Featured User: Angie Crabtree

Feb 12, 2016
t:slim Pump user Angie Crabtree is a full-time diamond painter. She started taking painting lessons at 5 years old, and began teaching painting at age 12. She attended an art-focused high school and later received a BFA in painting from the San Francisco Art Institute. We caught up with her about her passion for painting and her transition to insulin pump therapy.

When did you start identifying yourself as The Diamond Painter?
After college, I was unable to become a full time artist because I couldn’t afford individual health insurance with my pre-existing condition. I had no choice. I had to keep my day job. When the Affordable Care Act became available, I was finally able to get coverage and work for myself. In June 2015, I quit my job teaching art at a high school in San Francisco, and transitioned to painting full time, focusing solely on diamond painting.

Why diamonds?
I’m attracted to their patterns and symmetry. The first diamond I painted was five feet tall, for a show about luxury in America, in 2013. Since then, I’ve continued to paint diamonds because I find them not only beautiful but very interesting: their origin from nature, the way they’re faceting/sculpted, their history and controversy, and their symbolism of everlasting love. 

Have you painted other themes in the past?
My work has almost always revolved around status and nature. Past series have included photo-realistically drawn portraits of haloed celebrity icons, fashion accessories embellished in moss and gold, and celebrities’ smiles with gold grills. 

Tell us about your recent campaign in Venice Beach.
In January 2016, I placed a bunch of my small framed diamond prints around Venice Beach in Los Angeles for a scavenger hunt. I posted photos of where they were so my followers on Instagram could find them. It turned out to be such a fun experience and I plan to do it everywhere I travel from now on. Next stop is Tucson, Arizona.

When were you diagnosed with diabetes?
I was diagnosed in 1999.

Is diabetes a part of your identity as an artist or are these separate?
In my mind they’re separate, but I never hesitate to talk about how it affects my lifestyle as an artist. For instance, how it affects my feet and hands, my energy level, and affecting my choice of foods that won’t spike me because high blood sugar interrupts my deep focus while painting. Sometimes, I get so into my work that I skip meals or wait until the last minute to get sugar when I start feeling low.

In what way does diabetes affect your daily life?

As a kid, I felt like diabetes was more of a burden, but my views have changed. As an adult, I’ve realized that it affects my health in many positive ways. It’s helped me maintain more balance in my physical and mental health. It’s also taught me to listen to my body and treat it with special care.

What is the biggest challenge that diabetes brings to your life?
My biggest challenge has been keeping my A1c where I want it. Sometimes, I forget to bolus when I’m busy, and I get stressed easily. I was recently diagnosed with another autoimmune disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and the medications can cause a rise in blood sugars as well. 

You haven't always used an insulin pump, what aspects of pump therapy were appealing to you when you made the switch?
I’ve always wanted one but the idea of having something connected to me seemed like it would be uncomfortable, and I thought it would attract unwanted attention. I finally got my insulin pump about a year ago, at age 27. I realized I didn’t care what other people thought. I took the leap and got a t:slim Pump because of its small size and touch screen. Now, I don’t know how I survived without one! It makes my life so much easier now that I can bolus any time, anywhere and in small increments. And it doesn’t attract any attention unless I want it to. I just tuck it away where no one ever notices it, so it’s not weird or uncomfortable at all. I actually think it’s cool, and if someone does notice, I jokingly say I’m a robot and they think it’s awesome.

What are your goals as an artist?
To create art for as long as possible. To have a giant art studio with natural lighting, and a fridge with tons of low-carb, healthy snacks to munch on while I’m pondering. To use my diamond patterns in the fashion world. And to make a lot of friends.

What do you like to do when you aren’t painting?
I like to spend time outdoors, listen to hip hop, and shop for sneakers.

Describe your relationship with Hubert the Frenchie. How did he come into your life?
Hubert is my French Bulldog and art studio pup. I raised him from 10 weeks old and he’s three years old now. He’s spent many hours watching me paint and helps me choose colors at the art store. He also goes with me to gallery openings. He loves to be in pictures! You can find him on my Instagram.

If you met someone newly diagnosed with diabetes, what would be your advice to them?

I’d tell them that you should meet other diabetics, and that I’ve found diabetes to be a blessing in disguise. I believe I’m healthier than the average person because I take extra special care of my body. And now that I’m very open about it, I find that nearly everyone has been extremely caring and helpful. I’m proud to share my diabetic experiences with others because it’s character building. It’s just part of my story now, and I think it’s pretty cool.

Interview and photos by Blair Ryan.

From time to time, we may pass along: suggestions, tips, or information about other Tandem Insulin Pump user experiences or approaches to the management of diabetes. However, please note individual symptoms, situations, circumstances and results may vary. Please consult your physician or qualified health care provider regarding your condition and appropriate medical treatment. Please read the Important Safety Information linked below before using a Tandem Diabetes Care product.

Important Safety Information