Also I do have one more question, what can dermatographia do for me? For example what can I get out of it? Is there anything I can do with it?
I received this email from Tegan last month:
Recently, I have discovered your ‘skin’ work, and have been inspired by the way you incorporate art and photography with your disorder: dermatographia. In addition, as I also have dermatographia and have chosen both art and photography as my GCSE options, I would really like to use it to my advantage. However, because I am thinking of using this for my photography coursework, I really want this to look professional (as I am in my second year of my GCSE’s) and to do something no one has really ever done before (apart from you). So, do you have any tips on how I’m going to achieve this? For example, how lighting an be really important to see the art itself, also do you take the pictures yourself? What do you use to make detailed drawings? Typically, what sort of set up do you use, because I don’t want too much going on in the background, and want the art to stand out and be the main focus. In addition I have watched a YouTube video about you that talks about how you do it but it would be really helpful if I could get it from your point of view and in your own words.
Thank you very much if you read and respond to this because you are very much an inspiration, on how I can use this to an advantage.
I love receiving emails like this! And I always like to hear that young artists are exploring their skin, and finding inspiration in that.
I responded to Tegan:
“Thanks for the note! It’s exciting to hear that you’re interested in art. You will have a blast exploring your skin and photography.
My favorite tool/stylus for drawing on my skin is a knitting needle. I use a few different sizes to achieve a variety of lines. Cookie cutters and other shaped objects are also fun. As for lighting, I always prefer natural light, and just play around with angles to see what shows the drawings best.
You can get a remote for your digital camera. This way you won’t need help releasing the shutter. Mirrors are also helpful for getting different angles.
I hope this helps! I don’t want to give you too much information/direction because part of the process is exploration. You will find your own method that works, and can achieve some amazing results by playing around, and through trial and error.”
The best way to learn about making photographs of dermatographia (or anything really) is to explore light, angles, point of view, framing, and exposure. All these things that make photography so exciting will come together when exploring with your camera. And learning from mistakes is always helpful! Don’t be afraid to play around and go over the edge a little bit… you can always come back.
I asked Tegan a few questions about her skin:
Ariana Page Russell (APR): How long have you had dermatographia?
Tegan Nicks (TN): I’m not entirely sure how long I have had dermatographia but if I had to guess it would be around about a year.
(APR): When and how did you find out you have it?
(TN): I found out around 4 months ago, I know its not a long amount of time. I went to the doctors and I also went online and self diagnosed.
(APR): What are your symptoms?
(TN): My symptoms include: raised red lines, swelling, hive like welts and itching! For example, the other day some kid threw a bit of scrunched up bit of paper and it hit my jaw line and almost 30 seconds later my face swelled up and I had big hive like welts appear on my face it was quite embarrassing.
(APR): It is embarrassing when huge welts appear like that! How do you treat the symptoms (take antihistamines, etc)?
(TN): I don’t take anything for it, I don’t like to. For the itch I normally put this lotion called Aveeno on it because it doesn’t irritate my skin.
(APR): You might want to try coconut oil too. It really helps the itch! Did you notice anything happening around the time of getting dermatographia that you think may be linked to it?
(TN): I had to really think about this question and still I am not entirely sure, but I think it might be something to do with sun cream, because I had an allergic reaction to a certain brand of sun cream but I can’t remember the brand.
(APR): Are you allergic to anything?
(TN): I think I am allergic to sun cream because my eczema gets quite bad and flares up.
(APR): Where do you live and what do you do (please tell me a little bit about you)?
(TN): I live in England in Devon, and I’m 14, at school and I’m year 10 and now in my second year of GCSE’s, I literally cant think of anything else to say about me.
(APR): Does your skin inspire you?
(TN): I do think that my skin inspires me, also because not many have the ability to do this and none of my friends can do it. But the down side to it is that most people think it’s weird. For example, in photography the other day I was researching about it so I could put it in my book and about 3 people looked at my screen and commented “ewww, that’s disgusting, you’re so weird” but it can be quite embarrassing.
(APR): Well, you can show them that your skin is actually cool with those photos you’re making! What do you hope to do with your dermatographia?
(TN): I’m not sure what I want to get out of dermatographia, apart from photography, but I suppose there isn’t much else I could get out of it?
(APR): You can get a lot from dermatographia! Is there anything you’d like to know about it?
(TN): What can I get out of dermatogrpahia, or how can I make the most of it?
(APR): In my experience, you can learn a lot about yourself and other people with the help of dermatographia. For instance, since my skin is so sensitive, I’ve had to learn how to take care of myself by eating healthy and using natural products on my skin. Also, I’ve learned how to find inspiration in this condition that previously annoyed the heck out of me! I transformed it into a cool thing instead of an embarrassing one with the help of art and blogging. Dermatographia has also taught me how to be vulnerable, open up and share myself with others. And to make art with it! This has allowed me to connect with so many awesome people from all over the world, including you Tegan. Thanks for reaching out to me. It’s been fun getting to know you! Don’t be afraid to be yourself ;’)
All images courtesy of Tegan Nicks