The Tools Artists Use

Andrew Kolb

Posted on September 26, 2012 | Comments

Andrew Kolb is an artist and illustrator from Kitchener, Ontario.

Geri's Pet Store (for The Pixar Times), by Andrew Kolb

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

Well most of my work is done digitally so a drawing tablet for sure. I use a Wacom Intuos 4 (I'm not sponsored by them, I just really like it as a machine....oh and if Wacom is reading this then just because I'm not already sponsored doesn't mean I wouldn't consider it). Goodness I'm one question in and I've already gone on a tangent.

So aside from the tablet, of which I use for all of my finished work, the process stuff relies entirely on pencils and paper and erasers. The classics. Without those the tablet would be pretty well useless in that my ideas develop best in the sketching and doodling stage.

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

As most of my work is digital, a "wide collection" applies less to paints versus markers as it does the options of software, brushes, tools, and the like! So with that in mind I tend to first choose the computer program that makes the most sense for what I need to do. If I'm in an early stage working with simple forms then I'll go to Illustrator. If the work is more gestural, or I'm at a stage where more texture comes into play, then it's Photoshop all the way. Once in either of these it's rather hard to pin down what I'll use on any given day.

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

This isn't specific to art, but I looooooooooove love the pens you get in hotels. I don't travel too often but when I do, I take all the pens. ALL of them.

Travel poster for fictitious location from the Metroid video game series, by Andrew Kolb

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

I like my colour limited. Whether digital or traditional, I rather enjoy working within the constraints of a selective palette. It can be as extreme as black + white + third swatch or simply creating a palette before beginning and only using those 8, 10, maybe 20 colours.

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 and hate paint. I mean I love it from afar and respect anyone who can master it. But dang I can't handle wet media.

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

Scraps all the way. I'm huge on recycling so I keep a stack of any sort of paper with a blank (or nearly blank) surface. I do my best to put my work into sketchbooks once the initial doodle takes shape, but those kernels of inspiration usually find their way onto the back of junk mail or sticky notes.

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

No capes. No paint. But actually capes are fine.

Poster for the TV show The Walking Dead, by Andrew Kolb

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

I don't know how out of the ordinary this is, but I rather enjoy taking pictures of food and using them as texture in my artwork. Bread and toast are actually super great. Does that count?

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

Oh hey this is why I shouldn't ramble so much! So the Adobe Creative Suite (again, no sponsorship but I extend the same invitation as I do to the kind folks at Wacom) is my jam. As for frequency of use, I almost always finish my work in Photoshop. Occasionally I'll skip Illustrator and go straight to the big blue PS, and because of that it gets a bit more wear and tear. But it's software so it doesn't actually get worn down.

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)?

Man this is a big question! Okay. I definitely agree that the computer is useful as an art making tool. I haven't really had anyone consider the work I create NOT art because it was created digitally. With that said, I do run into a few people who request commissions and are put off by the fact that the finished piece would be digital. Maybe it's that the professional art buyers accept digital artwork but the personal market is still catching up? Maybe?

Illustration for Random House's magazine, Hazlitt, by Andrew Kolb

Inspiration and research on the internet is second nature. There is simply so much available at once. However I try to keep it balanced. In the same way that I draw by hand first and then refine it digitally, I try to research and acquire resources traditionally as well. Oh yeah we were talking about toast textures! Exactly what I'm talking about. There are heaps of texture resources online and when I can't find something myself then the internet is super handy. However I have a ton of old books beside me that I might as well scan the blank pages in for my own textures. Variety is the spice of life, my friends.

Uuuuuuh, what else with the internet? Right. So for self promotion I couldn't imagine any other way. I mean I can IMAGINE a world without the internet as a tool for self-promotion, but it's not one I'd like to live in. I think I've met maybe 5% of my clients in person? Maybe close to 10%. For me I rely heavily on my web presence as a draw for work. Even in the real world I'll direct people I've met to my website only for us to meet again to discuss the project.

So in short, is the computer...
Necessary: For me, yes.
Helpful: 80% of the time
Distraction: the other 20%

Thanks Andrew!

You can find Andrew online on his portfolio site, Kolbisneat, his weblog The Kolblog, on Twitter (@kolbisneat), and on Flickr. You can buy some prints of his work in his shop, The Neat Shop.

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