Creative Problem Solving for Artists: Planning for the Unthinkable

beware of dog

Holly DeWolf feared her career was over after a dog bite gave her a serious hand injury.

Here at Artist’s Market Online, we’re all about planning for the future, whether that means creating a solid business plan or learning the latest skills and technology for your creative trade. However, there are some events that you just can’t plan for and can have serious repercussions on your career. In this next part of our Creative Problem Solving series, Holly DeWolf recalls an unthinkable event from her own life, when she was bitten by a dog and suffered a serious hand injury. Read DeWolf’s account below. You can find all of her creative problem solving advice here.

Keep creating and good luck!


Those Unthinkable Events by Holly DeWolf

A month before I moved back to Nova Scotia, I was attacked by my neighbor’s dog. As I fought to remove my right hand from his teeth, my illustration career literally flashed before my eyes. I thought to myself, That’s it, folks. My illustration career is officially over. I then went to the emergency room, bloody and bruised, and was immediately moved to the front of the line. Apparently, dog bites are very serious business at hospitals. I was cleaned up and bandaged and told that a public-health official would be stopping by my house to get more information. That was it, or so I thought.

“Man is so made that when anything fires his soul, impossibilities vanish.” —Jean de La Fontaine

That very bad day ended up becoming six months of recovery, physiotherapy and missed work. I couldn’t even hold a pencil. During this ten-second bite, the dog had nearly ripped off my right index finger. On top of that, the dog had shaken my finger and wrist out of joint a half dozen times while trying to pull me over the fence. Needless to say, this had not been a warning bite. He’d wanted me for lunch!

What became very apparent was that the index finger is very important for even the simplest of tasks. Basic things like changing my daughter’s diapers or doing the dishes were extremely difficult. I will admit I’d taken that wee little finger for granted. Not anymore.

Kathy Weller is no stranger to overcoming an injury. “Early in my professional career, I started experiencing hand and wrist issues. I was scared. At one point, my problems were so severe that I actually was looking into pursuing other career paths. This was completely depressing—I couldn’t bear the thought of giving up my art career! As a last-ditch effort, I went to see an independent ‘alternative’ physical therapist. This person’s work was not covered by my health insurance, but I was willing to try anything. Seeing him was a smart and lucky move—the treatments not only helped me gain back mobility and strength but I learned that regular physical conditioning is integral to overcoming these types of ongoing, chronic injuries. He introduced me to a set of unique exercises that my orthopedic surgeon had never even touched upon. These exercises and the overall knowledge I gleaned from this person helped me eventually gain back control over my art career and my life.”

In the course of a day, how often do you think about your hands, eyesight, hearing and your overall health? We are often so busy with our lives, illustration assignments and promoting ourselves we focus on everything else but our health. Remember: Without those amazing hands, eyes, ears and overall healthy selves, we do not have an illustration career.

My hand is about 90 percent better. There are scars as a reminder. It feels tight when cool weather kicks in. All very minor things, considering it could have been much worse. I’m just glad I can bend my finger and that it’s still part of my very important hand. As a side note, I am a huge lover of dogs, and this did not sway my belief that dogs make awesome companions. To me, this was a random, isolated incident. My only fault was getting in the way of his very large mouth. Needless to say, it could have happened to anyone.

Holly DeWolf is an illustrator, mentor, DYI’er, blogger and author of the book Breaking Into Freelance Illustration: The Guide for Artists, Designers and Illustrators. She currently lives in New Brunswick, Canada, living the creative freelancer’s dream.

Excerpted from Breaking Into Freelance Illustration © 2009 by Holly DeWolf. Used with the kind permission HOW Books, an imprint of F+W, a Content + eCommerce Company. Visit or call (800)258-0929 to obtain a copy.


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