Creating an Art Business with Limited Energy

by Carolyn Edlund

Vermont colored pencil artist Corrina Thurston started her business despite health limitations. She shares what she’s learned and how others with limited energy can also thrive.


Colored pencil artist Corrina Thurston at work. This inspirational entrepreneur started a business despite severe health and energy limitations. She offers tips for others, at

Artist Corrina Thurston started drawing while bedridden. She shares her inspirational story.


AS:  How did you get started working as an artist?

CT:  I started drawing in 2010 after two years of struggling with an unknown illness. I was bedridden, confined to a darkened bedroom due to a perpetual migraine, fatigue, pain, insomnia, nausea, anxiety, and more.

One day I picked up a pencil and started to sketch from my bed. It started as a therapy for me and as something to help me feel at least somewhat productive at a time when I felt like I was nothing but a burden. Being able to draw, even for short periods of time, gave me something I could focus on other than the pain. It gave me something to look forward to each day.

As time went on, I realized I had a knack for drawing. When I started posting my pieces on Facebook, the response I got was overwhelming.

AS:  Now you are recovering. What is your plan to build your art career given your current circumstances?

CT:  In 2014 I was finally diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease, Bartonella, and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Treatment will take a number of years.

With treatment, I’m continuously getting better. I still have limited energy, however, and my health and productivity vary from day to day. As I work toward becoming healthy again, I have severe limitations that affect my business.

Like most people, I’m struggling with the need to create a regular income, and I’m devising a plan that works around my limitations to meet that goal.

  • I’m adding e-commerce to my website so I can sell directly via my own site. I received a grant from my local art council to help with this cost.
  • I’m developing online courses. These courses will be made into a series and I can create them at my own pace, which is key! And once they’re finished and uploaded, they can be sold over and over again, creating passive income. Anything that can create passive income and can be sold multiple times is the best for my type of situation.
  • I’m selling reproductions of my artwork via my Etsy shop, including giclee prints, greeting cards, calendars, and other products.
  • I’m also using print-on-demand sites where all I have to do is upload my artwork and they can turn it into a multitude of products, where I receive royalties (more passive income).


Corrina Thurston's colored pencil art is inspired by the natural world. Read her story at

Corrina Thurston’s colored pencil art is inspired by the natural world.


 AS:  How do you plan to work around your health limitations?

CT:  The hardest part of starting my business has been telling myself no. There are things I can’t do right now because I don’t have the energy to do them, and it took me a long time to realize that that’s okay. If I wake up and have a migraine, trying to push myself to work through it is only going to make it worse. Instead, I focus on what I can do on my good days and take baby steps toward my goals.

I have to stay flexible above all. Flexible and determined. My goals are written on my whiteboard so I can see them every day. If I feel well one day, I choose a step that will take more energy. If I’m not doing as well, I choose a step that takes less energy. As my business grows, I’ll be hiring an intern to help out. That way I can delegate production tasks and focus the energy I have on more skilled tasks.

AS:  What advice would you give to other artists with limited energy or limited time?

CT:  There’s a lot of advice I could give, but the most important would be to:

  • Cut yourself some slack. It may seem at times like your situation is hopeless, like you are a burden, like your goals are too far away to ever achieve. Even people who don’t lack energy feel the urge to give up. Don’t.
  • Move forward in small steps. Keep your goals written in front of you so you can view them every day, and create baby steps to reach them.
  • Don’t multitask. Focus on what you’re doing. When you switch back and forth and try doing multiple things at once, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
  • Work on one project at a time. If you work on and finish one project at a time, you feel productive. This is really important if you have limited energy.
  • Stay flexible. Things will come your way for which you could never have prepared. Both good and bad. Stay flexible and adapt to these situations in ways that will help your business, but not hurt your health. (And it’s okay to say no!)
  • Be open. Don’t try to hide your illness or whatever is limiting your energy. Be open and honest about it with your clients and they’ll understand. If you can’t work on a deadline, like me, tell your clients that upfront.
  • Be positive. Think of all the things for which you’re grateful on a daily basis. This will help you accept your limitations, whatever they may be. This is difficult, but necessary. If you accept your limitations you can learn to work with and around them.
  • Build a supportive network. Whether online or in your community, or preferably both, slowly build a network of people who support what you do.
  • Whenever you need it, rest.


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  1. This is so encouraging–Congratulations, Corrina. Keep up the good work and best wishes for your return to complete health.

  2. You are an inspiration Corrina!! Thank you for sharing with us.

  3. This was very positive and thank you for sharing your talent and story. Your work is beautiful and I know you will be successful with your great attitude ❤️???? Claire

  4. Hi Corrina…. I thoroughly enjoyed your article and seeing your wonderful work was inspiring….

  5. Nancy Spicer says

    Hi Corrina. . . I am sooooooo glad to see your story. It has greatly helped me realize my goals and dreams. I will never work again because I have been diagnosed with a severe form of Bipolar I disorder that has disrupted my life. I too want to use art in my life to help others and to support myself in small ways. I feel like everyday I am starting from scratch or I just feel more defeat and struggle. But I am taking your advice to print out my goals and taking the necessary baby steps. I so want to give you a hug. Keep at it and I pray that you will be blessed.

    • Hi Nancy,

      I’m glad the article was of help to you! I’m so sorry to hear about your struggles. If you’re interested, I’ve just started a facebook group for creatives who deal with limited energy called ABLE – Art & Business with Limited Energy. Feel free to check it out if you want to network with some others who are going through similar things for encouragement, inspiration, ideas, etc.

      Best wishes for you! Good luck with everything.

  6. David Libby says

    Corrina we’ve been Facebook friends a long time and I’m a huge fan of your artwork. I’ve seen the struggles you’ve been through with your health and can’t express enough how proud I am of you and how far you have come. You are a inspiration to me and I am glad to call you my friend!

  7. Alison saunders says

    Hi Corrina,
    What a fabulous and insightful interview, I am very impressed with your ideas and tenacity! I really know how important these steps are that you outlined,and congratulate you on the terrific work and perserverence you employ. You are very inspiring and courageous. Thank you for sharing your talent and insight! And best of luck in your journey to full recovery!

    • Hi Alison,

      Thanks so much! It means a lot to me. I appreciate your words and thank you for commenting! You have been so very understanding in the short time I’ve known you. Best wishes. 🙂

  8. Thank you for this interview, Corrina.
    At a time where I am thinking I may well have to let go of my art business, reading your words has made me take pause. Just as I started my business I got sick with a mystery illness (not Lyme). This is now almost 4 years ago. Over that time I have been able to do less and less. Unable to predict when I am well(ish) has been the biggest hurdle, which means I can’t book jobs like I used to.
    Your interview has given me another perspective. Maybe I just need to rethink my approach.

    Good luck, and wishing you a speedy recovery. (Well, as speedy as possible 🙂 )

    • Hi Anke,

      Wow, I’m so glad reading the article helped you rethink whether you’re going to stop with your art business. The unpredictability of my illness (and treatment) has also been one of the hardest parts. I’m so sorry to hear about your illness and that you are currently still undiagnosed. I wish you the best of luck and success and hopefully a diagnosis that will lead to treatment and a cure!

      If you’re interested, there’s a facebook page I’ve started for artists and creative people dealing with limited energy called ABLE – Art & Business with Limited Energy, if you want to check it out!

      Thanks for your comment. Best of luck.

  9. I am so happy you found an outlet for your pain. It is so refreshing to hear the honesty and knowing you are not giving up or giving in. Keep up the good work!

  10. Corrina,
    I fell in love with your work and also your ebook. It resonated so well for me. At times I have a burst of energy and other days I can barely move. I do not know what I am dealing with. But, you have been so inspiring and I am still trying to make a go of it. I wish you the best and I wish the best for those in a similar situation. Art is the best at healing and so it is important to keep it in your life somehow. Wonderful inspirational story. Thank you for sharing.

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