The Tools Artists Use

Britt Wilson

Posted on May 03, 2010 | Comments

Britt Wilson is an artist and illustrator living in Toronto, Ontario.


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

I think it all really depends on what I'm doing. I'm in love with my brushpen, but it's totally balls for penciling roughs. Balls. But really, I'd have to say my red Col-Erase pencils, my Pentel Brush pen, and my Pentel RSVP ballpoint are my daily heroes.

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

I sit at my desk and ask myself this question while staring at the array of pens and pencils and brushes and god knows what else. I painted with a feather once. Not like the end they make quills from, but the fluffy part. I guess what I end up doing is really thinking about what kind of line I want to achieve, and which one of these damn things is going to give me that. Sometimes I trace over drawings a few times with different pens to see what I like best for that particular project. Mostly I get really frustrated and just use a ballpoint.

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

I use acrylics pretty much exclusively right now. Although I'm considering getting back on the gouache horse that I fell off after art school. Such bright, creamy, vibrant colours. I'm also feeling a lot of nostalgia for crayons and pencil crayons. I feel a hefty need to play with them again.

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?

Anything cheap. I buy SO many paints in crazy different colours that if they weren't cheap, I'd be bankrupt. Or ten grand in debt to a loan shark in order to feed my colour addiction. For acrylic I usually end up buying the Liquitex Basics, and I use Golden mediums with them.


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

As long as the paper is smooth as butter and completely toothless. I hate HATE textured paper. With a fiery passion. yuck. I also prefer that sketchbooks be hardbound, I don't like spiral ones because the pages slip around and rub against each other and everything ends up all smudged.

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

Canvas is balls. I hate the regular texture to it. I prefer to work on paper for my illustration work, and wood or masonite boards for fine art. Or as I just did the other day, I spread light acrylic modeling paste all over the canvas, like icing a cake, and when it dries it has this look of old plaster. A great texture to work on.

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

I do go the digital route sometimes. Usually when I'm in a hurry, or I want something really smooth and uniform. In which case I usually colour my linework in Photoshop, and then drop in flat colours. I'm no good at digital painting though.


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

Yes, actually. I was hearing all this buzz on the interwebs about the Pentel brush pen, and I was looking for a good brush pen anyways. I hate the felt tip kind, the tip gets all fuzzy and gross after 1 drawing, and there isn't as much control over the line weight. If you can't tell already, I'm really anal about my drawings, but I also like a little bit of messiness. Sadly I'm incapable of actually letting myself be messy. I found the Pentel pocket brush gives me the perfect amount of control vs. chaos. Plus it fits in my purse so I take it everywhere!

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?

Lately I've found myself slowly moving closer and closer to working digitally, which I have always steered clear from up until now. I LOVE the physical act of painting, of getting it all over my fingers and in my hair and on the sleeves of my favourite sweater that I forgot I was wearing again. But I'm also an illustrator, and there is often a big time issue, I can work faster digitally, mostly because when working digitally I simplify myself a lot. Even more so than that, I'm a starving artist with a terrible, old and shitty scanner and lately it's just not worth fighting with it, or paying someone to scan it for me.


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 have a huge internet presence, probably too much so. I have two blogs, a website, way too many email addresses, and I'm on Twitter 24-7. My entire fan base (tiny as it is) is online, so without the computer and internet, I'd be even poorer (hard to imagine). I also have a catalogue of work I find inspiring in a folder on my computer. Anytime someone on one of the many blogs I follow does something mind boggling, I drag it into the folder and look at it for hours.

Sadly it is also SUPER distracting, and I'm starting to learn that I have to shut everything off and buckle down, or I can waste entire days playing around on the internet making dick jokes on twitter and chatting, and trolling through other people's awesome work that they can do because they are not addicted to the internet.

Thanks Britt!

You can find Britt Wilson online on her portfolio website, her weblog Britt, a Wilson, on Twitter (@Britterson), Flickr (batamarang), and on a weblog she shares with Vicki Nerino: Uterus Parade.

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