i bought an xp-pen artist 15.6 tablet in early 2020, and i LOVE it. after a year of drawing with it on a desk stand, though, i was starting to Feel some of the things it was doing to my neck and back, and i wanted a better ergonomic solution. i was also just tired of how much space my tablet took up on my desk-- blocking part of the view of my main monitor, forcing me to keep my keyboard in my lap or on a folding table off to the side while drawing, etc. i just needed a change! i found myself wishing i could somehow position the tablet in mid-air where it'd be easy to draw on without having to choose between arm or spine pain, and then i realized, oh, THAT'S A THING. that's what ergo arms are for!
i looked into ergotron arms and stuff and the price tags terrified me. the artist 15.6 also doesn't have a built-in VESA mount, so for a while i thought my tablet was unmountable, until i came across some info in a reddit thread that CHANGED MY FUCKIN LIFE. it's the next-best thing to actually being able to turn off gravity. i really can "float" my tablet over my chair. i've reduced both arm/shoulder and spine-related pain!
anyway. you can do this. for pretty cheap, and you don't even have to be a supergenius. i am HOPELESS with all things mechanical and i managed this. i believe in you.
the fuck is a VESA mount?
first of all, if you don't know what a VESA mount is, it's the Standard Doohickey For Mounting Monitors. the acronym stands for "Video Electronics Standards Association." if your dad once spent an afternoon swearing and screwing an adjustable tv mount into your wall, or you know any nerds with adjustable monitors on arms, those are probably VESA. it's also called a FDMI (flat display mounting interface). these are useful acronyms while hunting for products.
do i need an ergotron arm? do i need to buy one that says FOR TABLET ARTIST DIGITAL ART WACOM? what if my tablet doesn't have the mount?
so here's the deal. you do not need an expensive tablet with a VESA mount. you do not need to drop almost $400 for the wacom flex arm, or whatever the fuck, and you don't need to be looking for refurbished or used specialty ones for slightly less painful prices. you can just find one that is a not-painful-at-all price!
what do i need?
★ a small budget (i did this for a bit under $50)
★ to know the dimensions and weight of your tablet
★ a VESA adapter that's going to hold your tablet snugly without blocking buttons or your hand
★ a standard monitor arm that will fit on your desk and hold that size and weight of tablet (plus a little extra weight since you're gonna have your arm on it).
remember to always check return policies (and find out who pays return shipping) before you buy anything. if you get something that doesn't work out, you don't want to be out money.
you have a LOT of choices. there are a lot of different brands/styles of monitor arms out there, and lot of different little grabby friends that will hold your tablet and attach to them. make sure to also look at VESA mounts intended for laptops and larger android/iPad tablets. i recommend looking for something that's "quick release" so that you can easily remove your tablet for cleaning or travel.
make sure you take and compare measurements. my arm is clamped to my desk and it BARELY fit the lip! you may need a board or something to extend your desk so the clamp will stay in place. i didn't think about this part beforehand and almost didn't get away with it, but it fit my desk with a couple of millimeters to spare:
first of all: it's gonna wobble. wobble will happen. especially if you have a lightweight desk and not some sort of heavy wooden monster that stoically absorbs all your leg-bouncing and chair wiggling. if you're used to drawing on a sketchbook one-handed on your knee while eating a sandwich you'll probably fine-- if you're used to something that stays put a little better, or have a really heavy hand, you might struggle with this. here's the thing, i read the reviews on the fancy expensive For Artists ergonomic arms and those also wobble, so i don't think this is something worth spending extra to try to avoid. i was really worried about it, like i-have-an-anxiety-disorder-worried enough that i could have very easily made a problem out of it just by psyching myself out, and i got used to it in a day. a friend tried the same setup and couldn't deal with the wobble at all and just went back to the desk stand. again, check return policies, and be prepared for the possibility that this might take a few tries to get right, or just not work for you.
the VESA adapter i bought is a little too deep-dish for my thin-crust tablet, so sometimes when i'm adjusting it, it does slip around. it's never been a problem while drawing.
the main thing to watch out for is accidental cable/port damage. using the arm does put you at higher risk of this, especially if your port is off to one side. make sure you understand well how the arm moves so that when you move the tablet around, you aren't yanking hard on the cord. make sure you have a firm grip on it whenever you move it, like it's a steering wheel. take care not to leave it in positions that may strain the cable. by this point in your life, you've probably had a phone or some other device where the charge port got all loose and had connectivity issues-- not what you want for your tablet.
most arms will have somewhere to thread cables to keep them contained and out of the way but it might not be set up to accommodate your tablet very well. depending on your setup, you may want to get an extension for your cables or move your computer so you can give them more slack. EVERY time you move the arm, you need to be staying aware of your cable and port. when i'm about to make a major shift in position (getting it into or moving it out of the Drawing Zone) i just unplug it. i also try to remember to unplug it when the computer is off, in case it gets bumped or certain animals whose names will not be mentioned decide to do little crimes.
additional tablet safety tips for the paranoid
keep your tools handy, set up a google calendar reminder, and tighten any joints/clamps/etc. every month or so. i don't think it's very likely that you'll wiggle it all apart unexpectedly, but better safe than sorry. i also have a baby blanket (like literally a receiving blanket like you'd wrap a newborn in) that i toss over my tablet if there's Liquid Danger Afoot, like i've decided to eat soup at my desk. (pre-arm i used to just take it off the stand and put it in a laptop zip case.)
i spent a little less than $50 on my setup, i've been using it for two months, and i'm extremely pleased with it. you could probably do it for even less if you found a used arm on eBay or at a local secondhand store. even if you're not having any pains YET, i can't recommend this enough. it's a preventative measure that protects your future health, it's fun, it's convenient, it's luxury. you deserve this. even if you're just a hobbyist or a beginner, if you can make the investment it's 100% worth it imo.
enjoyyyyyy!!! share this info with your art friends! and feel free to share your tips and experiences in the comments.
the whole sad story
so here's the situation. i am a generalized trainwreck of a person; i suffer from anxiety, depression, ADHD, a few different chronic pains (tendonitis in forearms/hands, fucked up injured shoulder, lower back pain) and some other annoying bodily conditions. i still can't drive, because i panic too easily about being a Mortal Thing in a Metal Death Machine. i have never been able to be functional on the level expected by american capitalism. despite everything, in 2016 i managed to get a part-time retail job, allowing me to finally move out of my mom's house to an apartment with my boyfriend and a roommate that's within walking distance of my workplace. i was making enough money to cover a good chunk of our bills and a bit of the rent, and food stamps allowed me to cover my own food.
four years later: my relationship is unfortunately on the rocks for various reasons and he has moved home with his parents, so my primary financial support is gone, and i'm not sure if it's coming back. and i have plantar fasciitis. probably one of the worst things i could have gotten working in retail. it's a painful condition of the foot that makes every step excruciating after a few hours at work, and it sucks ass. it started in march 2020 and i couldn't get treatment until august; it usually takes 6 months to a year to resolve, IF it resolves.
because i am poor as dirt, i am on medicaid. the oregon health authority considers plantar fasciitis "below the line," otherwise known as "not important enough to cover treatment for," which is wild because it's a long-term condition a lot of poor people get because they work on their feet 40+ hours a week. because of the abject cruelty and stupidity of US healthcare, i've had to pay for my own treatment. every 2 to 3 months i need a $50 cortisone shot. my custom insoles were a cool $400.
because of plantar fasciitis, i've had to work less. i already couldn't work a lot. i went from my already meager two 8 hour days a week to two six-hour days a week, which hurt a little but was manageable. but, as this has dragged on, my store manager has started to become hostile about accommodating me, asking "how long this is going to go on" with increasing frequency. i keep getting passive-aggressively scheduled for one four-hour shift in a week.
sedgewick, the claims handling company that's handling my ADA accommodation case, is also just being shit now, ignoring all my phone calls, making zero effort to communicate with me. my case "closed" automatically on the 8th of january and i'm now dragging HR into the mess because i can't get anything done on my own. i'm pretty scared i'm going to lose my job. if i don't fight for accommodation, i'll lose it because i'll keep having to call out or go home early. if i fight, they might try to find a way to get rid of me.
because of my not-driving situation, i have very limited job options. so as you can imagine, i'm scared right now. things are not great. i was doing ok up until about the point where my computer (which i need... to do art stuff... to keep making money) all-but-died and took its monitor with it.
i also have a cat, who costs money to take care of, and i'm afraid if i end up having to move home, i won't be able to keep her. she's very hostile to other cats and my mom already has a cat.
so that's most of it, in as few words as i can manage, which is still too many. sorry about that! tl;dr everything is shit! i've been struggling emotionally and physically for months and i need help.
expenses: some transparency
i've been making about $500 a month between work, patreon, ko-fi and the occasional gumroad sale, but it's going to be even less now that i'm getting like one four-hour shift a week sometimes.
since September i've had to spend:
$400 on custom insoles
$150 on cortisone shots
about $250 on plantar fasciitis care (high quality shoes, brace, pain relief stuff)
$800 on a new computer
$200 on a new monitor (old one blew up)
...for a grand total of $1800 in Unusual Expenses in just the last few months. i usually make like less than $10k a year, so that is a huge chunk of my financial ass. i have been helped along by some generous donors and the shitty little $600 check we got because of the plague, but my savings have still taken a hit.
i also have upcoming expenses:
new phone (mine is actively dying)
new computer chair (current one is falling apart, causing me extra pain)
new clothes (a lot of my wardrobe doesn't fit anymore; i gained a bunch of stress/plantar-fasciitis-related weight in 2020)
...and if i don't recover from plantar fasciitis, the only option left to me will be surgery. which i guess will probably have to be a gofundme. i'll have to fund my living expenses for the required recovery time as well as the surgery which is almost definitely going to be hellishly expensive. :( i don't even want to think about it.
right now i make about $95 a month from Patreon. my Ko-fi is at a weird standstill right now; a Gold membership costs $6 a month and i only have two monthly supporters giving a total of $8 between them, but i do get a lot of random unpredictable donations through it.
my hopefully realistic goal is to get to $300 a month between Patreon and Ko-Fi.
my less realistic goal is to get to $500 a month, which even if i lose my job would give me a decent amount of money to throw around monthly.
how you can help
pledges: if you can pledge a small monthly donation to my patreon or ko-fi, that is the best way to help me. don't be embarrassed if it's just a dollar! small pledges are sustainable for you and add up for me. plus you get benefits! i do a monthly art poll, and i want to get back to doing sketch requests in 2021! you also get to see the secret Supporter Clubhouse page of my website, as well as sketches and alternate versions of art i don't post publicly.
donations: if you can just toss a few bucks my way once, that's great! thank you!!
purchases: i have a very small store with some digital goods! more to come!
passing the message along: if you follow me on twitter, please RT me when i post about fundraising stuff! or just RT in me in general so more people see my art/maybe decide to support me!
also, i always want to say before you decide to throw money at me: PLEASE DO NOT GIVE ME YOUR LAST DOLLAR. please do not donate if it hurts. don't set yourself on fire to help keep me warm, ok? ok. love u.
i deeply and sincerely appreciate all financial support. i often don't know how to thank people thoroughly enough. but from the bottom of my heart and other organs, thank you.
welcome to the doodlemancy blog. it's new as of today.
2019 was rough. i made a few pieces i was decently happy with, but this Fina one is the only thing i was really that proud of:
...and it felt like a fluke. not to be dramatic but for quite a while, i’ve been feeling like my goals are impossible, i’m never going to finish any project ever, and i am probably the worst artist in this universe and also all parallel universes in which i exist as some kind of artist. drawing has been A SLOG. just thinking about it made me feel tired and frustrated. lately, most of my drawing time has just been my patreon sketch requests, because at least that gets me paid and makes someone happy, cue sad violin and handkerchief honk. and then while doodling on my samsung galaxy tablet (a very fun rectangle, but small and not suitable for serious drawing) i thought, "i just want this, but bigger".
i had outgrown my tools. i got a bamboo 9 years ago and learned to draw digitally on that, then switched to an intuos 4. i’ve finally reached the point where the visual disconnect and small drawing area is causing me problems i just can’t solve. detailing feels like playing pool during an earthquake. the small drawing area strains my wrist and stiffens my drawings. my skills and needs have surpassed the capabilities of this rectangle.
i've been using non-monitor graphics tablets for as long as i've been doing digital art. 10 years ago, wacom was basically all their was, and the price of a cintiq was so astronomically high i had to convince myself i didn't want/need one so i wouldn't feel sad about it. same deal with the iPad when it started getting popular with artists-- it was out of my reach. i bought the galaxy tab last year because i wanted an iPad, but didn't want to give apple money (and didn't have enough money to give apple anyway).
the next morning, i started "casually" browsing tablets. a few competitors (namely monoprice, huion, xp-pen) have been making affordable graphics tablets for a while now. 5 hours of researching and feverish livetweeting later, i had purchased an xp-pen artist 15.6, because my roommate happens to have an xp-pen monitor tablet and let me try it for a minute. it took about 3 strokes of the pen to convince me. i was going to wait until my tax return showed up but i realized i was not going to draw until at least march if that was the case. i was in too deep. i had tasted the food of the fae and would never go back through the hedge. so i paid off my credit card and slapped the tablet purchase on it. then i thought and talked about nothing else for 3 days (i assume these 3 days were probably pretty excruciating for everyone who knows me or follows me on twitter).
4 days in: i'm enjoying drawing again. the thought of drawing makes me excited instead of exhausted. it's not a slog anymore. i was going to bed most nights night thinking "i didn't draw again, i'm a failure" and now i wake up excited to turn on my tablet and draw. i feel good about art for the first time in at least a year. i actually probably haven't felt this good and this optimistic about drawing since i was 13 and had just obtained a copy of How To Draw Manga: Compiling Characters from Powell's bookstore on a field trip.
the faulty carpenter blames his tools; the wise carpenter knows when to replace a hammer. especially if the hammer is really outdated, has a terrible driver that crashes constantly and is greatly impeding his ability to draw anime girls.
here is my first finished piece in CSP. it is a little awkward, and imo it doesn't look like my usual art style. but it contains more joy than anything i have drawn for a long time.