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Four Walls II Ink on Paper by Bruce Price
Bruce Price : Reinventing Your Art Technique

Low Tech/High Tech Creativity

What a digital artist does when his mouse hand goes bad.

By Bruce Price

"Low Tech/High Tech"...there's a story.

My left hand is finally shot, probably forever. Many years of four-fingered typing, then 6000+ hours of digital art. Kaput. It cramps up. This is going to happen to a lot of people in the modern world. What to do?? People are getting acupuncture, surgery, physical therapy, braces, pain killers...

I started wondering, well, suppose, I broke my arm, the answer wouldn't be theoretical. It'd be obvious. So I moved the mouse to the right side. In a few weeks I didn't even notice it. This is for routine computer work. Not precise art. Then I entered an art phase or mood. I wanted to create. What to do? I started drawing (ink on paper), with the idea that I would explore "a loose line," all I could make with the right hand. I'd make a virtue of necessity. What happened is that I ended up exploring one of the oldest mediums there is as if it were some radical new technology. I went at ink to find out what is out there.

And let me mention, all the tricks and tactics discussed in MAX your creativity, well, that's what this project was all about. Drawing in the dark, drawing with my eyes closed, drawing watching TV, drawing drunk, drawing without rules or preconception or plan, drawing just to draw, drawing because I never drew in my life, not my adult life, and I really didn't know if I could make anything I'd be proud of. Drawing to see what "line" can do. As the weeks went by and I thought, hey, this or that is very interesting, I became bolder.

The moral of the story is that we all have a spare hand, fresh and ready to go. It's not easy to change; it's awkward. But I want to say, isn't it a comfort to know we have back-up? What I found with the drawing is that I can, in fact, use the left if it's an arm motion, not finger or wrist, so now I sometimes move the pen back and forth. The problem with the mouse is that it stresses the first finger relentlessly. My advice is to learn to be ambidextrous as much as you can, as early as you can, and that way you spread out the burden, and you prepare for the time when the "good hand" isn't so good anymore. None of which means I can now make digital art with the right as effortlessly as I once did with the left. But I think in time I'll reach that level. Meanwhile, I can still use the left for four-fingered typing, which is crucial to me. •

© 2007 Bruce Deitrick Price

Bruce Deitrick Price is an author, artist, poet, and education activist. More »