Drawing and chronic wrist pains as an artist, How I live with it.

Bonjour, today I want to talk to you about a rather serious subject: chronic wrist pains as an artist. As you may know from my previous posts I am doing Inktober this year. Which means I am drawing a lot everyday, hours after hours.

Isn’t it your work all about drawing ? Well the work of a freelance illustrator includes a lot of things like answering to mails, doing quotes, doing finances stuffs and advertising as well as drawing.

And Inktober is rather drawing intensive and I have a history of having wrist pain. To be true I hurt all the time but I learned how to manage it so I can work without being too bothered.

having wrist pains as an artist

How did the wrist pain started ?

You will allow me a bit of story time today.

I have always drawn a lot, even when I wasn’t allowed to in high school. Then when I went to art school, the amount of drawing involved in my day to day life increase, and increased and increased. At such a level that in 4th year (out of five) I started feeling an acute pains in my right wrist. The pain didn’t stop there and went to my elbow and after that to my shoulders. It was terrible.

Some times I couldn’t even close or open my hand correctly.

The summer break arrived and I was rested and ready for the 5th and last year of my school years. The last year involved making a short movie. Animation require of course a lot of drawings, 13 drawing per second, just imagine the amount of work, you need to add to that the concepts, the landscapes and all kind of artworks.

My wrist started hurting earlier in the year this time.

I wend to see various specialists, physiotherapists, osteopath and even an acupuncturist. The acupuncturist ended up really helping me in a way maybe more than the other because he managed to relax me.

Because I wasn’t only hurt I was also depressed, would I hurt forever on when I would be drawing? Could I keep drawing as a profession? Could my arm be cured?

It was scary !

I finished my year, I finished my project in the utmost pain but I finished.

Oh if you’re curious I’m putting it here, it’s kind of old but I guess it’s worth the watch :

You are going to ask me where is the silver lining here? It’s getting pretty depressing. And yes it was, I was depressed for a while. I stopped drawing for a while too.

After a while I came to the conclusion that :

  1. I needed to stop doing animated film
  2. I had to work differently
  3. I had to find a new life hygiene

All the three answers where not easy to accept.

Because work can be found more easily in the animation industry than as a starting freelance artist. Animation is hard work but it’s well paid. I found very hard to reduce my workflow because I’ve always been a workaholic. I never stop drawing if I am not stranded (but honestly I was). But I had not choice and I started my path.

Changing your life hygiene to live with the wrist pains.

What does that even mean?

What to do when you have wrist pains?

I discovered that at some point the pain never stop, I went and read articles about the cause, like this one it helped me understand .But in the en I managed it by… Be ready, it’s the big answer : doing sport !

The osteopath often told me, go swimming it’s the best way to muscle your shoulders. But it is not easy to have a good swimming pool around my home, and I never had the opportunity to do that. But I managed to find a routine that I want to explain to you:

1* Muscle your wrist ! Get it stronger

This is actually the best advice I ever got. It is basically this video here that helped me the most : See it here.

muscle study

And doing these exercises at least 3 times a week help strengthen my arm and my wrist really efficiently. It greatly reduced the heavy pains. And after a while of exercising my wrist the pains would be low enough for me to do art everyday.

2* Take breaks!

Yes don’t push yourself! This one was particularly hard, but I know now, that if one day I feel like my hand can’t make it, it’s ok, I can stop now. You don’t have to listen to the guilt. Then I will do something else, like writing a blog post (yes today I am totally hurting and I missed an Inktober day, but it doesn’t matter, health first and it allow me to share this story with you!). I won’t say it enough, just be nice to yourself.

3* Relax

Maybe this one is just for me, I’m a stressed one, and my pain also comes from the fact that I crisp my hand on my pencil. I am often tense. This tension is really bad and increase the workload on the hand.

How to relax ?

I’ll let you find your way, for me it’s to take walks, go biking, being in the nature is the most efficient way for me. I try to have a breather for 30 minutes at least every day. Talking to someone about my troubles, or just taking a deep breath.

relax to help wrist pains as an artist
A watercolor painting made during a weekend to “l’île de Ré”

Is being an artist possible with chronic wrist pains?

Yes of course! It is very possible, but always remember that health comes first. And there is a good reason for that, if you overwork yourself you will pay the price the next day, so it’s not really efficient in the end.

Have some tea!

Ok I hope I helped you in some way! I am of course no doctor and am just giving advice from my own experience.

Tell me in the comment if you are in a similar situation. Do you have wrist pains? How do you manage it?

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