The Tools Artists Use

Lauren Albert

Posted on July 06, 2009 | Comments

Lauren Albert is an illustrator and textile designer living in Brooklyn, New York.


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

Lately I've really been into using a .5 mechanical pencil (Papermate Pro Touch II) with millions of Chartpak markers. I'm starting to get into using brushes and brush pens for lines.

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

When I'm sketching it really just depends on my mood what tools I'm going to use that day. I can tell if I feel like drawing scratchy or drawing smooth and I choose my tools accordingly. It's all about texture and what it feels like for me to draw with what. If it's not right in front of my face, I tend to forget I have it. With my markers, I keep them all in a bag that I just reach into and grab around in until I find one that works (and is the right color).

For finished pieces, the idea usually comes into my head fully formed. I see what it looks like so I know what materials I need to use, or else I figure it out after a couple of tries.

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

Depending on what I feel like, I go between 3 different pens. One is this great super dark black watercolor brush pen (SAI). The other is a Crowquill nib and Higgins inks (Speedball for black). I like the super fine pencil like lines I can get from using light ink with the crowquill, it kind of makes me feel like I'm doing a naturalist sketch log. I also have this great square shaped .38mm black super inky pen that my cousin got me from a Korean dollar store. There are little cartoon pigs all over it, I think its name is MonokuRo Boo. For some reason I only like to use it for lifedrawing. It's probably a good thing, too, because I wouldn't know where to find another one if it runs out.

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

Before I started at art school in 2004, I have to admit I never really experimented or used much of any actual art materials. I did mostly really, really horrible, amateur digital art. So when I got to school I was blown away by all this real media I never really knew about. I started in on this process of trying to find the Right Coloring Materials (and figuring out what I don't like on the way). I think it's a quest for what will give me the flattest and brightest colors. I was seriously into inks for a while, switched to cut paper, then gouache. I've got a short attention span and I am always changing how I do what I do. Right now I am really into markers. I love Chartpak markers for the flat color I can get with them when they are super fresh. I think I might try gouache again next.


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?

About a year ago my friend Carly Schmitt introduced me to Chartpak markers. Everytime we went to the art store we would test out a lot and then pick one or two and get them. Since I started doing that I've gotten a collection going. Even though I have a lot of colors, from picture to picture I like to try to keep my pallet somewhat limited. I've found that sets, while they might be able to save me money, seem to have a lot of useless colors, and never the ones I need.

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 usually have 2 or 3 sketchbooks going at once because at different times I just feel like working on different surfaces. Sometimes when I sit down to draw or sketch, one doesn't feel right and I have to switch. I just finished a Moleskine. I really like the paper in those, it's so smooth and off white. But sometimes I absolutely hate it and have to switch to something rougher, just a regular store brand sketch pad, sometimes a small Strathmore drawing pad. For bigger pieces sometimes I break out the smooth bristol. I'm sort of cheap when it comes to buying materials though, so I don't get much fancier than that.

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

I only ever painted when I was in school and it was usually on canvas board (because it was cheap). I was not a huge fan of it, or painting, either.

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

When I'm working physically or digitally, it's all or nothing. I don't like to change my physical drawings too much on the computer. When I know a piece is finished, it's how it's supposed to look. I don't like to add anything to it that you're not going to see in the original.


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

Yes. When I try working with something that I've seen another artist use I feel like I can unlock all of their secrets. A lot of the tools I've been using lately (like markers and brush pens) were introduced to me by other artist friends.

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

I have a couple boxes of sparkly things (mica, tinsel, sequins) I like to toss in sometimes. I haven't really been using it lately, or doing much else out of the ordinary. I know a lot of artists like to draw on hard surfaces or desks, but I really prefer just to rest my materials on my lap with a piece of cardboard underneath. I guess that is sort of unusual.

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

When I'm doing something all digital, I really like using Corel Painter X. I got it while I was in school and I really like fooling around with all the different tools it's got, even if I don't end up using them in the end. I really like it for digital drawing because the pens and brushes are pretty close to real tools. It works well with my dinosaur Wacom tablet. For finishing that stuff and color corrections, I like to use photoshop. Another cool program is Alchemy, though I really use it just for fun. I do more fooling around digitally than actually finishing anything real.

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 do more non-digitally unless I have this idea that I know I can only execute digitally. I have a better time drawing on paper because I can physically feel it. It's more real. I like to sculpt or carve out with line, which doesn't feel the same on the plastic of a tablet. Also since I draw looking down at something on my lap, usually hunched over with my face a couple inches away, it's a big difference to look at what I'm doing straight ahead on a screen. I mostly use the computer when I have an idea that is huge in scale or requires a ton of colors that I know I wouldn't be able to put down smoothly or brightly enough in the physical. I'd like to work on combining the two, but so far I haven't really found a way that I've been satisfied with.


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)?

For me it's definitely all of the above. I need to be distracted to concentrate (I guess that is something else out of the ordinary). Being able to go online opens up this endless universe filled with reference material and inspiration. It's all right there. I've got this huge image file of art, photos and useless junk that I can go through whenever I want to.

Reading blogs and looking at artists' sites helps to keep me motivated, too. I see what other artists are doing. And looking at my own stuff on my blog or website, I can see what I'm doing, what I've done and what I need to do to keep going. It's like a personal timeline.

Thanks Lauren!

You can find Lauren Albert online on her portfolio website, her personal weblog (exegesis)!!, her alien-art weblog ALIEN, and on Flickr (plslala).

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