Life as an Artist – Upper Back Pain

Hey hey….So anyone who knows me and my practice will know that I am someone that draws and prints. Recently, I have gotten to a point in my practice that I am super pleased about, because I am drawing daily in a more organic yet focused way. Back in London, I was working on my post it journeys project – which kept up my daily practice, but I feel like in the end it just became an automatic movement. It was great seeing my drawings improve, and working on an extended project which wasn’t just doodles and drawings in sketchbooks was  fantastic – but it required little thought, and didn’t really push me to expand my repertoire or extend my visual language.


Since moving to Canada, and really – since settling in our new place and routine in Vancouver – I have unintentionally embarked on a new approach to my practice, completely out of the blue. Maybe you could call it the effect of travel and fulfilling a life long dream of living in another country. It all started with Inktober, in which I worked to the theme of animals I had seen in my new city of Vancouver. Animals are not something I draw very often, so this in itself lead to my having to develop new visual languages, exploring texture and shape and also refining my skills in using the Pentel brush pen. This has opened up a new area of interest for me, and I have found myself working on animal after animal after animal, playing with mark making and moving between realism and a stylised approach to representing these awesome creatures.

I also feel like my new job has had a huge impact. I now work in an art shop in what could be called one of the cultural hubs of Vancouver, on Granville Island (where, as I understand it, a certain percentage of all businesses have to be of a creative nature.) I have found myself surrounded by like minded people. We often talk about the ins and outs of life as an artist – struggling with finding our own voices; juggling paying the rent whilst leaving enough head space and time to create; trying to uphold the mental strength to go against what everyone in society thinks we should be doing; shutting out the critical voices that come from both external sources and our own internal critic; how to keep things fresh and loose but whilst still developing a style that is unique to you….

Anyway, getting back to the title and therefore point of this post – oh my gosh, the upper back pain! Like I said, if you know me and you know my practice, I draw and I print. Both of these techniques inevitably lead the practitioner to slouch and to hunch over for long periods of time. Here comes the double edged sword – in finding myself in the best habits and arguably the most productive stretch of practice I have ever experienced as an artist, I have also found myself in a situation now where my upper back is tight and tender – particularly around my shoulders and beneath my neck. It has worsened over the last week, but I am reluctant to rest because I’m in such a good place creatively right now! It’s super frustrating!!

So, every morning, I do at least ten minutes of yoga – whether it’s a self led mish mash of a sun salutation and some other stretches, or following along a ten minute morning yoga video on youtube. It’s great to start the day with slow breathing and gentle stretches and I feel like it’s helped with my focus (more and more I’m spending a good chunk of my morning working on drawings after breakfast before I go to work.) But this morning, I decided to search out a routine that concentrated just on the upper back. Now if any of you are finding you’re getting upper back pain as a result of your practice, I’d highly recommend that you have a go at the yoga sequence in the video below. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t instantly find the weight lifted and feel like my back was back to normal – but it definitely helped me feel like I was able to hold my shoulders open alot more and really stretched parts of my back that my normal routine just doesn’t get to. Well worth a go, and fingers crossed working this new video into my daily yoga routine will help me to strengthen my back and stretch/relax the muscles a bit so the pain begins to go away.  Although – looking ahead, I think it might be time to invest in a drafting table!


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