The Tools Artists Use

Alycia Garcia

Posted on April 20, 2009 | Comments

Alycia Garcia is an artist and Illustration Senior at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.


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

My favorites are mechanical pencils and Prismacolor markers.

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

My decision on what media to focus on in a project is usually determined by the previous piece. If the last illustration was constructed mostly from cut paper, then I might focus more on the use of pen or embroidery for the next. I try not to fall into a formula for making pieces.

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

For drawing materials I prefer Prismacolor markers, usually .03-.005, and mechanical pencils. Sometimes I'll use Prismacolor colored pencils or markers for color.

For papers and fabrics, I respond more to the texture and color. I spend a great deal of time sifting through papers, and just try to find samples that draw me in. I like the juxtaposition of different patterns and textures. I also incorporate a lot of my own handmade paper.

For all stitching I use DMC embroidery floss.

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

For color work I feel best using cut paper, thread, fabric, or a combination of the three. If I can cut it up and sew through it, it's usually fair game.

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 don't really ever use wet media, and pencils and pens are always a staple that I carry with me everywhere. I've found that threads and papers aren't necessarily the easiest to travel with, so most of my art making is done from home, with access to a wide range of materials.


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 find I have a hard time drawing on a surface if the material is too flimsy or has no tooth to it. For quick sketches, any piece of paper will do, but if Im sitting down to draw I prefer to use something more substantial. Recently I have gotten into book making, and right now am working out of several sketchbooks I have made from heavy printmaking paper.

I have several Moleskines, but find I have a hard time working in them.

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

I have used Photoshop in the past to create digital collage images. I would scan in found textures and pieces I had sewn and combine them together digitally. These days I am much more interested in the results I get working with the materials traditionally.

I still use Photoshop, although it's for my preliminary work. I do sketches by hand, then color them digitally by collaging the papers and other materials I will be using on top. I find this to be a fast way to get my point across to others and also to work out issues before I start the actual piece.

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

My friend Allison Bamcat always seems to have an endless supply of pens, markers and pencils that I haven't tried before. I pick up new markers or pens after seeing her work with them.

Right now I'm trying to find a comfortable pen/pencil that isn't black or gray. I love the look of drawings in sepia.

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

I make all of my art from cut paper, needlework and fabric, which are not things I regularly see in illustration. I enjoy paper, texture, drawn elements, and embroidery, and am trying to create a way to combine them all into "super illustrations."

In my personal work, I've been working a lot with mola making. Mola is a craft indigenous to the San Blas Islands in Panama, and is basically a reverse appliqué method for quilting, where you cut through several layers of fabric and create a shape with the revealed layer.

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

When I work digitally, I use Photoshop.


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 find myself getting further and further away from the digital world. I enjoy the sensation of touching different materials, and responding to patterns and textures reacting to one another. The monotonous movements and time spent stitching hundreds of stitches by hand is something I find very therapeutic. The overall feel I get from work done traditionally is not something I can recreate in Photoshop.

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 the computer is a valid vehicle for making art. I have seen artists create beautiful imagery in Photoshop, Illustrator, and Painter. That being said, there's plenty of terrible digital artwork out there, and for me, nothing beats having a physical object in front of me as a final product.

I've found the computer to be a useful tool, both in promoting and getting your artwork out to audiences you might not otherwise reach, and finding inspiration.

Thanks Alycia!

You can find Alycia Garcia online at her website/weblog

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