Friday, January 27, 2006

Progressing again

Showing it again

All this talk of children's books and writing and blogging and conferencing and researching, and cartooning, might lead one to forget what I really do for a living: work for the newspaper. The above is an illustration that recently ran in my hometown newspaper. I wasn't too happy with the turnout, but because it received so many nice compliments, I figured I'd run it here, too.

Sketching it again
Sketches for Justin have been approved with minor adjustments. The challenge is that they made their selection of me based upon my art for the book Summer Sun Risin'. The thing is, my art style evolves as frequently as my hair. Asking me to re-create something created three years ago is difficult because...well, I've been there; I've moved on and hopefully have grown. Many children's book illustrators have a trademark style that they use for each successive book. I don't do that. I keep evolving, each work being something slightly different than what I've done in the past. The sketches I submitted didn't exactly match the style they had in mind, so I'll need to spend the weekend revising them to better suit their needs, while somehow remaining true to where I am as an artist today.

Painting it again
I am so psyched up about starting the final artwork for Justin and the Best Biscuits in the World. This time, I've decided to use oil paints. After looking through my portfolio, I realized that my strongest pieces of art were done in oil. I started using acrylic paint because of tight deadlines but acrylics lack the lumosity of oils. And besides that, nothing quite stimulates a brotha's senses more than blocking out a cerulean blue sky over a burnt sienna wash. That, and the aroma of paint thinner... Ah, heaven.

Reading it again
Finished reading Scorpions by Walter Dean Myers. Loved it. The drama of it kept the pages turning, and I read this book in less than two weeks. Pretty good for me considering how long it normally takes me to read a book. I especially liked the way Myers wrote this book in small chunks, scene-by-scene within chapters. I tend to write in hunks and have been having trouble transitioning between scenes. Guess I don't have to force it.

Next read: Unforgivable Blackness by Geoffrey C. Ward. Temporarily, I'm sitting YA aside to return to what I absolutely love — adult historical biographies/historical fiction. I am a sucker for a story about an African American man who overcomes great odds. Women, too — I loved The Black Rose — but of course, I relate better to a man's struggles.

Feeling it again
About three years ago, I almost lost the use of my hands due to repetitive stress. Actually, the doctors never did conclusively diagnose what was wrong, but I had a very scary, and painful couple of years. The pain level finally subsided, but never completely went away. To this day, drawing, mousing, or typing any more than 10 minutes just plain hurts. My doctors prescribed a wonder cure which I stopped taking because it cost a small fortune. Besides that, it’s an anti-depressant, and I ain’t depressed. This stuff tricks your brain into not realizing how much pain one is experiencing. Lately, my hands have been telling me that it’s time to pull that little trick again, at least for awhile. Sigh.


rindambyers said...

Oh, Don, carpal tunnel, no, no, no...Now didn't those doctors get you into ANY kind of physical therapy for that? Or any kind of a work station ergonomic evaluation? They should have. Shame, shame on them if they didn't. They need to get right on that for you. Ten minutes is too short a time for you to start hurting. Yes, I do think so. I do high-volume typing for six days a week, plus quilting and hand writing and I don't have carpal tunnel, when most people should have. It's because of how I use the keyboard and mouse. Good ergonomics.

Try keeping one of those rubber squeeze ball thingies that they advise people to squeeze when stressed at your keyboard/art table. Pick it up and squeeze whenever you can with both hands. Helps relax out those tight tendons.

I crochet and quilt as an alternative to typing, as those things give my hands and wrists alternative exercise.

You can try: A tennis elbow wrist band from supermarkets, goes on above your elbow, doesn't intefere wth your hands. My husband uses that on his right arm when typing. I use one when I hand write or sketch, as I was diagnosed with tennis elbow (an old injury not related to typing). Can help a LOT!

Now my piano teacher, who was a classical pianist who earned his living thorugh giving concerts, he told me that people should never get carpal tunnel with playing a keyboard if they have the proper posture. A piano keyboard is a lot like a typing keyboard. I taught my husband to keep his keyboard on his lap, and that way you sit up straight, feet flat on the floor and let your hands DROP down over the key board, wrists curved, fingers dancing and relaxed. Try doing the same for your mouse pad. Lower the pad down so your hand drops down over it and curves naturally over it. I am right-handed but mouse wtih my left easier, which eases strain on my right hand and wrist. It gives me the CREEPS to see people at laptops with their wrists and hands extended flat. NOT a normal position for hands and wrists. Wrists curved, fingers drop down relaxed on mouse or keyboard, much much better for you.

Your doctor should have given you a course of a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen or Aleve. My husband swears by the over-the-counter Aleve. Just take those things with food always, first. Check with your doctor first for safe use and possible side effects, but they do work very well.

The old ice at night for fifteen minutes routine works well too. Three times a day if you can. Ice is GOOD!

Hope the tendons settle down for you soon.

rindambyers said...

P.S. I ENJOYED the Black Rose, too! A truly great lady, a heroine!

paula said...

Sorry to hear about your pain, Don. Makes it hard to work, I know.

Interesting, hearing you talk about your 'styles'. I'm the same way and wrestle with "how do I draw THIS one?" for each assignment. I'm looking to settle down into something I can call 'me', ya know? However, I don't want to give up the other 'styles' that feel like me too.

Again, appreciate you opening up about that a bit. : )