The Tools Artists Use

Marina Grechanik

Posted on April 24, 2009 | Comments

Marina Grechanik is an illustrator, painter and graphic designer, born in Byelorussia, and currently living in Israel.


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

I prefer traditional drawing tools: pens, pencils, colored pencils and markers. I'm less good with a drawing tablet, but I use it when the project calls for it. I have much respect for the simple pencil; it can be very rich and colorful in skilled hands. I also love to draw with ink because of its variable lines and spontaneity. I can't resist not mixing all those tools together.

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, of course. Although I have periods of favorites: sometime I fall in love with colored pencils, other time I try out the set of new pens that I just bought.

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

I'm not a fan of a particular brand. When I'm passing by an art tools shop, I can't help not buying some new pens to try out. If there is one brand that I'm loyal to maybe it is Stabilo's pens.

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

I love watercolor ... it's the hardest technique, because you can't undo it; but that's why it's so beautiful. Recently I'm using more and more acrylic. It's very convenient, because it dries very quickly. I don't have time for oil, but I'm still missing its smell, pace, and texture. I'm also crazy about fancy colored pencil because they remind me of kids' drawings.

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 love my Talens Van Gogh Plastic set. It isn't too big for traveling. But usually I have limited amounts of colored pencils and pens for coloring in my bag. Sometimes the limitation is good.


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 discovered Moleskine sketchbooks a year and half ago and since then am addicted to them. My favorite is Large Sketchbook with heavy paper, which is good with almost every tool from plain pencil to acrylic. Its paper is good with all kinds of collages that I love to paste onto my sketches like napkins from restaurants, pieces of maps, parts of packages and so on. But on the other hand I love cheaper Cahiers with which I feel freer and not afraid to spoil its pages. I'm usually carrying two or three sketchbooks in my bag. It depends on the site or how much time I have, which one I use. I also use Watercolour Large notebook for watercolors (obviously!), and I love its horizontal format. I'm participating in some moly_x - an International Moleskine Sketchbook Exchanges, for which I'm using Pocket Japanese book. It's a perfect fit for this kind of project, where several artists are continuing one other's drawing. Of course, I'm not only using Moleskine kind of sketchbooks. For example, I have various Mead sketchbooks.

I love to draw on found papers and cupboards. I have a habit of keeping papers with interesting textures, packages, wrapping paper, etc.

I use them in my works as drawing pads or part of collages.

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

Similar to drawing, I have "stage fear" ... I feel freer painting on cupboards or paper. I feel obligated to a make "nice" painting when I have good quality canvas opposite me. I need to work this out, because some of my best paintings are on the poorer paper. It just seems to me fun to paint on flattened boxes, furniture and walls (in my studio and my kids' rooms).

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

I experiment on coloring and adding textures to my drawings in Photoshop. It can get cool results, but I need to be careful not to use effects too much. Sometimes I'm scanning preparation drawings for some work and playing with them in Photoshop to find the best composition, and afterwards drawing it manually.


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

It's always nice to discover new tools from other artists. Unfortunately here in Israel we don't have such vide varieties of brands as in the US or Europe. Many times I didn't find the specific brand that I read about at some artists' page. When I have to use the exact tool, I order it from the web.

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

I always have a scrap of paper under my keyboard. After a while it fills up with very strange and interesting subconscious drawings. I'm using them in my works as kind of ideas generators.

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

I work in the Graphic Design and Web Design areas, so I'm friendly with Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash. I would like to increase my Illustrator skills. I love Flash for its simplicity, and many times prefer it to Illustrator for quick sketches and drawings; though, it's not proper illustration software.

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 work more non-digitally. Maybe I'm a little bit old fashioned and I love the feeling of the real material. Though, you can get very real feeling on today's graphic software. Of course, I don't reject digital tools, I'm using them, and they're very helpful. Maybe I'll love them more when I'll know them better.


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)?

As I said above, the computer is my friend. I'm using it for post-processing and also for making art from zero. But the biggest benefit the computer gives me is being a huge source of inspiration. I can't imagine working without it. It's like a part of me with all my precious bookmarks, like endless boxes of surprises. I joined Flickr a year ago, and I feel that I'm part of a community of friends interested in my art. It forces me to work more and as I have already mentioned, it's a great source for inspiration and learning from others. It allows me to participate in cool on-line projects, like Moly_x, or Urban Sketchers - another amazing web project.

Thanks Marina!

Marina Grechanik can be found online at her portfolio, on Flickr, and on Twitter (@marin71). Marina has also participated in the Moleskine Exchange exchanges #18, #29, and Portraits #1, and has contributed to Urban Sketchers.

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