Backache and other problems

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Dear Artist,

Yesterday, Jane Wilcoxson of Oswego, IL wrote, “I find it difficult to sit at an easel and work. My legs, back, neck and arms ache. Should I just stop complaining and take a few painkillers? I tend to work non-stop for hours on end. How do you manage to put so many hours into your work? What do you do?”

Thanks, Jane. I owe all my pill-free success to my chair. That chair (it’s my second one — I finally wore out a similar one about twenty years ago) beats out both talent and training. It’s a somewhat unique chair — hard to find nowadays, even in antique shops where only a few insiders know their value..

Generally known as a “1920s office secretary chair,” it’s made of wood and has no cushion or armrests. You can flex it back, raise it up and down, and, like a geriatric scooter, propel it around on its casters.

My early adoption of this chair goes back to when we studied chairs at Art Center School. Tests had shown that people could sit for the longest time on something like piano stools. With minor, subconscious movements you can vary the places where a hard, wobbly seat connects with you, thus refreshing the blood flow to that part of your anatomy. Cushions kill this feature. Furthermore, springing back regularly to reevaluate your work, you briefly and effortlessly massage your lumbar region.

Most importantly, the focus area on your work needs to be just a bit higher than where your eyes might normally connect with the painting. In other words, your back is slightly stretched upward rather than compressed or bent over. With this position, particularly if you are hanging onto a mahlstick, you can work for hours. A cranking easel soothes a cranky painter.

When it comes to our popular studio-sitting maladies; back and neck pain, position fatigue, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and others, a case by case approach is necessary, and I’m no doctor. Many solve their problem by simply standing, but this can result in too much blood pooling in the lower legs. In painting, it’s easy to forget you’ve been in the same position for 27 hours.

Further, and I may be way off base here, but I think it’s a mistake for sedentary painters to eat too much. “The table,” said Georges Clemenceau, “kills more than all the wars.”

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals.” (Benjamin Franklin)

Esoterica: Getting up and moving around is valuable as a creative ploy as well as being good for the bones. I believe in longish walks, nothing shorter than twenty minutes, and as brisk as your dog can handle. It’s an inexplicable mystery, but paintings can often be significantly improved right after a walk. “It’s easy to get used to not going for walks,” said Claude Monet. “Mine is a dog’s life. I never stop walking; I walk here, there and everywhere.”

 

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This type of chair, in my case painted over a few times, with more modern ‘Shepherd Casters’ added, is the best local doctor for painless studio hours. With one of these you can be ‘as happy as a cow in her stall.’

 

 


The right stuff
by Dave Paulley, Osage, WY, USA
 

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The bomber chair

One might think I only paint aviation images because of the painting seat I use at the easel, but I also paint western, wildlife and landscape. This seat is from a four engine B-24 “Liberator” Bomber used in WW2. It has all the right adjustments; up and down, backward and forward and I have attached casters to roll on. Works great and has for years!

 

 

 



There is 1 comment for The right stuff by Dave Paulley

From: Jan Ross — Sep 03, 2010

In the words of my kids, “This is TOTALLY cool!!”. Loved hearing about your chair, Dave!

 


The dangers of sitting
by Dr. Hal Martin, San Antonio, TX, USA
 

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Untitled
original painting
by Dr. Hal Martin

There have been a multitude of studies in the medical literature comparing sitting to standing. Standing, as you point out, has the potential for more blood pooling in the legs based solely on the higher venous pressure in the standing position, but most acute cases of deep vein thrombosis occur after prolonged sitting where the leg muscles are inactive. Sitting, on the other hand, has been known for many years to result in the aches and pains, particularly in the low back, that your article addresses. In recent years, it has become increasingly recognized that sitting the majority of the day, as most people in the western world do, is a major factor in the current epidemic of obesity and diabetes. Several recent studies have clearly demonstrated that just the act of standing significantly increases the number of calories burned (compared to sitting) and at least one study even equates standing with moderate levels of exercise. A number of other studies have shown that even those who exercise 30-60 minutes per day maintain an increased risk for the aforementioned problems as well as heart disease if they spend the majority of the remaining waking hours sitting.

Standing then, purely from a medical standpoint, is preferable to sitting for prolonged periods. Just important to remember that when you do stand for prolonged periods, it is important to shift your weigh from side to side occasionally as well as intermittently tightening your calf muscles. Never “lock” your knees in the fully extended position for any period of time. And if you prefer to sit or have to sit for whatever reason, remember to take fairly frequent standing breaks.



There is 1 comment for The dangers of sitting by Dr. Hal Martin

From: Jan Ross — Sep 03, 2010

Years ago, while taking a typing class, my instructor warned of ‘secretarial spread’ie. an expanding posterior, a consequence of sitting too long…that alone has kept me standing more than sitting!

 


Hanna Somatics
by Phyllis Victory, Vancouver, BC, Canada
 

I read, with interest, your concerns about artists finding ways to stay pain free during the creative process. Contracted muscles are one of the most common causes of pain. Hanna Somatics is a technique for releasing these muscles and 10-15 minutes of performing gentle, specific exercises each day, can change chronically contracted muscles into flexible, lengthened muscles. It is a form of neuro-muscular reprogramming, it’s simple and it really works.



There are 3 comments for Hanna Somatics by Phyllis Victory

From: gail — Sep 03, 2010

i checked out the link and find a website that only talks about enlisting “educators” for this program.

From: Sarah — Sep 06, 2010

If you click on resources you will find a list of practitioners. Hanna

Somatics has been a blessing for me. Finally, after 20 years I was free of lower back and sciatic pain after having a few sessions and doing my daily exercises.

From: Sarah — Sep 06, 2010

Sorry, I just found out they are having trouble with their website. Contact Eleanor Criswell Hanna at www.somaticsed.com or email info@somaticsed.com, they will have a list of practitioners.

 


Popular modern version of ‘the chair’
by Laurie Sain, Lander, WY, USA
 

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Pottery Barn chairs

I’ve used this chair for decades. I’m on my second after my first one burned with the rest of my office in 2008. It was mostly used when I was a professional writer, and now as an occasional visitor. I bought it from a firm called Pottery Barn for $400.00. They are expensive but my first one lasted 15 years without maintenance.

 

 

 


The brain’s magic switch
by Margot Hattingh, South Africa
 

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“Harry Going Green”
original painting
by Margot Hattingh

Walking does it for me — even pacing up and down in my studio as I think between spurts of actual painting. I think it does help me though that I don’t sit in front of an object, photo or landscape to paint it — it’s mainly all in my head, so I don’t get hypnotized by it. As far as the actual walking is concerned, Kinesiology and Brain Gym teaches us that swinging the opposite leg and arm in unison gets both sides of the brain working together. Same side leg and arm swinging, switches one side of the brain constantly on and off. I found it fascinating when I was quite involved with this and even considered becoming a Brain Gym practitioner, that on going to a new class in a school, and getting the kids to ‘march’ as the first activity — it was almost invariably those that swung the same side arm and leg at the same time, who turned out to have learning difficulties and problems with rigidity.

 


Kneeling for fun and profit
by Malcolm Armstrong, Pender Island, BC, Canada
 

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A knee chair

This is my answer to discomfort when sitting at an easel; a knee chair. I sit on the high part and take some of my weight on my knees on the lower part. You can buy this type of chair but they are either too expensive or too fragile or the wrong size. I custom made this one for myself with heavy scantlings. I have worn out two sets of castors and have recovered the chair several times but it works fine and is comfortable and indestructible. My easel winds up and down to arrange the canvas at the right height.

 


Younger next year
by Peter Land, CPA, Lebanon, NH, USA
 

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“Pienza”
watercolour painting
by Peter Land, CPA

When I read this article, my first thought about the person with a backache is that they need to strengthen their core muscles and improve their balance. That’s exactly what I needed. I also suggest reading the books from this website for more fitness and nutrition advice. Finally, join a gym and hire a trainer and/or attend regular classes in yoga, Pilates, spinning and the like. I am not saying you cannot do good work when you are in poor physical condition, but I really do not think it is a coincidence that the best artists and craftsmen I know are also fit.

 

 



There are 2 comments for Younger next year by Peter Land, CPA

From: Jackie Knott — Sep 03, 2010

I had a personal trainer tell me, “You want to eliminate back problems? Strengthen your abdominal muscles. People strain their backs because their abdominal muscles aren’t toned. They lack the strength to support the torso and put all the burden on back muscles. Now do a hundred sit ups.” He was right.

From: Nina Allen Freeman — Sep 03, 2010

thanks for your letter – I belong to a gym too and have a routine of core muscle exercises and stretching as well as some swimming. It has made a big difference.

 


Funnel pain into art
by Jennie Rosenbaum, Springvale, Australia
 

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“Pensive”
watercolour painting
by Jennie Rosenbaum

I have a chronic pain disability which affects my work every day. It’s a double edged sword, without the car accident and resulting disability I would never have rediscovered my art and forged a full time career from it, but I pay with constant unremitting pain day after day. I love Robert’s advice, the right chair can work wonders, I have one that tilts back quite a ways and has high arms so that I can lever myself in and out. There are also office chairs that hold large exercise balls stable which might be handy. Here are a couple of things that have helped me with my art career. On really bad pain days I work lying down at my computer doing the marketing and business side of being an artist (a good way to make sure it gets done!) I have my chair, an easel that I can sit at or stand at with an easy adjustment and my desk. I’ve also modified my practice to fit around my impairment. My painting techniques rely on short bursts of work, manageable bite-sized chunks (this also works now that I have a baby!). Working smaller can also help too. I also find getting in the zone works wonders, I can actually almost forget about my pain for a while! Good luck, it’s amazing what you can accomplish when you funnel that pain into your art!

 


Working to a timer
by Judith S Miller, New York, NY, USA
 

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“Early Fall/Greenbrook”
oil painting
by Judith S Miller

One helpful tip my Physical Therapist gave me is to have a timer next to me while working. I set it for 30 minutes. When it goes off, the idea is to get up and move: wiggle, shake, stretch, get a drink of water, walk around for a couple of minutes; anything to un-freeze the position I have been locked into. Granted, it is hard to stop mid-stroke, but it helps with the stiffness and pain. In addition to this, I am working on my posture and doing strengthening and movement exercises. Ten minutes of free form dancing gets the blood moving into the sore muscles and it’s fun.



There are 6 comments for Working to a timer by Judith S Miller

From: Anonymous — Sep 03, 2010

beautiful painting!

From: Vyvyan in NC — Sep 03, 2010

didn’t mean to be anonymous above, your painting really is lovely

From: Donna Pierce-Clark — Sep 03, 2010

I had a hard time reading what you wrote because I couldn’t take my eyes off your lovely painting! I agree, I use a timer also!

From: Alan Lant — Sep 03, 2010

regarding backache. Get out of your chairs and stand. Set your pallets at least 15′ from the easel, this forces you to walk some and get back from your work to see it better, and most importantly….when you sit you squash half your talent, or two-thirds in some cases.

From: Dottie Dracos — Sep 03, 2010

Yes, I agree with the above comments. I love your painting. And I also use a timer, with 30-minute segments, too. It works great for me.

From: KenFlitton — Sep 03, 2010

Never mind the backache! The painting is a beautiful combine of great shapes, beautiful colour choices, sensitive fine lines and an altogether sensation.

 


Having a ball
by Tom Andrich, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
 

I had the same issues until I talked to a physiotherapist. They suggested sitting on a Pilates ball which keeps the body balanced or you fall over. You can also roll back to see your painting. It cured my neck and back aches when painting.

 


Fine tuning for better work
by Mike Fenton, Parsippany, NJ, USA
 

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“Infinity”
oil painting
by Mike Fenton

I have endured lower back pain for many years mainly due to a couple of herniated disks. Short of surgery on the back, always an iffy proposition, I sought other remedies. Through a friend in the performing arts, and an article about the comedian Robin Williams, I learned about the Alexander Technique. Chairs, like yours, will fit some physiques and not others. I found a teacher of the Alexander technique and learned about my body and its skeletal/muscular critical points. I learned how to be aware of my body, its position, and what bad habits I had learned that created pain. I have been able to reduce the discomfort by about 90%, including when I am painting. Through this I also learned what chairs need to be in order for them to work on my physique. For me it is a plain wooden stool, cut to exactly the right height. I learned how to massage my back while changing positions and I learned how to reduce pressure put on the neck by holding my body differently. I learned that we tend to overwork parts of our body that have nothing to do with activity in which we are engaged. I highly recommend this approach as it has made a significant difference in my painting life. My main problem now is to remain focused for more than three hours. After three hours my mental concentration changes and I get impatient and sloppy… so I put away the brushes for another day.



There is 1 comment for Fine tuning for better work by Mike Fenton

From: jeannine — Sep 20, 2010

after 2 1/2 – 3 hours your brain needs a break of at least 30 minutes. Maybe you can pick up painting again if you break. good luck. enjoyed your comments.

 


Jumped on her bike
by Mary Franklin, Marblehead, MA, USA
 

My husband and I moved into our current home about 25 years ago. The heating system was antiquated and my work room was ‘cool’ (50-55F) through most of the winter months. My old bicycle was in this room as well and we had purchased a training stand for it to try to ‘keep in shape’ when outdoor riding was impossible. One day after working a few hours in the morning, my fingers were quite nearly numb. It occurred to me that I could warm up quickly by doing a 10 minute ‘ride.’ Critiquing my work from a distance as I peddled away my creativity was ‘tweaked.’ It was as if my hyper active body silenced my intellectual mind and some far more primitive place enhanced my artistic vision. I did some of my best work that winter, lost almost 10 pounds and my chronic back pain was vastly improved. The following spring we had the heating system replaced but I still keep the bike in the studio during the winter.

 

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Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Backache and other problems

 

 

From: Jim Larwill — Aug 31, 2010

Hey Bob,

Got a chair just like it. Government of Canada issue picked up for $5 at an auction years ago. I even put exactly the same casters on it; only mine looks like it is in better shape and is still in mint condition. Great minds think alike. Fools seldom differ. I’ve been using mine cranked up as a high-chair for my grand-daughter. Maybe I will try it in front of the computer for writing. Or better yet, I will think about writing a poem called… “Old Chairs in the Landscape”… they squeak and get a bit cranky at times… well mine does….

Jim Larwill

Lac Bussiere, Quebec

wolf@ncf.ca

From: Mary Lapos — Aug 31, 2010

I’m a walker . … in the studio and out. I’m lucky to have a large studio (an old woodworking shop) so I can stroll or prowl around to my hearts content . .. . .I have never checked to see how far I walk during the execution of a painting but I know, at the very least, its several miles. Now, of course, I will be fixated on finding out just how much ground I cover and am already trying to remember where I last spied my pedometer from days gone by. My “chair” which is a similar version to yours Robert, but with the ability to be used at a drafting table as well, (very long spindle for turning up and down) is where I go to ponder and get off my feet for a bit. Then, like a tiger, I resume my incessant pacing. Not everyone’s choice of course, but you can eat as much as you feel like!!!

From: Jackie Knott — Aug 31, 2010

I use an older ergonomic office chair but I think it is more important what the chair actually does than some of the newer ones. This one can tilt back and forth, swivel, or raise and lower in height. I chose this one specifically for those reasons. It has a very firm contoured cushion. Some of these chairs force your back into one supposedly correct position so the torso can’t deviate one bit – and those are the ones that give me a back ache. It’s the forced posture.

The position of your head and neck is crucial. If you look up continually it places undue stress on the neck and shoulder muscles. You also end up holding your brush up high, further compounding the problem. I’m short and have my easel adjusted to where I can look at eye level. My chair is adjusted so my feet rest on the floor comfortably, also necessary to support the body. For larger canvases I stand periodically because moving around lessens the fatigue factor.

Walks? Absolutely. It’s all about blood flow.

From: David Sorg — Aug 31, 2010

There are a couple of things you might do. One is to stand, instead of sitting, most of the time while working. I get my best painting done this way because it’s easy to step back and evaluate progress. But eventually my feet start to really hurt and I roll in a drafting stool that keeps me at about the same height sitting as when I was standing.

Also, I think it’s good to take enforced breaks. Oftentimes I have a radio station playing that has newsbreaks at the top of each hour. Those remind me to put down the brush and walk around for a few moments. The end of a CD signals the same. For many years an Airedale poked my butt when he thought a stroll around the block would improve my painting…

And without wishing to sound too self-serving, having an easily adjusting easel really helps against having your head, neck, and arms locked in a position for too long.

From: Lisa — Aug 31, 2010

How funny! Before seeing your post, I had JUST written a note to myself to go out and buy a GOOD chair today (not another cheapo one). I’d been suffering with neck issues for 2 months and I believe your message to be a sign that I’m on the right track to recovery!

From: Theresa Bayer — Aug 31, 2010

I’ve got three office chairs–none as classy as Robert’s and all of them beat up or stained with paint, but I love each one of them. I also like to get up and take breaks. I get more done going back and forth between painting and “moving around” activities than with just painting. Well, back to the easel!

From: Joan Desmond — Aug 31, 2010

A good chair is important. However, if you talk to any physical therapist or massage person they’ll tell you not to hold any position too long. That’s just asking for trouble. Enforced breaks are a great idea. I’ve learned to move while painting: I stand, I sit, I use the other hand, I stretch. As irritating as it may sound, to train yourself to do this, use an egg timer in the beginning.

From: Mary Parslow — Aug 31, 2010

I am a late comer to all day painting ( I’m 64 and finally an artist) however, in order to enjoy my day, painting or printmaking, I need to start with a visit to the gym and then the swimming pool. After that I am good for hours- filled with oxygen and feeling great I’m ready to go for it all day. I move around quite a bit too and have a couple of different chairs or I stand. I’ve realised that if I want to paint for the next 30 or so years I need to look after my body.

I’ve never been one of those avid excercisers either but I am quite enjoying the feeling of moving and feeling so energised afterwards….helps the creativity. Thanks.

From: Chris Cantu — Aug 31, 2010

My husband’s cast off dental stools are ideal in the painting studio. They are similar to what Robert describes, in that they are on casters, they swivel 360 degrees and they raise and lower. I treasure it and could not paint without it. I am sure they are not too difficult to find – ask your dentist.

From: Laurie Leehane — Aug 31, 2010

I have degenerative neck disease and fibromyalgia. I wish I could sit and paint but the flexing of the neck forward kills me. I stand and now I am finding my low back and knees are starting to feel arthritic…

From: LaNita — Aug 31, 2010

I cannot believe you have recommended that chair! It’s probably one of the most uncomfortable chairs I have ever sat in. Not only does your bottom hurt after a while but the pressure on the backs of your legs is awful. I once had a stool in which you “sat” on your knees. Not only does your back have the best position, it is not as tiring. Today I sit in an office chair that is padded. It has a back even though I don’t use it much except to back away from the picture I’m painting.

From: Angela Treat Lyon — Aug 31, 2010

I’m delighted to hear you’re another hard-chair person – all my desk and studio chairs are hard – you’ve given me more of an understanding of why I chose them!

From: Faye Gordon-Lewis — Aug 31, 2010

I find shiatsu massage a great fatigue reliever in regard to the rigours of painting.

From: Brenda Behr — Aug 31, 2010

We painters all need take heed. A recent study uncovered some pretty dire medical news to those of us who paint. Just Google People who sit longer die younger. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

From: Libby — Aug 31, 2010

Another good “chair” is an exercise ball. That is the only thing I can sit on that doesn’t aggravate a lower back injury. The balls come in several sizes and can be inflated to meet the sitter’s need. I use one at the computer and while painting. The ball forces you to sit up straight. The only other chair that is the least bit comfortable to me is a director’s chair. In the car I use an inflatable flat therapy cushion, the kind used to improve balance in physical therapy.

From: Rick Rogers — Aug 31, 2010

In my day job I sometimes sit and use a computer keyboard all day. When I’ve had aches from too much sitting in the same position, I find that a simple set of stretches done once an hour (use a watch or computer alarm) in the chair prevents them. When I paint I usually stand and move around, preventing it. Good luck finding a solution!

From: Dwight Miller — Aug 31, 2010

A well-known and highly-regarded acrylics painter told us this during a workshop: “I paint standing up with my work lying flat on a table top. What makes this possible to do for long stretches is a block that I keep beside me on the floor and use to elevate one foot, then the other. This protects my back.”

From: Laf.art — Sep 01, 2010

I’m just recovering from a slipped disc – ten weeks and I have an exhibition booked for mid October. It doesn’t matter how I stand and unfortunately I can only sit for about 10 minutes at a time, the thing is that I have many paintings to finish (some waiting to be started) so it doesn’t matter how much pain I’m in I just have to take the painkillers and carry on and hope that I’ll get all of the work done in time. I walk around a lot and lie down in between, frustrating but unavoidable. My sympathies lie with my fellow sufferers

From: Beatrice in South Africa — Sep 01, 2010

This is to thank you for your letters, which I find a joy to look forward to. They seem balanced and pleasant in every respect, coming with just the right gap between them, and beautifully written. I do some art now that I’m retired and have plenty of freedom. The self-expression and also the gaining of knowledge are very satisfying. Very many thanks for what you do!

From: Nancy Bea Miller — Sep 01, 2010

Why not stand? Unless you are someone who is painting steadily from sun up to sun down, you probably won’t get tired standing at your easel for a stretch of two or three hours. Much healthier for your back, burns off many more calories than sitting, and frees you up to effortlessly step back and take a squint at what the heck you are doing.

In my own studio I both sit and stand, depending on the still life set-up (high or low) or how the model is posing. Like Robert, I have a crank easel which easily accommodates my changes in height. I like to go from one level to the other…keeps the blood flowing!

From: Liz Reday — Sep 01, 2010

I sympathize with aches and pains, but luckily, when I’m really into my work, my endorphins kick in and most of my usually pains flip over to the back burner only to come back with a vengeance the moment I leave the studio or put down the brush. My secret is to not sit down, not from a sense of virtuousness, but because I have a chronic disorder that makes sitting painful. Not for me the desk job, i even type on my laptop standing up! Sitting and reading becomes a literal pain, so the recumbent reading position is adopted, or maybe just the general sprawl & slouch. Not good for the back, but it’s a lesser of two evils. As I mature, I find life is full of these trade offs!

A rocking great idea hard won after days of dead ends and deader paintings brings me up and dancing on my tippy toes. It even helps to have music. Such is the beauty of the breakthrough after days of studio plod, trying this and that, doing all the ‘suggestions” and moving on and until FINALLY all that downtime and all those pointless daubs come together into a singular IDEA, and the wind whistles thru my joints, the shoulders loosen up, mass rush of activity to unearth paper long hidden under piles of junk and finally that zap of energy when mind and body cooperate with joy.

So maybe the aches and pains are indicative of lack of exercise, both of intellect and and body, a sign that an idea is brewing, or maybe I need to get the kettle muse on a take a sip of creative synchronicity.

From: Rick Rotant — Sep 01, 2010

I haven’t heard these complaints in some time now. I’ve been painting at an easel for so long I guess I’ve built up a tolerance for it. I do use an old padded office chair I commandeered long ago. It’s now getting frayed edges where my legs constantly rub but it’s very comfortable. The design is sort of a surround idea; the back and arms are all one piece. I do as Robert suggests and keep my easel higher than eye level and use a maul stick at times for tight details. Otherwise, I paint with my arms extended and freely. I don’t hold my brushes like pencils. This will cause you to constantly lean forward. Bad for the back and spine. I keep my easel at arms length and sit upright. My paint is right in front of me which also helps to keep distance between me and the work and helps extend my arms. I paint for hours this way without physical fatigue. Now the mental weariness is another matter. When that hits, I get up, go outside and play with my by now neglected dogs.

From: Ingeborg Raymer — Sep 01, 2010

I looked at your wooden chair and realized that my husband owns the same vintage one which he uses in front of his computer where he spends many hours.

I am nearly 88 years old and use an old wooden bar stool with cast iron back, no arm rests, no thrills. Though my neck, shoulders and back are damaged from osteoporosis and a car accident, I totally forget my pains when I am either drawing or painting. It is only when I leave the studio that I am aware how sore I am in my old bones. “Mind over Matter”.

From: Maritza Bermudez — Sep 01, 2010

At our age, (my age) everything hurts no matter what we do. Whether you work at a grocery store, stand at Walmart greeting folks or are an artist. I teach 3 hour art classes standing up and walk around each student. At the end of classes, everything hurts and I take a painkiller that works and when I get home I rest a little bit. Sometimes, in a couple of hours I’m ready for my studio, sometimes I sit, sometimes I stand.

You know your body. Each person has to do whatever it takes to make them feel better. Now, don’t stop painting. If you worked behind a counter somewhere, you would feel the same. Try to find Robert’s chair. I live in Wheaton, IL and there are many, many resale and antique shops where I am sure there will be one of those chairs. I’m going to make it a challenge to look for one of those chairs…and when I do, I will also send a photograph. You can also go to a office furniture supply store. Any good secretary chair will do.

From: Vivian — Sep 01, 2010

Simple remedy for pain: For every movement, there is an opposite movement. If you experience neck and back pain, go to a physiotherapist and get a set of exercises to counter the over-use of specific muscles. Otherwise, your posture will suffer and the pain will get worse. With relief from the pain, you can concentrate on your work!

From: Edna V. Hildebrandt — Sep 01, 2010

It is indeed a problem for most people due to some health concerns. I had a stroke six years ago and do have some of those conditions. I love painting and nothing can stop me from doing it. When one is in pain concentration is distracted and perhaps even brush work is not going the way we want it to go. I don’t have a perfect chair as you have. I usually use my walker with a seat covered with a firm material that supports me comfortably. I don’t take pain medications for my aches and pains. But the worst thing that we can do is to be sitting for hours on end with out any breaks. On my part I take a break from my painting by getting up and walking about, do a few stretches as I view my work from a distance and a tour to the comfort room for nature break. If the pain is very intense and unbearable perhaps get advice from your health provider or perhaps a physiotherapist for some exercise suited to to your condition. I have had advice from my physician and physiotherapist when I had my rehab that before doing any exercise it may be a good idea to take a prescribed medication for pain and muscle relaxant. It is not a bad idea to take medication when pain is so severe that muscles tensed up more. But it should not become a habit of just taking it. I hope that my idea helps in some way.

From: Lynda Pogue — Sep 01, 2010

I call it “dancing with my painting” as I get up and move back and forth looking at the painting from different angles, etc ( of course, music is playing)…taking painkillers so one can sit is not not not a good idea……gotta change the pattern of behavior……. must get up and move…..

______ lynda pogue studio_______

website: http://lyndapogue.com/

phone: 905.873.3160

Support a live artist.

Bring the pure wine of

love and freedom.

But sir, a tornado is coming.

More wine, we’ll teach this storm

A thing or two about whirling.

Rumi

From: Anne Parker — Sep 01, 2010

I have an amazing “whoopi cushion” that was recommended for long distance travel in a car or plane. I wouldn’t be without it. It is meant to prevent blood clots or strokes from long sitting–one is always on the move with it and it keeps the blood flowing to all the nether regions of the body. I believe it is called a FitSit or SitFit and I think I got it in the medical aids dept of Shoppers Drug Mart. Men sometimes don’t like it but I think they should “tough it out” and get used to it!–the benefits are so worth it. My FitSit has www.sissel-online.com on it but I do not see it in their line up now unfortunately.

Lucky me–I also have one of the wooden secretary chairs like yours–it has just risen in status.

By the way, thanks so much for your great newsletter–you hit so many useful nails on their little-but-important heads. I do mosaics and pen & ink drawings. My problem is the can’t-get-started-blues. I so envy you folks with drive. Maybe there is a message here–I have a FitSit AND a wooden secretary’s chair–what IS my problem? ;-)

From: Loretta West — Sep 01, 2010

After 5 years of physio I do know just a bit about relieving aches and pains while painting. I use my trusty egg timer. I set it for thirty minutes and when the timer goes off I know that it’s time to get up and do some stretching. I use a balance ball and yoga to work on my core strength and as a result I wake up in the morning refreshed and ready to paint some more. It also forces me to step back from the work and have a good look. And, like Monet, I fit walking and bike riding into my daily routine to help clear the mind and bring in new light to my subject. To Jane, the body is a resilient machine and can come back to a painless state. Through a little effort and by treating it well you may be rewarded with a whole new dimension in painting. Loose, relaxed body = loose, relaxed mind.

From: Rinaldi — Sep 01, 2010

I also have the same problem when painting down low on a painting because my easel doesn’t go up and down and I tend to stoop to paint the lower portions. I have an old-fashioned, but beautiful old wooden drafting table that I use, but your article has made me re-think using it for the health of my spine and future comfort in painting.

From: Edie Pfeifer — Sep 01, 2010

I’m 73 and have been sculpting in clay for more than 30 years. I have had back problems most of my life, and too much time in the studio can be a problem. Here are some things that help me: alternate between sitting and standing, while standing, rest one foot on a low stool, changing which foot is “up” from time to time, stretch hands over head, and behind back, lean from side to side at the waist, roll head around, take frequent breaks . I find I am far more productive working no longer than 2 hours at a time. I also keep my ipod on shuffle, and listen to everything from classical, to jazz, country, big band and 50s rock n roll. I often sing along and move with the music while sculpting. It keeps the blood flowing, and helps stave off aches and pains.

From: Minaz Jantz — Sep 01, 2010

Let’s face it… spandex is a great invention and tops for comfortable clothes that allows for blood circulation and a few inches for the results of fine living.

I too love to scoot around on my old office chair humorously described by you as the geriatric scooter. Everything in my studio is on wheels including my large fountain fish pond sitting on old office chair legs!

Claude Monet’s statement about ‘Mine is a dogs’ life…’ is key to my health practices. I don’t actually own a dog but have painted many pet portrait commissions from my comfortable chair and hired myself out to those who live in my building for dog walking services. Not only does the dog walking bring ‘artistic income support’ but mostly brings me joy and exercise needed to keep me grounded and healthy. The bonus to dog walking is I can then buy those good shoes, to walk the good dogs, so I can get back to the studio to sit on my good chair with hopes of creating good art!

Link here to see photos of fish pond & furry faces who I have shared good times.

http://www.petartfurever.com/Home.html

From: Kathryn Oat Grey — Sep 01, 2010

Try revising your diet. Many foods can be inflammatory to certain individuals. I had horrible pain & connective tissue/joint deterioration, but now I’m pain free. I gave up wheat, dairy, corn and all processed foods. I avoid other things too but believe wheat to be the biggest culprit. It isn’t that hard to do and you will feel better quickly. Do it before joints are damaged beyond repair.

From: D. D. Jackson — Sep 01, 2010
From: gail caduff-nash — Sep 03, 2010

Hi. It is not only fine artists who have this problem. As a graphic artist, working at a computer for as much as 8 hours, I developed a lot of problems that I hadn’t had before, for all the same reasons as a painter does. So ditto for those who do computer work, as far as what to sit in, how long, exercise, etc. And don’t overeat. (or smoke)

I’ve always looked at art as my own thing, in which I was my own boss – so when I’ve painted, I wasn’t going to demand of myself crazy hours or postures or techniques. I stand when I want to, sit when I want to, walk away when I want to and don’t answer the phone when I want to. You might keep that in mind, too.

But I have developed chronic conditions that are dampening my enthusiasm for everything lately – even art. And I find it’s not the pain but the fatigue that keeps me from jumping in like I used to. It’s a real artwork killer. Still not sure what I’m going to do about that.

From: Barbara Cruikshank — Sep 04, 2010

I’m told that sitting on a ball with give the same effect but moreso — it also strengthens your core muscles.

My personal alternative is to stand and walk to and from the easel and rest my butt on a stool when necessary.

From: Arthur Berry — Sep 24, 2010

Standing permits moving around which in turn alters points of view and developmental issues. Standing back is one of the main advantages of standing. It may, in the long run, be better for the health.

 

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