The Tools Artists Use

Aldous Massie

Posted on May 30, 2013 | Comments

Aldous Massie is a designer and illustrator based in Sydney, Australia.

Laura, by Aldous Massie

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

I've got a plastic pencil case that I carry around with me. Inside, there's a Staedtler clutch pencil (with HB lead), a Pentel brush pen, two SKB SB-1000 biros, a gold marker and some nib holders. I very recently purchased a Wacom Cintiq 24HD, but have mainly used a Wacom Intuos 3 graphics tablet for digital work for the past six years or so.

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

I probably use the clutch pencil the most because of its speed and versatility—I feel I have more control with it than I do with, say, ink and a nib. All of my projects start in pencil, as I find digital tools to be initially cumbersome—there's not as much of a gap between mind and paper than there is between mind and, say, Photoshop. The computer is a mandatory step for the later stages of a project, whether its compositing or retouching. A digital conversion is necessary for most clients—everything in-between is dependent on the type of brief or concept.

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

I like SKB-1000's, which are also known as the "James Jean" pen because of the variety of line weights. It's a biro that has a tip measuring 0.5mm, which allows for both hair-thin lines for shading and bold linework. I also use a Pentel brush pen to sketch things that resemble "mass drawing" more than "line drawing"—the black ink can be spread more quickly to block in sections because of the thick brush.

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

I like colouring with watercolour because of its elegant, subtle aesthetics, but rarely do it mainly due to the costs of high quality watercolour paper. I don't have much experience with acrylics or oils, and it's been a while since I've used coloured pencils or markers.

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?

Caran d'Ache are the best colour pencils, in my opinion. Unfortunately, they're very hard to find here in Australia. Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer pencils are really good, too. Compared to colouring with pencils, I don't have much experience with traditional painting, so I can't recommend anything.

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 like to sketch on anything that's off-white with a bit of tooth. I don't really sketch at large scales when on the move, either—my sketchbooks are usually between A5 and A3. No brand preference, really.

Poster for the band Gossip, by Aldous Massie

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

I don't paint traditionally (yet).

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

If it's personal work, then not really. But, for client work, it's necessary. It's a lot more efficient to be experimenting with colours (and whatever else) on Photoshop due to its speed. However, thumbnail compositing will always be quicker by hand.

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

The SKB-1000 biro is a James Jean thing. Japanese concept artist Yoji Shinkawa is also the master of the brush pen. I started using a clutch pencil (as opposed to a regular pencil) after reading about them on a concept art forum.

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

I often jump back and forth from traditional to digital mediums many times during the process of one project. The scanner and printer work as translators, and if the work is being bounced, it can become hard to categorise/define. I guess the printer and scanner, as hardware, aren't really unusual, but my use of them might be unconventional.

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

It depends on the brief or scope of the project, but I mainly use Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and Google SketchUp paired with V-Ray. I'm most comfortable in Photoshop.

Fashion illustration, by Aldous Massie

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?

It's a really balanced mix or both, so it's a bit of a blur. They're just different tool-sets, so there's no personal preference—it's all part of the same process.

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)?

The computer is extremely helpful. On one hand, I think searching the net for inspiration is often limiting due to the obvious paths being very well travelled. But, if you know what questions to ask, then technical skills are very easy to get your hands on—anyone can learn Photoshop, or how to code mark-up, for example. For promotion, the internet's power is almost unrivalled. The internet, as a marketing tool and a place to seek specific (technical) answers is infinitely helpful, and maybe even necessary. It can only be defined as a distraction in relation to what someone's goals may be.

Thanks Aldous!

You can find Aldous Massie online at his portfolio site and on his weblog.

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