The Tools Artists Use

Julian Callos

Posted on November 30, 2012 | Comments

Julian Callos is an illustrator and gallery artist based in Los Angeles, California.

Too Cool for School, by Julian Callos

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

I love working primarily with pencils, pens, and brushes. For sketching I use Prismacolor Col-Erase pencils (Tuscan Red, mostly) because they draw pretty smoothly. For line work drawings I use Micron pens, but when I want to get a lot of variety in line quality/weight, I'll use a Winsor & Newton round watercolor sable brush dipped in Speedball Super Black India ink instead. I use that same type of sable brush in different sizes (usually 00 to 1) for the line work in my paintings, as well as a few other types of brushes for washes depending on how large an area I need to cover (a size 3 sable brush for small/medium areas, and a size 10 Winsor & Newton Cotman or a random assortment of flat brushes for larger areas). My paintings usually don't go bigger than 18" x 24" so I haven't really had the need to go much bigger than those sizes.

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

First I panic at how many different tools I own, then I throw everything I have in the air and whatever doesn't hit me on the head will be used that day. No, um...It depends on the type of project it is. If I'm just sketching I'll stick to pencils. For finished paintings I'll probably cycle through most of the tools I just mentioned (except probably the Microns and ink, unless I'm doing a black & white ink drawing/painting).

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

For ink drawings I like using Speedball Super Black India Ink + brushes the most, but I use Microns too. I am, however, looking to try out some different pens and hopefully find something that works better than the Microns. I really wish I was better with nib pens because I like the calligraphic quality to their lines, but I've messed up so many drawings with blobs of ink from nibs; I switched to brushes because they allow me to get a similar line quality and are easier for me to control.

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

My paintings are a combination of line work, washes, and flat areas of color. For the line work and flat colors I use Acryla gouache. Usually I'll mix in some acrylic to get the hue that I want or as a filler because I don't want to use up all the gouache. For the washes I use acrylics and occasionally acrylic inks.

What Develops, by Julian Callos

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?

My favorites are Holbein Acryla Gouache, Liquitex Heavy Body Acrylics, and FW Acrylic Artists Ink. I've amassed a bunch unnecessary colors because every time I go to an art store I stand in the paint aisle, look at all the pretty shades, and try to resist (but occasionally give into) the urge to buy a new one to try out. They're just so...mesmerizing. And there are so many of them. And their names are so interesting..."Quinacridone Magenta." "Cosmos Pink." Anyway, usually I'll rein myself in and just stick to a couple different shades of the primary colors when I paint.

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 stick to my Canson sketchbook for most sketching because the paper isn't too thick or flimsy, but if I'm on the go I'll sometimes take one of those small, plain Moleskine notebooks for jotting down ideas and making dumb doodles when I'm bored. They're mostly filled with dumb doodles.

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

I paint on Rives BFK paper, sometimes mounted onto a wood panel. Clear gessoed Rives is the perfect texture for the way I like to paint.

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

You Eat Like a Bird (inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho), by Julian Callos

Sometimes I'll adjust the colors of a scanned painting just because the scan isn't perfect, but usually I'll work entirely in traditional media unless I specifically set out to do a digital illustration (which is rare, but I plan on playing around in Photoshop more). Even if I do set out to make a digital illustration, I draw and ink traditionally and just color the scanned line work in Photoshop.

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

I think I started using brushes to do line work after reading about a comic artist using it for his drawings and I've been in love with the technique ever since. I forgot who the artist was, though. It may have been Craig Thompson. I've also heard good things about the Pentel brush pen, so I want to try that out.

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

When I make sculptures sometimes I'll use unconventional materials, which are usually just things that are lying around the house. One time I made a banjo for a sculpture of Harold from "Harold and Maude." The banjo was a mix of Sculpey, wire, wooden skewers, brads, a big metal button, and a cupcake wrapper for the banjo head. I'm particularly proud of my ingenuity with that cupcake wrapper. If only all my work involved cupcakes in some way.

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 definitely work non-digitally more. I'm just much more comfortable with traditional tools and I like the tactile experience. Also I am an old man who has no time to learn all these newfangled gizmos and hey you get off my lawn! Just kidding. I don't have a lawn.

Sam sculpture (inspired by Moonrise Kingdom), by Julian Callos

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)?

All of the above! Finding inspiration, promoting your work, networking...all of that good stuff is made SO much easier because of the internet. I'm pretty sure 99% of the people who know my work only know it because they saw it somewhere on the internet. And I've gotten most gigs through some sort of interaction online, whether it was an email response or someone contacting me after seeing my online portfolio. Sure, the internet is a big distraction (the biggest distraction??) but it's also one of the best tools at an illustrator's disposal.

Thanks Julian!

You can find Julian Callos online at his website, on Twitter (@juliancallos), on Facebook, on Tumblr, and you can find prints of his work for sale in his online shop at inPRNT!.

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