I have been in excruciating pain this week after days of very intense drawing bent over my artworks for 8 or 10-hour stretches. It is easy to forget the time as you get locked into the detail of making your wonderful masterpiece.
My work is known for its attention to detail and I particularly like to work in pencils, but this can mean hours and hours in the same position labouring over square inches.
I was researching my aches and pains after being bedridden yesterday and I think I may be suffering from RSI on top of arthritis. (I have confirmed arthritis but the deterioration in my neck bones is standard for my age and the new pain this week is different to the niggly bone creaking one I have been used to.)
I usually draw sitting in bed cross-legged on a memory foam mattress which is quite firm. The lotus position is comfortable and it means I have a soft surface to sit on. Hours on a floor really is a pain and the chair is a worse option in terms of discomfort.
I have found some ergonomic advice for RSI sufferers. It is important because RSI can take hold so badly as to never go away causing permanent damage. You need to do something quickly before it takes hold.
I went online and I've come up with a list of supposed solutions with which I will experiment.
Firstly, your hands need to be lower than your wrists when you type this makes the laptop Unsuitable. But I've gone one step further and I'm Speech to text typing. It's tricky, I'm making a lot of mistakes. But it means I can drink coffee and type at the same time, at least when my mouth is not engaged with my cup, and it's also very quick.
As someone who loves talking and the sound of one's own voice, this is the way forward and I feel I will be writing my book in record time over the coming lockdown.
The next thing about working ergonomically, in an attempt to cure RSI, is that your knees need to be lower than your hips. This means most chairs are unsuitable so I have put thick cushions on my chairs and thrust my legs forwards when I am at a table.
But the big news is that I have ordered one of those rather elderly people's tables that go over the bed, the type you get in hospitals. It is being delivered today. I feel this is a brave choice and could mark the slippery slope to death, but I am trying to be positive, and actually, please don't tell anyone, I'm rather excited.
To get that link above I asked Siri to search google for me which also saved me some typing, I do have tingly arms because I am on my laptop and every now and then I do have to press a button when the speech to text goes wrong. But I am certainly doing less work with my arms, and I am still in bed, and still have my coffee in my hand. I Can even stroke the cat and get my blog done, and the cat thinks I'm talking to him so we are all happy. It's actually a miracle, why did I not know this was a possibility?
I also purchased a wooden tabletop easel which will go on top of the overbed table.
Theoretically, I am all kitted out for an ergonomic productive winter with fewer side-effects from burning the midnight oil. As an artist, my greatest gift to the world is the time I spend on the details and it turns out that pencil artists are prone to more than any other artist because of the act of being hunched over for hours at a time.
There is still more advice. You should not work for any longer than 30 minutes in a stretch without a stretch, even if that movement is simply making a cup of tea. Stretching is really important and so I have devised a small exercise program for every time I'm waiting for the kettle to boil that have come from good advice from a physiotherapist.
I'm also looking at diet which apparently can have an effect on arthritis. But I can't give up coffee, life would simply be not worth living.
I have no idea if any of these new ideas will work but I will let you know in a few days if there is improvement in my aches and pains.
Charles Frinton at the Dominartist project.