The Tools Artists Use

The site is taking a break (again)

Posted on March 30, 2014 | Comments

Even though the site has recently been mentioned in a wonderful book, and the "About" page laments a similar site stopping their interviews, I'm putting the site on hiatus for a while. I'm finding it hard to find the time to send out queries for interviews, and then to follow up on getting the answers back. If I can find the time in the future, I'll start up the interviews again.

I still have a few interviews out in the wild, and if they do get returned, I will add them to the site right away. I just won't be reaching out for new interviewees anytime soon.

In the meantime, if you're looking for something similar, I have a few recommendations. First, Teoh Yi Chie of Parka Blogs has been doing interviews with artists about their tools. You can find his interviews here: http://www.parkablogs.com/tags/art-tools-and-gears.

Second, Dan Berry has been conducting some wonderful interviews with artists on his podcast, called Make it Then Tell Everybody. It isn't strictly about tools, but he often asks the artists about theirs. In the archives, there are several interviews with artists that have also appeared here on this site.

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Wonderful mention in Playing with Sketches book

Posted on January 27, 2014 | Comments

Playing with Sketches, by Whitney Sherman

Several months ago, the author (and artist) of the new book Playing with Sketches, Whitney Sherman, emailed me and asked a little about art tools and the artists who use them for a book she was writing. She said she was going to mention the site in her book, but not to what extent. When finally getting a copy of the book, I was surprised to see such a nice callout to The Tools Artists Use. In addition to mentioning me and the site in a section called "Anatomy of Your Tools", she also features several artists who have been interviewed on the site: Lapin, Mikkel Sommer, Marguerite Sauvage, and Luciano Lozano.

While it's awesome that the site is mentioned, the book contains 50 fantastic art exercises and techniques. A few example exercises from the book include: "Make a pattern", "Möbius strip drawing", "Channeling Matisse", "Sticky notes quilt", and "Map your day." And all throughout the book are art examples from a wide variety of artists of all kinds of media.

Some related links:

Thanks Whitney!

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Tiffany Bozic

Posted on December 30, 2013 | Comments

Tiffany Bozic is a self-taught artist currently living and working in Marin, CA.

Painting by Tiffany Bozic

What are some of your favorite drawing tools (pens, pencils, markers, drawing tablet, all of the above)?

I tend to gravitate towards the itty-bitty so I love my automatic pencils.

How do you like your color? Watercolor? Acrylics? Oil? Colored pencils? Markers?

I enjoy acrylic paint the most. When I'm travelling I bring my watercolor travel set along although mostly I do not paint or draw outside my studio. When outdoors I mostly shoot photos to capture things that interest me to later inform my paintings.

If you do use paints, inks, pencils, or markers for coloring, are there any in particular that are your favorites? Do you prefer travel sets of paints to a full set?

I prefer Liquitex and Golden High Flow acrylic paint. I also love my Sakura Koi pocket field watercolor boxes. You can find them on Amazon for about $20.

Is there any particular type of notebook or drawing pad you prefer? Or does any scrap of decent-sized paper work in a pinch?

I love Moleskine watercolor notebooks for when I'm traveling. When I am in the studio I draw on anything.

If you paint, is there any particular type of canvas you prefer? Do you like to paint on wood or any other materials?

Most often I paint on maple wood panel.

Painting by Tiffany Bozic

Do you ever do any kind of post-processing (like adding color in Photoshop or similar tool) to your drawings?

No.

Have you ever tried a new pen (or paper, etc) from reading about it, or seeing the results in another artist's work?

Over the years I have established a routine that works for me so I'm not paying too much attention to new tools like I probably should. I admire my friend Isabella who is always coming up with new creative approaches. She saves her cat's whiskers and makes them into tiny brushes! They actually work really well for painting long thin lines.

Do you have anything out of the ordinary you use for making your art?

I use my hands. Is that out of the ordinary?

If you work both digitally and non-digitally, which do you find yourself doing more? Is there a reason you would prefer one of the other? Is it because of the tools available in either space?

Sometimes I bring my photos into Photoshop to play around with composition before I transfer the image onto wood. I can't say I enjoy working on the computer too much but it can be useful.

Painting by Tiffany Bozic

I asked about post-processing on a computer, but do you think the computer is a helpful tool for making art? Whether it’s looking for inspiration online, or using it to build a weblog to promote yourself and your art, do you think a computer is necessary, helpful, or a distraction (or all of the above)?

I think computers are amazing! Sometimes when I travel to places that are off the grid for a couple of months I miss the ability to research online. That said, I think it is easy to get distracted by emails and such so it's important for me to stick to a schedule and only allot myself a small window of time every few days.

Thanks Tiffany!

You can find Tiffany Bozic online at her portfolio site and on her weblog.

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Aimee Pong

Posted on December 12, 2013 | Comments

Aimee Pong is a graphic designer and illustrator living in Queens, NY.

From 'The Great Serpent of the Sand' series, by Aimee Pong

What are some of your favorite drawing tools (pens, pencils, markers, drawing tablet, all of the above)?

I use a little bit of everything, but lately I've been sticking to Photoshop + Wacom tablet (I have an old Graphire4)... and to my ex-professor's dismay, mechanical pencils. I also have to give a shoutout to the Tombow Mono NP, my eraser of choice.

If you have a wide collection, how do you decide on which to use on a particular drawing, project, or day?

It depends on the project. I try to use what media will lend its natural qualities to the style/piece.

If you prefer pens, is there any particular brand, color, or type of ink you like best?

I use pens mostly for sketching and doodling. My favorite is the Pentel Stylo Sketch Pen. It makes nice thin lines with just the right amount of stroke variation for my taste. Unfortunately, they're not waterproof, if that's a deal breaker for you. Alas, most stores have stopped carrying them, but you can still get them online. Other pens I like include the Pilot G-2 and Staedtler Fineliners.

How do you like your color? Watercolor? Acrylics? Oil? Colored pencils? Markers?

I like acrylics and digital. I love working with oil, too, but I don't like the toxic fumes and drying times that come with it. Pastels are a dream to work with but a hassle to preserve. (Who wants to frame everything they've made? No one. That's who.) What can I say? I am lazy.

If you do use paints, inks, pencils, or markers for coloring, are there any in particular that are your favorites? Do you prefer travel sets of paints to a full set?

I have a set of Liquitex Heavy Body Acrylics. I took them on the plane with me—does that make them a travel set?

Cover illustration of Missouri State alumni magazine, by Aimee Pong

Is there any particular type of notebook or drawing pad you prefer? Or does any scrap of decent-sized paper work in a pinch?

I have been using Hand Books for a few years...partly because I bought six of them at once and am still going through them. But seriously, they are great coptic-bound, hardcover sketchbooks—a good alternative to Moleskines if you want paper with a hint more of a bite. I also like making my own sketchbooks from loose paper. Everyone should invest in a long-arm stapler!

If you paint, is there any particular type of canvas you prefer? Do you like to paint on wood or any other materials?

I mostly paint on watercolor paper or bristol. I like smooth surfaces.

Do you ever do any kind of post-processing (like adding color in Photoshop or similar tool) to your drawings?

I think it's a must to post-process. No straight scan does the original justice. Plus, how else will you get rid of the little specs and mystery fibers? (Besides cleaning the scanner, gasp.) In this sense, I don't like to use Photoshop as a crutch. It's not supposed to miraculously make a poor painting better. There is value in doing traditional art right. However, when it comes to digital or semi-digital work, everything goes. I use Photoshop to clean up line art, collage stuff, color, add texture, etc. When I do digital paintings, I usually work in PS from start to finish.

Have you ever tried a new pen (or paper, etc) from reading about it, or seeing the results in another artist's work?

I mostly discover new tools through friends' recommendations. I'm also that person trying out every single pen at the store.

Do you have anything out of the ordinary you use for making your art?

Just the usual blood, sweat, and tears.

If you create purely-digital art, what are the software programs you use? Is one used more than another?

For better or worse, I am a slave to Adobe. I live and breathe Photoshop and have most of the shortcuts memorized by heart. I use Illustrator for vector work, AfterEffects for animation, InDesign for all things type. There was a day when I made pixel art in MS Paint and learned how to paint in openCanvas, but I have since seen the errors of my ways.

Illustration for a series of Franz Kafka parables, by Aimee Pong

If you work both digitally and non-digitally, which do you find yourself doing more? Is there a reason you would prefer one of the other? Is it because of the tools available in either space?

This is a tough question. I like both for different reasons. There are a lot of qualities in traditional art that cannot be replicated in digital art, but with digital, there is an ease in getting started. The tablet's always connected, and it's so fast to rough out ideas and compositions in Photoshop and bring them to an acceptably finished state. I do find myself gravitating towards traditional art more these days. I work as a graphic designer during the day, and it is nice to not be staring at the screen 24/7. Plus, I semi-recently moved and downgraded from having a 23-inch desktop monitor to a 13-inch laptop. I'm crying on the inside.

I asked about post-processing on a computer, but do you think the computer is a helpful tool for making art? Whether it’s looking for inspiration online, or using it to build a weblog to promote yourself and your art, do you think a computer is necessary, helpful, or a distraction (or all of the above)?

All of the above. Like any tool, the computer is what you make of it. I definitely would not be able to make the type of work I make without it. Google is an invaluable resource, and I'm incredibly, incredibly grateful to everyone who has taken the time to follow and share my work. Yay Tumblr! Yay internet!!

Thanks Aimee!

You can find Aimee Pong online at her portfolio website, on Tumblr, on Twitter (@aipng), and on Instagram (aipng).

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Rebecca Mock

Posted on November 26, 2013 | Comments

Rebecca Mock lives in Brooklyn, NY and works from her cluttered home studio on comics, zines, and illustration.

Cover of Walrus Magazine's 2013 Summer Reading issue, by Rebecca Mock

What are some of your favorite drawing tools (pens, pencils, markers, drawing tablet, all of the above)?

I use a Wacom tablet for most of my illustration work. Coloring digitally takes a lot of stress out of creating an image. For comic drawing, I sketch with a pencil and ink with various brush pens, and a nib & ink.

If you have a wide collection, how do you decide on which to use on a particular drawing, project, or day?

Mostly I'll choose a digital approach if I'm doing something for a job or a publication, in Photoshop I can be precise up to the smallest detail. If I'm working on a comic, I sketch with pencils and then ink with a nib, and I have a few different kinds to choose from based on the style of the comic. I like drawing comics with a nib rather than with a brush--if I was a cleaner draftsperson, I would use a pencil.

If you prefer pens, is there any particular brand, color, or type of ink you like best?

I have a collection of brush pens that I like to use, japanese felt-tip and calligraphy pens, mostly bought from JetPens.com. The nib I use most often is a G-pen nib, also from JetPens. It has a very good range of line weight and is really smooth.

How do you like your color? Watercolor? Acrylics? Oil? Colored pencils? Markers?

I usually color digitally, pretty much everything in my portfolio is colored digitally. I have all sorts of wet and dry media that I like to play with when I want to just make something for myself, like a card for a friend or a sketchbook page--acrylics, watercolors, markers, pencils and crayons.

Is there any particular type of notebook or drawing pad you prefer? Or does any scrap of decent-sized paper work in a pinch?

I horde scrap paper to use as sketching paper. I prefer to sketch things out on loose paper, tracing and taping things together and scanning things in. Sketchbooks are reserved for experimentation, list-making, and recreational sketching. I like the type of sketchbook that is slim and travel-sized, with thinner paper that doesn't feel so precious. I like drawing in graph notebooks, the pretty blue pattern is fun to draw over.

More or Less, by Rebecca Mock

Do you ever do any kind of post-processing (like adding color in Photoshop or similar tool) to your drawings?

Almost everything I do makes a stop in Photoshop before I decide it's done. There are always little smudges and eraser bits on my comic pages.

Have you ever tried a new pen (or paper, etc) from reading about it, or seeing the results in another artist's work?

Yes. I started using nibs after trying out a friend's set and becoming captivated. I like to compare notes on different materials when I'm looking for something new.

Do you have anything out of the ordinary you use for making your art?

When I was starting out doing illustrations of interiors, I used Google SketchUp to build a basic space and then used it as reference to get the perspective and scale right. I would just trace over a screencap of the model. These days I just eyeball things (or distort them purposefully) but making a model to draw from can be helpful for a tricky angle. even just setting up boxes in the right lighting has helped me create a more convincing imagined space.

When I want to take a break from my serious work, I have a drawer full of paper cut-outs, glitter, glue, string, and all sorts of junk that I use for making crafts and objects. Sometimes I try something completely new as a stress-reliever.

If you create purely-digital art, what are the software programs you use? Is one used more than another?

I use Photoshop CS5 for pretty much everything right now. For making zines and comics, I use InDesign.

If you work both digitally and non-digitally, which do you find yourself doing more? Is there a reason you would prefer one of the other? Is it because of the tools available in either space?

I like to work digitally because I can make everything perfectly clean and edit it in any way I need to. You can get a lot of precision and not have to commit to any decision, and I find myself changing things around a lot. Lately though I have been working almost entirely with pencil and paper, because I'm currently drawing a graphic novel.

A page from Rebecca Mock's comic 'My First Valentine Was Doctor Who'

I asked about post-processing on a computer, but do you think the computer is a helpful tool for making art? Whether it’s looking for inspiration online, or using it to build a weblog to promote yourself and your art, do you think a computer is necessary, helpful, or a distraction (or all of the above)?

All of the above, definitely. I love having the technology to easily pull reference, organize my work and send it out quickly, but I also often procrastinate more just because I can jump on the internet to chase one thought or notion. And it's easy to get sucked into thinking strictly digitally, and forgetting the full range of possibilities for art when you combine traditional and digital sensibilities. I will turn my internet or computer off for the day when I really need to focus.

Thanks Rebecca!

You can find Rebecca Mock online at her portfolio website, on Tumblr, and on Twitter (@rebeccamock).