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plnelson
03-25-2019, 01:23 PM
You can go out on the web and find tonnes of ergonomic advice for working at a computer or playing tennis or golf to avoid repetitive strain injuries but there's little for us artists painting at easels.

I'm 66 and have been doing lots of fine detail painting, mostly on small panels and canvas, and it's getting me in the back and neck so I need a better working position. I paint sitting so I can rest my arm on my knee, but that makes me hunched over.

I've seen many pictures of artists standing at their easels but they all have their arm outstretched before them, which will quickly tire doing detail work. (I used to do UI design in the computer industry and this creates a condition called "gorilla arm" where large muscle groups get recruited to help with small-muscle work and become fatigued).

I've seen some standing painters rest their painting arm on a mahl stick but they're holding the stick with the other hand, which will fatigue that arm after a few minutes.

I could try to rig up something with a telescoping monopod and a cushion on top to rest my arm on when standing and painting details, but I don't understand why, after centuries of art every artist has to reinvent the wheel - haven't we learned any good methods from great artists of the past we can share?

Where can I get some good advice about oil painting fine detail with good ergonomic practice? Thanks in advance!

ik345
03-25-2019, 02:42 PM
I don't use it myself, but maybe this will help?

https://www.buiko.ru/kopiya-mushtabel

There are links to videos showing how it works, at the page bottom.

Richard P
03-25-2019, 04:48 PM
I made a movable bridge which I use on a painting board I fit in my easel (I also paint sitting down). Perhaps something like this would help you?

864608

ulliversum
03-25-2019, 04:54 PM
Hello,


my husband has build me sth. like you can see on the pictures here:


https://knobl-art-shop.com/PS101-Tischstaffelei-fuer-Porzellanmalerei


Like a bridge for your painting hand.


Cheers, Ulli

plnelson
03-25-2019, 05:13 PM
I don't use it myself, but maybe this will help?

https://www.buiko.ru/kopiya-mushtabel

There are links to videos showing how it works, at the page bottom. Thanks, but I mentioned mahlsticks (AKA maulstick) in my OP. I have a mahlstick and while it's useful to keep my wrist from rubbing wet paint I've not found it useful as an ergonomic aid to correct back and spine pain. These Russian hinged, articulatable mahl sticks are interesting and there's another Russian who also makes them, and it might be fun to try one but I've never seen one in the US or UK either in a shop or in someone's studio. Neither Blick not Jackson's carry anything but conventional mahl sticks.

I noticed that in the Russian's pictures and videos he's still holding his arm outstretched and seems to paint in an impressionistic style, not a finely-detailed one.

One of the things that fascinates me is how often I see artists holding the mahl stick in their other hand. There's a famous picture of Norman Rockwell doing that. I've tried that and then the other arm gets tired and it doesn't really do anything for neck and back issues.

I think what I need is a more comprehensive ergonomic approach to painting. The human body is a kinesiological SYSTEM, and when I'm painting, especially fine detail, everything from my arms, back, neck, legs and feet all start to become stiff and painful because I'm in such a contorted position.

But obviously lots of artists have successful careers painting all day every day for decades without ending up in traction. So I want to know how fine artists who do lots of detail and who work all day long work in terms of posture. I've only had this problem since retiring from my day job and spending 8-10 hours a day in my studio.

Dcam
03-25-2019, 05:17 PM
Hi "P"
Check this out: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1435763



I have neck, shoulder and spine problems, so very often I will work flat on a standing table. As you know, sitting too long is unhealthy, not only for computer folks, but artists as well.


For very large works, I use the system in the above link.


Good luck.

plnelson
03-25-2019, 05:32 PM
Hello,

my husband has build me sth. like you can see on the pictures here:

https://knobl-art-shop.com/PS101-Tischstaffelei-fuer-Porzellanmalerei

Like a bridge for your painting hand.

Cheers, Ulli
Does anyone in the US sell a bridge like this or the previous one? (I know, I know, there's a guy who has a bridge he'd like to sell me...:lol: ) I don't have any mechanical engineering skills so I wouldn't want to try to make one myself. And the bigger question on both of the "bridges" is whether it improves the rest of one's posture - cervical spine, lumbar spine, shoulder, etc).

Do we have anyone else here on Wet Canvas who paint for hours and does fine detail work? What position do you work in and how do you avoid aches and pains?

plnelson
03-25-2019, 06:04 PM
Hi "P"
Check this out: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1435763
I have neck, shoulder and spine problems, so very often I will work flat on a standing table. As you know, sitting too long is unhealthy, not only for computer folks, but artists as well.

For very large works, I use the system in the above link.

Good luck.

Thanks; that looks fascinating. Although reading the text of the thread there's a lot of tinkering and trial and error to come up with a setup that works, and as I said, I have no mechanical engineering skills or tools so I'm not inclined to try to make something myself.

It's interesting that we have this whole art-industrial complex that fills Blick's warehouses with paint and canvas and paper and easels and solvents, and mat-cutters and drying racks and specialised furniture (Blick has 90,000 items in their inventory) but hasn't come up with anything like the Russians or Germans or the basement inventors on Wet Canvas in this area.

Harold Roth
03-25-2019, 06:31 PM
I paint sitting also, and for details, the key for me is to paint on a dry painting. That way, I can rest my entire forearm on the painting to do the details. For me, that's necessary to have a steady hand. I use an easel that can go flat, but I keep it at maybe just a few inches from straight up and down at the top. Works pretty good.

I have seen this adjustable mahl stick but haven't tried it. I used a bridge for years in watercolor. They are great.

Antonin
03-25-2019, 07:36 PM
Just buy a 3/4" x 1.5" x 8' piece of straight clear lumber to use as a support.
Put a carpet remnant under your feet to keep the bottom of stick in place and tether it to the center mast of easel at the top.
Loosen or tighten the tether as needed (or don't tether).
Lean the stick against the top of the painting as you work.

Here I've modified an old photo to show you what I mean:
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/25-Mar-2019/1976029-Artist-Easel.jpg

ronsu18
03-26-2019, 05:36 AM
there are different help devices for this, but you'll need to look at ergonomics sites in general to find something to suit your needs and possibly find someone to do some work for you. the swivelling arm rests for computers come to mind, and i've seen contraptions for people working as supermarket cashiers (? english?) where a metal rod holds a cradle for arm, suspended with a sturdy rubber band.

didn't Mark Carder or someone like him, have something similar? in which case it's DIY.

stapeliad
03-26-2019, 09:18 AM
I'm pretty sure Bill Martin has a good setup for easel arm stabilization, iirc. Hopefully he will see this thread and post a picture.;

Dcam
03-26-2019, 09:28 AM
I could not resist,
it seems Sargent and Matisse had NO problem.


http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/26-Mar-2019/183894-sargent3.jpg


http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/26-Mar-2019/183894-matisse.jpg

contumacious
03-26-2019, 10:42 AM
A mahl stick or bridge that is attached to your easel does reduce some of the strain on your painting arm but you still have to hold up a significant amount of the weight of your arm which can lead to fatigue. Working flat allows you to rest your elbow, but introduces neck and back fatigue since you have to lean over to work.

To reduce back, neck and arm fatigue it looks like you will need to have the painting surface upright so you can get close to the work without hunching over. Painting vertically, even with a bridge or mahl stick, you lose the arm resting on the table. A bridge / mahl stick does not do much to reduce the strain of holding your arm up when your elbow is flapping in the wind.Adding an elbow rest that is either attached to the easel or on a floor stand will give you the steady painting rest for your hand (bridge / mahl stick) plus a rest for your arm. Try a search for Tattoo Arm Rests for a myriad of options. I think the ones with the flat pedestal bases would be easier to fit on the floor between you and the easel than the camera tripod designs. Most of the floor pedestal rests I looked at would work for a seated position. You would need something taller for standing.

DebWDC
03-26-2019, 11:23 AM
What I find works is to vary my posture and work station: stand, sit, take a break, take a walk, stand, sit, etc. Just one posture for the entire session is something I canít do anymore.

Thanks to living life to the fullest (AKA, young and stupid :) ), I have back and neck problems that require management. I used to have a massage therapist whose clientele were mainly orchestra musicians, and it was she who suggested the variation of postures.

Deb
edit: ps - those are some great suggestions which I will use!

Dcam
03-26-2019, 02:25 PM
Deb: I have a Cervical Radiculopathy: say THAT ten times fast.
After a day working flat on a table..... neck pain and numbness in the arms.
PT helped and as you do, I change positions quite a lot and a big drafting table at an angle seems to be the best of many positions.
Standing at the easel, the old frontal deltoid gives out.

AnnieA
03-26-2019, 03:27 PM
I have the same problem as Derek does, cervical radiculopathy, mostly affecting my neck, probably as a result of years spent bending over a drafting table doing architectural work. I paint standing up and one of the reasons I turned to oil painting from soft and oil pastels was that working at a flat desk was exacerbating my problem. Luckily, painting standing up (along with using a posture pillow and stretching a lot during the day) seem to keep my neck from bothering me much. Standing while painting instead kills my feet but I plan to get one of those thick rubber mats that chefs use, which should help.

If the sort of set up with magnets that Derek built isn't something you want to take on, I'd suggest getting an adjustable drafting table (with adjustments both for the angle of the drafting surface and for height), so you could work with less bending of neck and shoulders. You might also consider one of these: https://www.amazon.com/Creative-Mark-Painting-Sketching-Transparent/dp/B0049UX9BE?psc=1&SubscriptionId=AKIAILSHYYTFIVPWUY6Q&tag=duckduckgo-osx-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=2025&creative=165953&creativeASIN=B0049UX9BE You could also have someone at an acrylic store (I have one nearby but don't know if these are widespread) build you a leaning bridge, or perhaps modify one that you purchase to stand up higher off the desk surface (that's what I intend to do, one of these days), if you think that might work better. I think that by adjusting the table so that the surface you were working on was slanted, but also very high, and then using the leaning bridge, your problem might be solved.

If you do go with a leaning bridge, it would probably be wise to let the previous paint layers dry first. I suppose you might even use one by placing a large board behind your painting on your easel - something similar to Derek's set up, but without magnets, and then use the weight of your arm leaning on it to hold it in place. I think that would relieve the fatigue you're experiencing in your arm, although I can't say for certain it would work. Perhaps a PT could advise.

You can buy portable drafting tables that have a sliding straight edge and also adjust to slanting, but the slant is still fairly flat. You can also buy sliding straight edges to (fairly easily) install on a drafting table - the place where you buy a drafting table can probably do this for you. FYI the edge of these sorts of sliding straightedges is typically just a tiny bit above the table surface. It was never high enough for inking drawings - the ink would always spread under the straightedge and ruin the drawing. We used to tape quarters on the bottom of the straightedge ends to lift it further off the surface and that worked fine.

Do you have a art supply store nearby? Maybe you could get assistance and be able to try out some of these suggestions in person before committing to one of them.

DebWDC
03-26-2019, 05:38 PM
Dear cervical radiculopathy members - I hope you guys had fun getting the condition. It sounds painful and yes, Derek, it is hard to pronounce!

I was born with a spinal problem, and life lived to the fullest just added to the pain. One of the funniest and stupidest things I ever did was approach a loose horse south of Flagstaff in the BLM forest, and get on his back, thinking I could steer with my legs. No reins, no halter even. Ha. He started walking, then trotting, then galloping. I fell off. It was really fun except for the last 10 seconds. Ah my glory years and misspent youth.....

Hey, these suggestions on this thread are great and have given me ideas on how to improve my set-up. Thanks.

Deb horse-manure-for-brains

Dcam
03-26-2019, 07:13 PM
I envy you living in AZ. Some of the best galleries I've visited.
and.....what a gorgeous state.
Sedona, The Canyon, the Scottsdale Galleries, Spicy foods, the dry (no-sinus problems) air, the other-worldly landscape......I could go on.
" I get my kicks on route 66":music::music::music::music:

plnelson
03-26-2019, 08:07 PM
Try a search for Tattoo Arm Rests for a myriad of options. I think the ones with the flat pedestal bases would be easier to fit on the floor between you and the easel than the camera tripod designs. Most of the floor pedestal rests I looked at would work for a seated position. You would need something taller for standing.

This sounds great! I've never heard of anything like that but I'll definitely try to find one!

plnelson
03-26-2019, 08:31 PM
Dear cervical radiculopathy members - I hope you guys had fun getting the condition. It sounds painful and yes, Derek, it is hard to pronounce!

Hey, these suggestions on this thread are great and have given me ideas on how to improve my set-up. Thanks.


I agree that they're great and it's great that we have a community like wetcanvas to share these ideas, but I still don't understand why ergonomic information for artists hasn't become canonical. We all know about fat over lean, we all know to put gesso on our canvas or panels before trying to paint on them, we know to use good ventilation when we're working with solvents, we all know what glazing and scumbling and blending are, etc. They teach all this stuff in classes! Or you can look it up on the web.

But ergonomics seems like an unknown concept in art. I've yet to find even one website that discusses the ergonomics of painting at an easel in any detail. Blick has 90000 items in their inventory and the only ergonomics aid they have is a single mahl stick.
I contacted the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society to try to find an ergonomic specialist to hire to help me redesign my studio (I also do digital art). And they seem to have exactly one person with any experience with artists and she was in California on the opposite coast. I just feel like we're all on our own here and we all have to reinvent the wheel by trial and error. sorry for the rant but I'm just frustrated that I can't find athoritative information on an important health and safety issue like this.

DebWDC
03-26-2019, 09:10 PM
Derek - I moved from Arizona 30 years ago for work and life stuff. I always planned on moving back, so I am so happy to be here finally.

It is beautiful. To add to your list - The mountains: chiricahuas, dragoons, superstitions, mazatzals, vermilion cliffs, I am revisiting them all. I have not yet been to any of the galleries in Scottsdale. The Phoenix Art Museum has had a change in direction (moving away from 2-dimensional art and towards massive installations) and has lent out most of its collection to the regional art museums in Wickenburg and so on. So I have seen the paintings in small galleries. Wonderful for those smaller communities.

Deb eating her way through Mexican restaurants across the state

AnnieA
03-26-2019, 09:21 PM
Deb eating her way through Mexican restaurants across the state :envy: :envy: :envy:
There are some good Mexican restaurants here in the Pacific Northwest, but I haven't found any as good as in the Southwest.

pinelson, looking at the arm stands that contumacious posted (very cool, btw, contumacious), it also occurs to me as yet another option that you could perhaps have someone build an additional shelf (padded?) onto your easel that you could lean your arm on. There are probably carpenters that could do it for not much money.

plnelson
03-27-2019, 05:06 PM
pinelson, looking at the arm stands that contumacious posted (very cool, btw, contumacious), it also occurs to me as yet another option that you could perhaps have someone build an additional shelf (padded?) onto your easel that you could lean your arm on. There are probably carpenters that could do it for not much money.

I know. I recently had a custom furniture maker build me two custom rolling craft modules for my studio - a tall one and a short one, with huge ball-bearing drawers that pull way out. They're beautiful pieces of furniture that cost me $3600 and I had to tell them to make them UNfinished because after a few years in my messy studio they will both look like Jackson Pollock paintings!

So yes, I know I can pay someone to make anything; what I'm ranting about is that I have no expertise in kinesiology or biomechanics or physical therapy and I just can't believe that after 500 years of artists painting at easels there's not some authoritative expert advice on this from ergonomists who actually know something.