Tag Archives: work healthy

Health & Happiness

24 Jul

draw wellIllustrating children’s books is a dream career, but drawing all day every day for months at a time can take a toll on the body.

In my twenty-plus years as an illustrator I’ve experienced an array of ailments, all of which were surprising, inconvenient and painful. Also: completely preventable. If only I had known, people. If only I had known.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Rather than wasting my mistakes, in the spirit of prevention, I thought I’d write a series of posts about illustration health hazards.

Protect Your Money-makers

Xray 1

If you spend tons of time clicking away at a keyboard, mouse or track pad and your wrist is not at an ergonomically agreeable angle, you may have experienced the tingling and numbness of carpel tunnel syndrome (CTS). Try raising your chair, resting your feet on a box (necessary with higher seat), and buying a mouse pad with an attached wrist support. Not enough? Become ambidextrous! Training my non-dominant hand to perform simple tasks, including most of my non-artistic clicking, helped me out a lot.

Until.

A few years ago I abandoned traditional media and started working digitally. Millions of brushes and effects are now at my disposal, all created with my trusty Apple Pencil – and all created using the same motion. All day, every day.

For months.

Hello, Tendinitis

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Not to be confused with CTS, tendinitis is distinguished by pain. The under-side of the thumb and wrist can feel tender, achy, and over-worked. Bending the hand back sends lightning bolts through the forearm, forcing amateur yogis like me to attempt one-armed downward dogs—a practice fraught with perils of its own.

The symptoms of tendinitis are worse when the sun goes down.  In fact, it was in the middle of the night when I first realized that my hand and wrist—which had been sore for longer than I care to admit—were more than merely tired. I was jolted awake by an innocent mid-sleep stretch which caused not only pain, but also a horrible creaking in my forearm. It was as if the stretchy stuff in there had crumbled like an old rubber band.

Not a good feeling, people. Not good at all.

And you thought illustrating children’s books was all puppies and fairy dust. Ha!

Hello, Stretches

stretch

Luckily, help abounds. Youtube is full of videos that teach many helpful stretches to ease and even cure tendinitis. I found a few stretches that worked so well for me, I made them part of my daily routine. Now, every hour I break for fifteen minutes to stretch my wrist and rest. Bonus: Leaving the desk at regular intervals benefits the demeanour as well as the wrist—and nurtures creativity, too!

Hello, Gloves

Tommie CopperWhen I started complaining about aches and pains in my hands several years ago, my amazing husband sprang into action and bought a pair of Tommie Copper compression gloves. Many experts dismiss the healing properties of copper and magnets and all of that; all I know is, the glove helped. A lot. Maybe it’s just the compression, or the simple fact that wearing a glove helped warm my perpetually ice-cold hand.

fur folded

After adopting the glove as my work uniform, I bought some Thinsulate fingerless gloves, and also a pair of frivolous furry ones, but both were failed experiments; warm, sure, but too puffy on the palm-side. The puff and fluff restricted my range of motion, making it impossible to draw. A shame, especially about the furry ones—which seem very “War and Peace” to me. I was really hoping those would have worked, but… nyet.

oliver twist

When my sleek Tommie Copper gloves went missing for a few weeks last winter I snipped the fingers off a cheap black knit pair, which turned out to be a quality substitute. I still wear my “Oliver Twist” gloves when I’m at my desk during the chilly months. They work great!

Hello, Brace

braceWearing a brace designed to restrict range of motion (rather than designed for compression) has helped me quite a bit, too. Drawing while wearing the brace is impossible, but it’s the perfect way to keep my wrist properly aligned while sleeping.

Hello, Doctor

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In addition to stretching, my doc prescribed OTC anti-inflammatories and recommended using ice-packs before bed. All of this has helped not only my wrist, but also my street cred. Between the fingerless gloves and icepacks on my hands at night, I’m feeling a lot like a boxer. 🙂

If you’re suffering with work-related pain in your hands or wrists, get professional help.  Talk to your doctor, see a physical therapist, and do your prescribed stretches. You’re an artist and you want to keep creating as long as possible. Take good care of those beautiful hands!

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Violet Lemay is not a doctor. Rather, she illustrates and sometimes writes books for children. You can see her work by clicking here.

 

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