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  • Jenny Davis

Art Studios (Part 2): Ergonomics

Ergonomics are not something that come to mind right away when you think about art and artists. Especially as an art student, when you're young and pulling all-nighters with little consequence other than being tired the next day. But artists suffer overuse injuries, just like anyone else performing repetitive motions all day. Shoulder problems, neck pain, carpel tunnel, and more. My mom developed intense neck pain from leaning over a flat surface for hours at a time to paint. She rehabbed herself and started working on a tilted surface. And she has been warning me to do the same thing.


When I was 18, I could paint for 8-10 hours straight with just short breaks, and I didn't have any aches and pains afterwards. Now, I can do about 4-6 hours with breaks before it starts getting uncomfortable. But if I'm working horizontally, I start to get an uncomfortable buzzing sensation between my shoulders after about 2 hours. That is entirely posture (and aging) related (oh boy). So I got a tilting tabletop drawing board like my mom's and am trying to get in the habit of using it.


My current painting is 30"x19" and this is the first painting I've worked on using an angled surface.


PRO: The angled drawing board keeps the cats from trying to lay on my painting, and encourages them to instead sleep in my lap.

PRO: My shoulders don't hurt quite as much when I'm working at 45 degrees.

CON: I can't see my paint brushes sitting to the right of the board when it's at this angle. (If I moved the board to the left, it would be too far for me to comfortably reach my palette.)

CON: When I pick up a brush from the table, I smack it accidentally into the board. (I'm sure I'll get better at not doing that...)


I have to say, I don't like using the board. I prefer to work hunched over! But this really does help me to paint longer. And being kind to my back and shoulders will probably pay off over time.

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