Going Green for Art Show Season
Yet More Dealing with Art Directors
Your Workspace and Work Habits
Creator and Destroyer
Your Workspace and Work HabitsBehind the Art
by Annie Rodrigue
This might sound like a strange column to write this month, but I felt the need to talk about work habits and work space ever since I realized that my own bad habits turned out to become literally unhealthy to my own body, taking away those nice art moments and turn them into nightmares. I used to work on this very small round table and sit on my couch to paint. I'm sure I'm not the only one who does it, not everyone can afford a good art desk. The couch turned out to be too comfy and I couldn't sit right. The table turned out to be too crowded and since I was too low on the couch, I was crawling on the top of the table trying to reach that spot on my painting without making a whole mess. Needless to say that I started having back, leg, wrist, and concentrating problem. I was desperately trying to finish my work in conditions that would ask every drop of energy I had in my body. So when it was time to draw for fun, I would often choose to do something else then draw.
I also made a habit to sketch on the couch. That too gave me problems.
If this feels familiar to you, then I suggest reading the following paragraphs. I'm not a guru in workspace management, nor am I the most organized artist, but I do believe that these tips might be beneficial to some of you!
Learn to Listen To Your Body
We've all heard this before. I didn't believe in it much until now. My parents used to tell me to sit straight when I was a kid and I didn't listen to them either. Turns out that now I have to fix this too because my body told me so. Usually, we realize that we are aching when it's a little too late. By then, the pain is very much there and doesn't want to leave after massages. But we can try to figure out why it starts. Take a look at yourself: How are you sitting? Where are you sitting? Are you twisting yourself to get your work done? Are you crossing your legs when you sit? Does your head feel heavy? Pin point those pressure point in your body and think about what you should do to make it go away.
Remember this: tilt your art, not your body! The lower you upper body is, the more pressure you will put on our spine and neck. The heavier your head feels, the more chances you will have of getting pain in your neck. I used to hold my head with my left hand while painting, while working on the computer (both at home and work) or while sitting on the couch. After some time, I started getting strong pain under my left shoulder pad (in fact, I still do). Took me I don't know how many years to figure out that this bad habit was the culprit! Most of the time, we do this so our eyes are at the same level as our work, when we should really move our work to eye level. No worries, the art won't feel pain! Find a tilting table or work yourself one with scrap wood. It doesn't need to be fancy to work. Same applies to the computer screen. Tilt it or raise it to eye level.
Hand pain also comes to mind. Also everyone's had this at least once, from either painting, penciling or working with a tablet or a mouse on the computer. Overworking our hands is probably the #1 reason why tendons start to ache. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix. One must learn to stop and rest. Exercising your hand every time you start is also a very good idea. It only takes a minute, but warming up you hand, fingers and tendons might prevent bigger injuries.
Stand up! Get off that chair! Sitting cuts circulation in the legs even though it might not be so obvious. Getting up and walking for at least a few minutes every hour will prevent pain in your legs, knees, ankles and feet. If you often cross your legs or ankles, try to stop this bad habit as it will also cut normal blood circulation and it also stretches tendons in your legs and ankles. (I didn't know about this second one until I was informed by a chiropractor!)
See What You're Doing
Good lighting is essential. I'm not saying there should be light everywhere. Just one good light suffice. You only need to have light pointing at directly at your work from one angle. Remember that the light should be coming from the opposite side of your work hand (I'm right-handed, so light always comes from the left for me) this way you will prevent yourself from creating shadows over the spot you are working one. Same applies for light coming at the top: your head will most likely hide part of the light.
Realize that working on details for long hours without a rest is not really good for your eyes. Same applies to looking at the computer screen for long hours. We all do it and I bet that some of you (including me) switch from art to computer, computer from television, television to art many times a week. I quickly noticed that my eyes had a hard time focusing afar when I did this for a long period. Now I try my take a break once in a while.
Setting Up Your Art Space and Material.
I thought this picture was perfect for the subject. It is from "Your Perfect Home-Base Studio" by Poppy Evans. This image covers the computer workspace, but I'd say that this can also apply to your art desk. This is why the tilting table comes into play for an art desk: keeping your back as straight as you can is the key to feeling comfortable for a long period of time.
Depending on how much space you have on your table, you want to put all your necessary items and tools at the right place. If you are, like me, right-handed, you will have your light coming from your left. To make sure this light it not hidden by any big tools, keep your palette, tubes, brushes and water pot to your right. (I try not to put my water pot directly over my palette to prevent any staining to my sleeves) Keep your paper references to your left, close to your light to make sure you can see them correctly. If you have any more tools you need close to you, I strongly suggest getting a small portable table that you can put next to you (preferably to your right if you are right-handed and to your left if you are left-handed ) instead of overcrowding you drawing table.
If you are using a tilting table, you won't be able to put your tools on your table. Instead, get two small portable tables and put tools on one side and your references on the other.
A healthy body is a body that will enable you to do what you like best! This applies to everything, even art. Take the time to change those bad habits so they will allow you to enjoy your craft for years to come. Getting a decent workspace doesn't cost much. It's simply a matter of organization!
Next month is computer month at EMG-Zine so we will be doing a software how-to! We'll see how we can put together a book quickly with the basics tools of In Design.
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