The Tools Artists Use

Jenny Vorwaller

Posted on April 13, 2009 | Comments

Jenny Vorwaller is an artist living in Seattle, Washington.


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

I really adore calligraphy pens, the felt tipped, waterproof archival kind... they are superb for correspondence, making my titles and handwriting a little more fancy. There's something magic to those Zig brand pens, that give my lines an extra edge. Also totally addicted to gel pens, their flow and ability to blend or bleed a bit into watercolors depending on what I'm doing is satisfying. As for pencils, I love all kinds, but they have to be totally sharpened at all times since I draw so lightly and like details. I use a metal sharpener that makes a killer point.

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

I'm a bit spread out as far as mediums go - since I always have to be creating, I never run out of projects to do and rotate between them all to keep the momentum alive. If the light is right (sun is now coming to Seattle) I'll pick one of my many loaded film cameras and go shoot some frames; if I have new music to paint to, I'll be at my desk bursting out the watercolors... My jewelry line is always in the forefront, I work on something for it everyday - whether it be shipping orders, dropping off pieces at boutiques, sketching and researching new ideas or getting out all my chain and laying out what's next.

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

Uni-Ball Signo 207 Gel Pens. Black!


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

Yes please.. all of the above. Especially watercolor. Before my first son was born, I primarily worked in oils. But I soon turned to water-based paints when I found out I was expecting him to cut down on the fumes and chemicals I haven't looked back since - and he's seven! I love my set of Prismacolor pencils, I've used them for years. And anything from cheap craft paint to pricey real deal tubes can yield all different results depending on the purpose I need them for.

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 adore my flat, folding palette. Even if I'm at my desk, I work from it, and it's the same one that I've traveled to South America and Europe with. It's simple, clean and reliable and I have all my colors right there for me when I need them. When I'm ready to work on another project and need to clear my desk space or take it with me, they are easily whisked away or tossed in my bag. It holds 28 of my most used colors, and has lots of room for mixing, so I always have an extra tube of white with me. There's also this amazing Niji waterbrush my Mom discovered and sent me a few years ago, it's brilliant for travel!

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

Like pencils, I'm not picky to any one type, everything changes depending on the project or mood. Right now I'm using this small square sketchbook, the Co-Mo Sketch 6 x 6 with heavy weight paper that takes wet media because the size is so easy to take with me. Oddly enough though, most of my best ideas and sketches come from tiny scraps of papers that I find while I'm not around my materials or have anything with me and I make do with the back of something I find... napkins, flyers, anything. Then I take it back to my desk and expand from there. You never know when inspiration will strike! I think it's important to stay flexible and adaptable, able to work with anything.


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

All surfaces excite me. I've painted on glass, discarded wood, prepped canvas, linen, cardboard, fabric...

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

I have experimented with working pieces that way, and I really enjoyed it! But I've found that lately, the most digital my work gets is when it's scanned. I guess like to get my hands messy and into the materials.

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

Alexander Calder's use of industrial metals in his jewelry has always given me more bravery. And reassured my belief that artists shouldn't be turned off to anything that isn't precious or seen as what only the professionals use. I think finding and giving meaning to vision is what the artist is all about, no matter what the material.

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

Oh yes. Many times my jewelry is created from something offbeat and unconventional, not typically meant for jewelry. Travel really fuels my interest and ideas for wearable art. I've used enamel address numbers found at street antique markets, miniature train set figures, old charms that are typically hung on candles or alters to offer to saints in Mexican cathedrals... I like that challenge that jewelry designing proposes: there is always something new.


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 really appreciate any way that art comes into form, whatever the method of expression, I believe everything serves the artist as a vehicle to arrive at their unique voice. Sometimes you hear about certain artists who eliminate certain modes of expression, like the photographer who sneers at digital cameras or the painter who finds acrylics to be too synthetic... I agree that we all have preferences, but I wonder why turn off those opportunities? The same is true for the internet... it's a wonderful tool to magnify and connect in what we do. Blogs revolutionized the art world, and its audience, there's no questioning that! It's awesome.

Thanks Jenny!

Jenny Vorwaller can be found online at her weblog true nature, and her portfolio site Prints of her photos and artwork can be found at HER Studio, and her jewelry at Natural Historie.

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