The Tools Artists Use

Irina Troitskaya

Posted on May 15, 2009 | Comments

Irina Troitskaya lives in the capital of Russia and works as a freelance illustrator by day and an artist at night.


What are your favorite drawing tools (pens, pencils, markers, drawing tablet)?

Probably you'll be surprised, but it's an ordinary graphite pencil. The softer the better. I like 9B most of all, but everything up from 4B works great too. They are usually wooden or just pure graphite. One of my favorites is the Austrian wooden clutched pencil Cretacolor I bought in London. I also like Faber Castell PITT Artist pens, Tombow ABT Dual Brush Pen and Pentel Color brush pens.

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

I carry my drawing tools in my bag, so it's always a bit messy inside. I was thinking about getting boxes, but still don't have one. Going out I just pick up some tools I like at the moment, or the ones which are more suitable for the place where I'm going. It's much more comfortable to draw with a pencil and felt tip pens while traveling on the subway for example. And the Pentel Aquash Waterbrush pen is good during a coffee break, when there's some time to dry the pages of your sketchbook before you need to run somewhere else.

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

I like color in general, so I don't really care what I use. I haven't worked with oil since my uni days though. But all the rest, yes! Watercolor is tricky, but grateful, acrylics are good for my matreshkas, colored pencils remind me of childhood and felt tip pens are so bold I just can't resist. Gouache Master Class is also one of my favorites. It has such a nice velvet texture!


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 like Russian watercolors like St. Petersburg's White Nights. I remember them from my childhood. Usually each pan of paint is wrapped in foil, so I felt like a child unwrapping them, like I've got a box of candies. And the quality is excellent, too. Foreign paints are usually too expensive and I hate expensive art tools ... they don't give me any chance to experiment, and I'm always afraid to ruin them. When I travel I tend to choose a small range of materials. For example, last time when I was traveling I had two Pentel Color Brushes filled with Indian black and orange ink, a dark grey Faber Castell PITT liner and two Tombow Dual Brush Pens, light and dark blue. The only thing that never changes is my soft graphite pencil.

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

The main rule is the cheaper the better. I hate all those trendy sketchbooks deep inside.
I don't want to think something like "I need to draw a masterpiece, because this sketchbook looks so nice and costs a lot." Despite that fact, I have some Moleskines, but who doesn't! Cahier Moleskines work best for me. They come in three different sizes, large one is good for projects and research, the one in the middle is for sketching and the smallest one is for notes and quick drawings on the run. My recent love is Muji Scribble Pads, they seem to be made for drawing with pencil. Scrap paper works good too, you just need to bind it properly and to not get irritated by the mess and to keep a step-by-step order.


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

If it's an editorial, then yes, there is some post-processing, but mainly because of rush. Usually deadlines are so tight, I don't have any chance to experiment or make mistakes. With Photoshop I can change the color, add or remove something from the picture in two seconds. With, for example, watercolor I don't have any chances to survive right now. The last editorial piece I was working on, it had to be made in an hour, for example.

On the other hand drawing for myself I make only analogue things. All the pages of my sketchbooks you can see in my portfolio are absolutely hand made.

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

A lot of times! That's how we all share information. For example once I've noticed colorful ink pens with a brush on its end on Bubi Au Yeng's Flickr photostream. I asked her about the brand (it was the Pentel Color brush) and purchased the same thing for myself.


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

Not really. The way your art looks like isn't the result of using some special tool. The most important thing is your personality, way of living, who you are. Your inner world can help to turn an ordinary pencil into the magic wand. And if you don't have much to say, I doubt there's something that'll help you.

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)?

Well, it's helpful, yes. You see, in case of editorial illustration there are deadlines you can't avoid. And you don't have time to go to the street or library to make a proper visual research. If I need to draw a giraffe, I'd like to look at it one more time to have a fresh point of view. The computer is also an excellent tool for self-promotion. I found my first client through the internet. To be precise, it was the client who found me. Nearly all of them came after they checked out my online portfolio. It helps me to reach art directors worldwide without even sending them a paper version of my portfolio, isn't it magic?! And to meet people! I can't imagine my illustrator's career without the computer now.

Thanks Irina!

You can find Irina Troitskaya online on her portfolio website, on her weblog, and on Flickr (irtroit).

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