Tim writes: Hi Lisa.
Thanks for the amazing work you do.
I am not so used to drawing / paintings etc for long periods of the day, but recently, thank God, I’ve found my place, and got more into it. The problem is my hands can’t keep up with me… Some days I feel all ready to let my art free, but I have pain or tense muscles in my hands…
I want to start off by saying nothing I’m going to share is medical advice. Depending on what is causing the issue, doing the wrong thing could make it worse. I can share what works for me when I’m sore from simple overuse of my hands.
When you get started with something and are using muscles that you’re body is not used to using, it will just take time to adjust to it. I think people expect that when they start going to the gym after a long break but you don’t really think about it so much with art or playing an instrument. I’m currently very out of practice with my violin. I’m going to have to start slow to get my hands used to working in such an odd position again. I won’t be able to instantly practice for an hour straight like I normally would have. I will probably start with 15 minutes for the first week or two to get used to it and build from there.
The next thing you can do to help is to stretch. Depending on how you sit when you work, you may need to stop and stretch your back and shoulders in addition to your hands and wrists.
Consider your posture when you work. For me, I’ve always preferred painting and drawing with my project flat on a table, or flat on the floor. Eventually, I started having trouble with my back and neck. I adjusted to a table top drawing board that allowed me to work upright (now I just work at my easel). This shift in how I was sitting took me from only being able to work for short times to being able to work for hours.
Being that it’s your hand bothering you, working flat may still be the most comfortable option, but if it’s not you can look into adjustable table top drawing boards or drafting tables that allow you to adjust the angle your work is at. Changing how you sit when you draw can change how much strain you’re putting on your hands too.
If you’ve been drawing for months and not seeing improvement, you may have something else going on. I have arthritis in my wrist and hand. While keeping it moving generally is the best thing I can do with it, I do find if I work too many hours straight for too many days in a row with pencils that it starts to get sore. If I switch between working with paint one week (which is very easy on my hands since) to pencils another week, that keeps it from getting too bad. The week of painting seems to give me enough of a break that I can jump back into the pencils the next week with no trouble.