Monday, April 28, 2014

Art related injuries

One of my favorite artists, Lois Van Baarle, recently revealed her struggles with an industry-related injury she suffered to her drawing arm. It's rough, and MOST of us who live to tell stories through visual media WILL suffer something similar at some point in our lives.

Here's her story.

I have gone through similar injuries that poor Lois is going through now... twice.

And in response to her painful experience with her injury, I thought I'd share my own.

Injury #1
I've been using computers as one of the main tools of my trade for over 16 years now. Graphic design, storyboarding, print layout, and digital illustration. About 10 years ago, I started to have terrible pain in my wrist and elbow. It was like a dull, throbbing, jolt of electricity pulsing throughout my upper arm, elbow and wrist. And every pulse made my arm feel weak. I could barely close my fist without feeling pain course up and down my right arm from my shoulder to the tips of my fingers.  I was quickly reduced to using a wrist-brace just to be able to do any drawing at all.

I was lucky in that I happened to know a local occupational physical therapist who took pity on me and gave me some suggestions. She explained to me that my biggest problem was the INTENSITY in how I approached my artwork. I was so INTENT on what I was drawing or constructing while on the computer, that I was literally damaging myself.  I was locking up my elbow and shoulder at the joints. My wrist was clenching the stylist pen, or mouse with a death grip. And all the intensity of my concentration was building up pressure in muscles of my right shoulder!

Sound silly to you? Try this..grab a tennis ball, sit down at a table and squeeeeze that tennis ball with all your strength with your fingers. At the same time, use the force you have in your arm and shoulder muscles to try to really...rrrubbb... that tennis ball down through the wood of the table! Now, do that for 4 hours at a time... for several days in a row... and see how that feels.

"What kind of fool would do that to themselves?!?" you might ask.

Well... me.. for one. And thousands of other people too. This happens to passionate people who really care about what they do. People who become so lost, so focused, so passionate in what they are doing, that they don't realize the pressures and intensity they are pouring though their own shoulder-arm-wrist-fingers...

The therapist (her name was "Janet") taught me that I needed to learn how to relax. To take breaks. To stand up once in a while and move my joints around for a couple of minutes. She taught me to adjust my work-station so that my elbow was at as close to a 90-degree angle as possible. She explained that I needed to STOP every once in a while. Several times a day. And take a moment to loosen up my joints, shake my wrists around a bit. Wiggle my fingers, flex my elbow and lift my arm above my head a few times. 

I want to point out that she helped me out of kindness. I had no money and couldn't pay her for her help. But she could see the pain I was enduring and chose to help me anyway.

A real sweetheart. I will always be grateful.

Eventually, I hit on the idea to practice juggling on those breaks. Taking a break to practice juggling for a couple of minutes gives me something fun to look forward to, and something else into which to dump my pent-up intensity. I could focus on the choreography of tossing the balls while at the same time, I was loosening up my joints. I'm not a good juggler. But that doesn't matter. It's fun to do, and it loosens up my arm beautifully.

The pain has gone away and I haven't had to use the brace since then. Mind you, the pain will come back if I forget, and allow myself to get to uptight... but when that happens, I've learned to recognize it as a warning to take a break, and relax. Than I'm fine again.

Injury #2
The second injury to my drawing arm was a broken, right shoulder-blade. Happened just a couple of years ago. Aahhh yes, I'll never forget that backwards, 5-foot fall from the top of a ladder, down to the cold, hard concrete below. The sickening "CRUUNCH" as my shoulder-blade took the brunt of the impact. And the following, three months of living as a one-armed man. I couldn't use my right arm at all without experiencing a lot of pain. The doctors had me put that arm in a sling and told me to "NOT MOVE IT" for those three-long-months, till my shoulder-blade bones could knit back together.

I still had to work. Had to pay the mortgage and feed my children. So I went back to work as an Art Director at the advertising agency I worked for at the time. And did the best that I could with my left hand instead. I was slower, yes... but my creativity... My talent for inventing new concepts... and my ability to make decisions about line-quality, color, composition, value and chroma were just fine thank you very much. I discovered that my artistic talents reside in my MIND, not my arm.
So, I made do. And I learned to trust in my own mind's ability to coax what was needed from my inexperienced, albeit willing left-hand.

I now know that if I had to, I could use my feet, or my teeth even, to create artwork as beautiful and as effective as I've ever created before. Because the talent resides in the mind.

The doctors explained to me that I MUST go to physical therapy if I wished to regain the full-use of my right arm again.

"okay, fine. How much will it cost me" I asked.
"It will cost you about a million-kazillion dollars" was their answer... more or less.

I didn't have insurance. Couldn't afford it at the time. So I politely declined. Went home. Endured the three months of pain and sleepless nights with my right arm in a sling... and then went back to living my life as I'd always done before. Picking up my children and hugging them. Mowing the lawn. Drawing. Lifting heavy boxes up onto high shelves for my wife. That kind of stuff.

But, I'd remembered what I'd learned in my first experience with my injured drawing arm. I worked. I DREW... But I took care to listen to my body. And took breaks... I started juggling again. And yes, at first, it hurt to do those things.

Two years later and I'm fine... I draw every day. And I use the computer everyday. And I make sure to relax everyday as well. Sometimes my body gets tired before my mind... but I've learned to be aware of the warning signs and be patient.

With these experiences I hope to be able to maintain the ability to keep drawing till the very day I die!

David Church

Friday, August 16, 2013

Clash of Classics by TikiMachine is now available

One of my illustrations can be found in Tiki Machine's latest artist collaborations book release "Clash of Classics". The theme for the Clash of Classics book is...well... literary classics. With an emphasis on the conflict between good and evil in the stories.

I did my piece on "The last of the Mohicans" by James Fenimore Cooper.  This one was painted in water color on cold-press illustration board. Monochromatic. I wanted to play around with the negative shapes and see how much of the story I could tell with my self-imposed limitations. As hard as I tried to use the negative shapes in the best way possible. I STILL managed to create some accidental, yet intriguing imagery. My favorite is the profile of the beseeching young woman found within the negative shapes of Maguas' spear and feathers. As tho she's pleading with Maqua to stop chasing the Monroe sisters ahead of him. It looks so deliberate, that I'm going to lie and tell everyone that I planned it that way. Hah! I'm an artistic genius!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Feral children

This past Sunday afternoon, just before dusk settled in, Heather and I are in our bedroom talking... when it begins to dawn on us that the house has gone quiet.
I open our bedroom door to utter silence. No sounds echoing down the hallway and bouncing off the walls and our heads. No screaming. No banging. No off-key singing. No arguments. Where'd those little monsters go?

Eventually, through expert sleuthing, I detect muffled noises coming from behind the kitchen garage door. I swing it open and find…

The normal gloom of a typical garage. A poorly set-up step ladder. And, a swirled pattern of light… cast from the spinning air vent I'd installed in the roof last summer. The light dances over the crouched forms of my five children. They're huddled over a clear, plastic storage box of stuffed animals that they had ILLEGALLY dragged down out of the rafters from above. How on earth had they managed that without hurting themselves? It would have required cunning, planning, and a level of cooperation that I had previously never suspected of them.

Crouched over the box and it's contents like that. They looked… for all the world… like a pack of coyotes quarreling over the remains of a dear carcass. Arguing and muttering to one another as they tore into the dear…er… box. Occasional scuffles breaking out over a particularly

And backed into a corner is Holly, the baby. A stuffed dog cradled in her left arm and a purple, stuffed "My little pony" clutched by it's rainbow-hewed mane in her right fist. She glares and shrieks at her siblings whenever any of them turn to see what she might have claimed for herself out of the carcass…er…box.

I swear, at this point, she'd gone completely feral.

"WHAT ARE YOU ALL DOING IN HERE?!" I holler with my best "Daddy's-in-charge" voice.

Five pair of eyes suddenly focus on me…. glittering out of the gloom of the garage.

_Jeepers that's creepy_

Than the noise starts. A cacophony of apologies and "I didn't do it's" and "We just wanted one of the monkeys!" and "Please can we..?"….etc.  All at once. Peppered with a couple more shrieks from the baby, who felt she ought to have her say as well.

"AllrightallrightALLRIGHT! Just… Out of the garage! Take the box with you, and we'll talk about this later. Come on. All of you. Out!"

Chittering amongst themselves happily, my sweet little angels fall upon the savaged box again. They drag the box and it's remaining contents out through the garage side door, tugging it around the corner into the darkening light of dusk… like… like a… pack  of coyotes maybe….dragging a….

"OH, STOP IT! Stop it with the "feral animal" analogy.


Friday, July 6, 2012

storyboard artwork

I thought I'd upload some more of the storyboard artwork I do. Usually, it's a quick rough drawing using a light-colored animators pencil... and then going over that same drawing again with a darker color pencil. Picking out what what I like for the final drawing. These are fast drawings. And sometimes I don't like what I end up with. In such cases, I have to continue on anyway and hope that I have enough time to redo that particular drawing later.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

storyboard drawings

I often have to bang out a bunch of storyboards for TV spots at work. In the heat of the fire, there isn't time to noodle the drawing to perfection. In fact, most of these drawings are whipped out within a 10 to 20 minute time frame. I have to just except what I've drawn and move onto the next panel or frame in the storyboard.

When I do these drawings, I tend to grab the nearest light-colored "Col-Erase" animators pencil on hand. Then I go over my scribbles with a darker color... picking out the lines I want.

Simple, and rough, but hopefully, able to communicate the idea.

Here are a few samples.

Monday, April 16, 2012

drawing during a meeting

Meetings are important...yes... but they also result in some of my favorite little sketches. Like, for instance, this one I did last Friday during a planning meeting at work.

I don't know why there is a bunny.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Black Yei Illustration

Here's the final version of the Navajo Diety "Black Yei". I wanted to have him glowing from within with the cold brilliance of starlight while being bathed in the warm reflection from the flame held in his hands.

You can see the glow of the starlight shining from the symbol of the seven sisters star cluster on his left brow and from his eyes.

I'm not happy with the background. Although I'd wanted it to be simple, with flat colors, I'd like to work it some more sometime.

All in all tho, I still like the final results.