08 March 2010

Keeping healthy as an artist!

I've asked around the past week about ways to stay healthy as an artist.  I've started getting a bit sore in my wrist lately and I wanted to nip the problem in the bud.

Here are some of the tips I've received from fellow artists and people who spend way too much time each day on the computer!

Stretches and Posture

Sit up straight
This is important if you don't have the best of materials to work with, aka, not a good chair and/or desk.  Sitting up straight and watching your posture will help alleviate sore a back and shoulders.

Exercise your core and back
If you tend to sit at a desk all day (and night!), it might be a good idea to take an hour each day to exercise.  Concentrating on your core areas such as your stomach and back will help with keeping up proper posture- your back muscles will be strong enough to actually keep your back from curving or slouching.

Wrist and arm stretches every hour
Check out Youtube for tips on how to stretch your fingers, hands, wrists and arms to maintain good health.  It's important to do this frequently, at least 5 full minutes every hour.  While doing the stretches, never go past the point of a good stretch- if it is starting to hurt, you are doing too much.  Get your stretch on!

Suggested Tools

It's optimal for your desk to be at the proper height, you want to sit down in your chair and be able to rest your legs comfortably under your desk without feeling squished or cramped.  You should have room to stretch out your legs to their full extent under your desk without having to stand up.

Optimally, your chair should help support your back and keep it straight while also being comfortable to sit in for long periods of time.  Second to your work computer, it should probably be one of the biggest investments in your office or work space.  While sitting in it, your legs should rest comfortably under your chair and your feet should be able to rest on the ground.

Monitor height
If you paint digitally, you will be sitting in front of the computer a good 8+ hours a day.  Your monitor should rest at eye level so you don't have to crane your neck up or constantly have to look down.  If you use a laptop as your primary machine, you can prop the laptop up higher and get a USB or wireless/bluetooth keyboard to use in conjunction with it.

Wrist brace
If your wrists are already bugging you, chances are likely you are drawing with your wrist, not your whole arm.  A wrist brace can help train you to use your whole arm when you draw as it will keep you from bending your wrist while allowing blood to circulate throughout your joints while they are immobilized.  A brand that has been recommended to me is the Futuro Brace, which you can obtain in the US at drug stores and large chains like Target for around $20.

Gel pad for your keyboard, tablet and mouse
A small gel pad for your keyboard, mouse or tablet can also be helpful.  It will raise your wrist slightly to allow for better ergonomic posture. 

A bigger tablet
I really like the small form factor of my Bamboo One Wacom tablet, but it's been recommended to be that the tiny movements that the tablet demands can actually be causing stress to my hands and wrists.  Getting a bigger tablet will force you to use more of the surface area of the tablet and help alleviate soreness from the small movements the smaller tablets require you to make.

Take Breaks!

Probably the most important and hardest to consistently implement, taking a break is a hard thing to remember.  So that's why things like the Focus Booster app come in handy (or just an egg timer!).  The Focus Booster app comes in a downloadable and web version- it's great to focus your energy and concentration on work, then it reminds you to take a break.  Make sure on your break you do more than just browse websites!

Remember, I'm not a doctor and I have yet to implement all of these tips myself, so work with what you have and try to make it work best for you.  If any problem is very severe enough or is more uncomfortable than you can tolerate, be sure to seek expert medical advice right away.  Your hands are your livelihood- you need to ensure their health!

What types of things do you try to do to keep healthy when working on artwork for long periods of time?

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