Step Away From the Screen

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.


By Brenda Geary
Published September 14, 2013
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