July 17, 2014 | by Darcy Blake | Obsessed artists are familiar persona in my life. Both my grandmother and my mother had Parkinsons’s Disease and they were both literally possessed with churning out art. In Grandma Daisy’s case, she was fixated on crocheting doilies or embroidering potholders that she crafted by the dozens. In mom’s case, she crafted several things, like 200 birdhouses made out of wooden popsicle sticks during one holiday season, or watercolors of iris by the score, or in her oil painting genre, paintings of my siblings and I playing Monopoly. Mom kept on with her crafting until she could no longer stand or hold a paintbrush. Anything and everything was hoarded as a possible art object. Shells, driftwood, bits of fabric, tiles, and more were boxed for a time when they might be used in a collage or mosaic.
Articles titled, The Creativity Pill, by James Hamblin published in the July 17, 2014 Atlantic, and Proof: Parkinson’s Enhances Creativity published in Bioscience Technology, July 15, 2014 describe how people who take dopamine for Parkinson’s disease sometimes begin to generate a lot of artwork, which can be differentiated by their expressiveness from obsessive or impulsive tendencies. Professor Rivka Inzelberg, a professor at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine did a 20113 study to take a look at creative thinking in medicated Parkinson’s patients.
One of the patients in the study was hospitalized when people close to her realized that she had crossed a line into the pathological, when she started painting walls, and the washing machine. My mother was lucky because my dad was easy going and he let her just go at it, such as constructing birdhouses, even though they did take over the house. I don’t think it was solely the effects of dopamine that caused her creative thinking. Mom had been an art teacher for much of her life previous to being diagnosed with PD. Grandma didn’t take dopamine, and she was as much an obsessive hobby-ist as my mother. She had been a tried-and-true lodge matron during her years, and the creative spark to decorate events and fundraisers was entrenched in her life.
In the end, there was no relationship between the creativity Inzelberg has been noticing and any degree of compulsive behavior.
I have Parkinson’s Disease, I don’t take levodopa, and I admit, my creative inclination is as strong as my maternal folk. Writing stories and doing photography is something I do from the moment I get home from work. If you ask me, we creative types with PD are very lucky. What a way to spend one’s life, engaged in artistic passion! I guess you could say we received a precious gift with our diagnosis with Parkinson’s Disease. Now please excuse me, time to start a project!