used to turning my canvas upside down and sideways or using my left hand when my right one needs resting (I’m right handed, by the way).
How would you describe your style?
My style of painting in the past has always been very detailed and realistic. I am now learning to be a lot more relaxed and fluent with it, so I think that is why I am drawn to nature, in particular waves, which have been the subject of my first few paintings using this technique – which I call stiff strokes (this relates to the stiffness of my arms while painting). It seems a bit of a contradiction, because I’m being more restricted in my movements, but at the same time have to be more relaxed in the actual painting to compensate for this.
Who are some of the artists you look up to?
I don’t have a particular artist that I would say is a favourite, as I admire anyone who can express their creativity and I like all styles of art. I have always really admired the mouth and foot painters who create the amazing works of art; they are a real inspiration. I really look up to anyone who has a disability of any kind and still pursues their interests, regardless of whether they are told they can’t or shouldn’t be doing it.
You’ll be having an operation soon that fuses your joints. Will that affect you painting in the future?
I’m sure it will affect my painting, but I am hoping that by training myself to paint now wearing my splints, it won’t have such a major impact on it. It will also affect a lot of everyday things that most of us take for granted, and there will be things I won’t be able to do much about at all. But having grown up with a father who is an inventor, he has taught me that sometimes you just need to do things in a different way. I’m very lucky to have such a supportive family too, so I’m sure I’ll be fine once we make some adjustments and get over a few hurdles. As long as I can create, I will cope!
We hear you also help out other local businesses in your spare time?
I make stickers – mostly for local people who have started their own business or fashion labels. I think it is great that they have gone out and had a go at doing something for themselves, and it is usually an expensive venture. So to get their name out there, I try to help out a little bit by making and sometimes designing stickers for them. I don’t make a profit, as I really only cover my costs and buy more materials. Quite often I will swap stickers with people for their wares e.g. clothing, coffees etc. and I usually rope in family members to help me in making them. Hopefully I will be able to continue doing this in the future, but will take each bump in the road as I come to it. I have a favourite saying: As you think, so you are. As you imagine, so you become.