The Tools Artists Use

Mark Hess

Posted on December 13, 2012 | Comments

Mark Hess is an award-winning illustrator, portrait painter, designer, marketer and entrepreneur living in New York.

Illustration for the cover of Arthur Blythe's album 'Lenox Avenue Breakdown', by Mark Hess

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

I have always loved using Winsor & Newton series 7 brushes for my "actual" paintings; usually the 00, 0, 1 and 2's. But they have gotten god-awful expensive so I try a lot of pointy small brushes, both natural and synthetic; like Pro Stroke White 200 R from Creative Mark. They don't last as long but are 1/4 the price. I use #3 pencils for my drawings with some #2's. I also use white chalk. I always paint my canvases raw umber before painting and the chalk goes on nicely, but disappears as I paint. Another tool I use a lot is Photoshop, mostly for color correcting the files I scan in to create digital files, but also for some actual painting; drawing so too hard on it.

I've recently started doodling on the iPad. At first just for the novelty of it, but the medium is actually starting to grow on me. I've teamed up with my son to help him on a fantastic drawing app he is putting together. We are currently fundraising through Kickstarter: Doodler App: Learn to Draw, then Share your Doodles.

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

I have always felt that experimenting around with lots of tools means I would never get really good at one, so i stick to paint brushes on canvas or wood; and some Photoshopping.

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

My friend Barry Blitt (New Yorker covers) gave me a set of pens that he uses, but I didn't like using them.

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

For twenty years, while my kids were going up I used acrylic, then overnight I switched to oils and now I'll rarely go back.

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 always use a set of colors I like. They're not in a travel set, but I can get anything I want out of a set of about 15 colors.

Portrait of Al Gore for the cover of The New Republic magazine, by Mark Hess

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

Yea, I use almost anything; tracing paper pads so I can refine images by laying one over the other; and bond paper notebooks and pads.

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

I use pre gessoed canvas with a fine texture, and also smooth pieces of wood I prepare with gesso and raw umber. I have occasionally used illustration board as well.

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

Yes I will sometimes do a painting or drawing and then refine it in Photoshop. I'm in CS3.

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 someone mentions a new brush I try it out. But it's always something that enhances the one main skill I like and am good at: painting.

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

You mean like rolling my naked body in paint and using that? No, but I do think that your physical setup: drawing table and lamps, chair, studio, etc. is incredibly important. I have a very stable, consistent, ergonomic set up so I always feel comfortable.

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

When I use pure digital, I use Photoshop CS3.

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?

The crazy thing about using pure digital for me is when I go back to painting with brush and oil, I'm constantly wishing I had a "History" button so I could go back. But digital doesn't really save me any time in the long run, because I try out so many variations that it takes just as long. With direct painting you have to make decisions and pretty much stick with them as oppose to try 16 different sky's in digital, for example.

Illustration for the cover of The Atlantic magazine, by Mark Hess

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)?

Oh man, the computer is a huge advantage in all those areas. Research and inspiration: I used to buy tons of books and visit libraries and museums and other "visual" places; now i can find anything I need online. I feel bad for the libraries, bookstores and such; but every tech advance puts people's jobs at risk. Promotion: I used to spend lots of money to promote myself; now? not so much. Plus the ease in communicating with other artists is so useful and inspiring. This blog is a perfect example.

Thanks Mark!

You can find Mark Hess online at his portfolio site Hess Design Works, his marketing company FullVoiceMedia, on Twitter (@hesspaint), and the Kickstarter campaign he's running with his son, Alec: Doodler App: Learn to Draw, then Share your Doodles.

comments powered by Disqus