Step Away From the Screen

Written by
Brenda Geary
September 14, 2013

Most of us can relate to this image all too well. We spend more time star­ing at our com­puter screens than we do look­ing at our loved ones. This is just a reminder to be cau­tious of lim­it­ing our artis­tic tal­ents to our dig­i­tal devises; a nudge to step back to our foun­da­tion stu­dio classes, get our hands dirty and give our eyes a much needed break from the RGB glow.

It’s true that we get work done obscenely faster thanks to our techy tools, but it’s becom­ing more and more dif­fi­cult to detach from our screens. As Patrick Coyne men­tioned nearly ten years ago in Communication Art’s Illustration Annual, “I’d hate to say that it’s all going dig­i­tal, but I do think that tighter dead­lines and bud­gets are dri­ving illus­tra­tors in that direc­tion.” We don’t want to take the time to pull out a paint brush when the mouse is at our fin­ger­tips. But when we’re stuck on a project, or are too stressed to get up and take a lunch, a paint­brush may be just what we need.

For starters, our eyes could use a moment away from the light. Laura Newcomer wrote in Time Magazine, “Computers can make us more pro­duc­tive, but the bad news is that too much screen time can also lead to some­thing called com­puter vision syn­drome (CVS). Recognized as that tired, strained feel­ing your eyes get after a day in front of a com­puter screen, CVS affects some 64% to 90% of office work­ers.” So entrenched are we in our dig­i­tal mas­ter­pieces, we for­get to blink, caus­ing red, fatigued eyes. Imagine if we were to take a 20 minute break at 2:30 pm, three days a week, and pull out the old char­coal and sketch pad we have stowed away some­where. Imagine the stress relief and sense of accom­plish­ment we’d feel after cre­at­ing some­thing we can touch and feel.

It’s exer­cis­ing a dif­fer­ent part of our brain; the cre­ative right side of our brain, with­out a doubt, but a part that leaves dead­lines and stress behind. It gives us a place where we can relax, breathe, and just cre­ate. The tex­ture of a piece of wood, the smell of glue, the sound of a sewing machine, all of this stim­u­lates dif­fer­ent sen­sa­tions that a com­puter does not. Escaping to these ele­ments not only relaxes our cre­ative minds, but ener­gizes us in a way our typ­i­cal office rou­tines do not.

Not only can this off-the-computer cre­ation give our eyes a break and stim­u­late our cre­ativ­ity, but it can serve as the miss­ing piece to make our design work unique and suc­cess­ful. Joshua C. Chen ded­i­cated his book Fingerprint to this con­cept. He men­tions in his intro­duc­tion that he not only wanted his daugh­ter to remem­ber him as a good father, but as a graphic designer. “The thought of leav­ing her with the cor­po­rate brochures I had designed didn’t seem quite right. I wanted to leave her some­thing I had made with my own hands.”

So the next time you find your­self spin­ning your wheels at the mercy of your mouse, take a break and put pen­cil to paper, ham­mer to nail, or brush to can­vas. Who knows – it may just give you exactly what you needed to take your project to the next level.


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