The Tools Artists Use

Taylor White

Posted on April 29, 2009 | Comments

Taylor White is a commercial storyboard artist and illustrator living in Oslo, Norway.


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

For most of my illustration projects my tool of choice vacillates between some form of graphite and ballpoint pen, but digital application of color remains a constant. I use a Wacom tablet at some stage for nearly every project, and I also add scanned textures to make things interesting. As far as sketchbooks go, I have grown particularly fond of the multi-colored ballpoint pens manufactured by Muji. The flow of ink is much smoother than many ballpoints I have tried, and I can get a lot of interesting linework with it. Plus the color options are just downright fun. I'm also hoping if I plug them in this interview, they'll send me some free pens.

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

Mood, mostly. It depends on the look and feel I'm going for, Although size and format of the project is a factor as well. The thing I love about the ballpoint is not only the variation of lines and gradation you can achieve, but also the spontaneity and the permanence of it. When you draw with a ballpoint you are making a commitment to the lines you put down, for better or for worse. This forces you to problem solve, to figure out how to make it work, even if you mess up. Poets Wallace Stevens and Robert Frost both believed in letting poems write themselves, and I feel similarly about drawing. So what I end up with is multiple drawings overlapping each other, reflecting the spontaneity and the changing of circumstances that occur as you draw. It ends up becoming more interesting to look at. Jeeze, that was long-winded.


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

Like I said, the Muji ballpoint is a firm favorite. I also have a fondness for Prismacolor markers which is deeply rooted in my adolescence.

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

Where illustration is concerned, my coloring is all digital. Especially since I work professionally in an office setting, digital coloring allows for minimal clutter, ease of alteration and quick results. I have a complete other method I use to make paintings, but I'll pretend for now that it isn't relevant.

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'll hash out ideas on any surface, but generally I prefer any paper that isn't solid white. Moleskine books are preferable for me when sketching, because of the solid weight of the paper and because it's off-white. I'm also a fan of newsprint and grocery paper.

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

Oh good, glad I saved talking about my painting method for this question. This may seem more relevant after I've actually displayed some of this work online (coming soon, guys) but here we go. After ages of toiling with ways to transfer my sketchbook drawings to canvas without losing its fluidity, I finally found a way to make it work by using either vine charcoal or chalk on raw cotton canvas, and then sealing it with acrylic polymer (i use plextol) to preserve the stroke. Then if I feel like it I layer oil on top to render some spots and leave others skeletal. At this point I'd like to give credit to Norwegian painter Benjamin Bergman for introducing me to this technique. Look him up, he's fantastic.


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

Oh of course. Almost every technique I use was lifted in part from somewhere else. I'm pretty sure there aren't many who could claim otherwise.

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?

My working environment at the agency I work for in Oslo completely influenced my decision to go almost all digital at work. I have limited space and since I am inherently untidy I prefer not to spend a whole lot of time cleaning up paint mess. If I decide to do a storyboard or a sketch non-digitally, it's pretty much only because I felt like it that day.


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)?

Absolutely all of the above, especially if it's hooked up to the internet. But you know what I think the computer is a fantastic tool for making art. Some say that doing work on a computer invalidates it as a legit work of art but I disagree; the computer shouldn't be looked upon so much as a crutch or an easy substitute for the pen or pencil but a way to take what we know about traditional media and expand upon it, all the while coming up with new ways to be artists. Remember even with the aid of machines we are still the ones in control of the final product. Plenty of people use a computer and still make crappy art.

Thanks Taylor!

Taylor White can be found online at her portfolio site, her weblog, and on Twitter (@taylurk).

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