Skip to main content

Nobody else is going to draw your comics.

To all comic artists and graphic designers:

For many years, I've got a very tight grip on my pens. A very, very tight grip, as I thought it was the most precise way to have absolute control over the drawing.

Plus I used to draw for hours and hours, ocasionally stopping to take a glance 'round and realize I'm still in 'this' world and not the one I created. I've spent many, many hours not only drawing characters but illustrating backgrounds and populating them with subtle, almost obsessive textures, all proudly hand-drawn, panel after panel, page after page.

And for many years, I've heard people suggesting me to ease my style of drawing. That I could end hurting my tendons and muscles. But, in spite of those suggestions by people who have been on the business for much longer than me (actually, I've never been 'in the business') I kept with my bad habits, and continued strangling my drawing pens as if I was -squeezing- the ink out of them. You know, kinda like when your parents keep telling you to sit straight and you nevertheless prefer to get a loosier pose on the chair when they're not around.

Draw safelyIn 2001, I had the first serious warning. After I drew some of those tiny, meticulously stipled pages, I had a weird feeling inside my left arm, from the forearm to the inside of my palm. And it wouldn't go out. I paused my drawing and took rests, but continued drawing the same way, and the feeling became pain. The feeling was VERY intense... to give you an idea, it was as if they had put a steel cable sprinkled with broken glass IN MY ARM, from the elbow to the thumb, all the way inside. And the pain persisted for a couple of weeks, day and night, even not letting me sleep in the night.

This experience scared the hell out of me. I feared I could have the feared carpal tunnel syndrom, but, in fact, it was just a tendinitis. I had to avoid drawing for a while and, slowly, the pain tended to recede until I was able to keep drawing again as always -albeit months later.

Or so I thought. You see, that mild annoying feeling has been with me since then after I dedicated a couple of hours of drawing. And, depending on deadlines, I've even forced my hand beyond a 'reasonable amount of pain' until I finished. You know, I'm one of those crazy 'artist' types and, to me, drawing is almost as important to me as eating or drinking. It's what I've been doing all this time.

Okay. It's February, 2009, and I barely can hold a pen for more than a few minutes before feeling how the tendons in my hand inflate like a baloon and paralize my hand. Plus, after 15 minutes or so of drawing, my whole arm feels as sore as if I had loaded a whole 747 with bowling balls with that arm. I'm STILL able to draw stuff now and then, but drawing a mere comic strip can take up to 5 days of painful work. I may be a lost case by now, thanks to me and my stubborness.

But I'm not typing this to make you feel pity of me so you send me virtual hugs or kisses or 'you can do it' messages or the stuff. I'll go to the kinesiologist next week to see if they can fix it.

I want YOU to imagine YOURSELF in a situation like THIS. I want you to imagine yourself plenty with ideas to be drawn but unable to take them out of your head 'cause some part of your body doesn't work properly anymore.

It may happen if you, too, don't take proper care of your body, as we all still need it to doodle comics, either with a pencil, a pen, a mouse or a tablet. Have you read all those suggestions about ergonomy when drawing, or writing, or typing or whatnot? Okay, they are dead serious. In my case, it's the arm, but anything can fail if not taken care of properly.

If you allow me the comparison, imagine youself as an athlete, relying on your body not to run faster, or jump higher or all those cool things real athletes do, but to take concepts out of your head and imprint them in a certain media as best as possible. And, to achieve that, you need your 'drawing arm' in prime conditions, and you've got to rely on it for years to come. So take the utmost care of it, and don't hesitate to go to the doctor if you suddenly feel it 'weird'. And the same applies to your sight, can you imagine a blind graphic artist? And don't leave behind your back, that is much more fragile than you think. And the rest of your body, too! You've got only one, and if you get it hurt, nobody else is going to draw your comics as good -or bad- as you do. Or illustrations. Or whatever you want to draw.