The Tools Artists Use

Whitney Pollett

Posted on September 16, 2009 | Comments

Whitney Pollett is an artist living in Los Angeles, California.

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

I have to admit, being a girl first and nerd second, I spend all of my money on art supplies, video games and shoes. I love my Wacom tablet... one day it will be a Cintiq. Dr. P.H. Martin Concentrated Watercolors are great and last a lifetime. Any old mechanical pencil will do, Prismacolor Pencils (always True Blue and Crimson Red). Any and all paper, the stranger the size and texture, the better. Gray Tombow markers, Copic Markers, Winsor & Newton sable brushes (the Rolls Royce of brushes), acrylic gesso, extra fine sand paper, and Guitar Hero for when I can't think of anything to do with all those art supplies.

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

I honestly can't! I go crazy when I walk into an art store, buying everything I see, and then I put it all away in my closet never to be seen again! HAhaha! I usually open it up whenever I feel inspired, get overwhelmed, close the door and walk away. My little sketchbook from my bag and my laptop are usually where all my ideas end up.

If there is a project that can't be done digitally, like painting a vinyl or a canvas, I usually pull out my P.H. Martin watercolors and some acrylic paint. The two blend well and are incredibly vibrant!

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

I like warm gray Tombow markers, gel pens and Pigma Microns. Also, dried up Sharpie markers are fun to play with, especially when you take out the felt from the inside and ball it up to use as an underpainting.

My friend, Stephane Kardos taught me that. Merci!

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

I usually color everything digitally because it's 100% forgiving. Plus you can quickly reference textures and photo elements with ease and apply those bad boys to your painting directly.

I think using Photoshop automatically makes you a p*ssy. HAHah! You don't chose to be, you just become one unwillingly!

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I like to think that Photoshop is like a kind, nurturing mother who feeds you three well balanced, delicious meals a day... reads you a bed time story and then tucks you in at night until you realize that you're thirty years old, have a flabby backside and you haven't seen the sun in 6 years! So then one day you leave home, finding that the world is a terrifying place and you're a hot mess!

Traditional media is the reality that's harsh and unforgiving and it's tough going to that from something so predictable and forgiving.

Not for me man, I'm sticking with Photoshop.... and maybe acrylics and watercolors if I'm feeling craaazy!

I really admire artists like Travis Louie, who can achieve what us digital artists can with just their hands and a canvas.

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 cheapy mini watercolor sets. The color's usually aren't too saturated which is great for subtle sketching and quick tonal gestures under any ink or pencil drawings. It's really fun and not too permanent.

Sakura Koi watercolor sketch boxes are my personal favorite. It's refillable so you can swap out the little color cakes for any color you choose, which is great because pre-determined watercolor sets usually have a lot of "blah" colors.

And did I mention it comes with a refillable water brush! Sha! Awesome!!

Also Escoda travel brushes are great for field paintings and are gorgeous.

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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 sketchbooks.

As artists, I think we're a little disorganized by nature, so we have to be extra attentive to our collective selves to keep us from tripping over stacks of papers and spending hours looking for something in a cluttered office. I don't mind the size or the type, as long as it's recognizable and in some way bound together.

On that note, I love Kunst & Papier sketchbooks. They have a great variety of sizes and won't fall apart if they get wet or when you've schlepped them around with you for a while!

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

I love series paintings so if I can find a canvas or material that's an interesting shape with a couple different variations to match, then that's what I'll get!

Like any artist who wanders the aisles, wood piles, junkyards, etc. You look for that canvas that inspires you.

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

Always! Photoshop is the artist's crutch but I love it.

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

Of course! I often look at Cartoonbrew, Conceptart.org, CGsociety.org, and blogs like animationbackgrounds.blogspot.com, and characterdesign.blogspot.com for inspiration.

Blogs are great for getting the artist's perspective on the project rather than just looking at a finished piece with a limited description.

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

Well sometimes I use a chain saw and human blood but that's only on special occasions. ....That was a bad joke, I'm totally kidding!! BAAH!

Well, honestly, I sometimes use my hands, cotton, beaver whiskers, sharpened sticks, whatever is lying around that you think might make for a nice effect. Being an artist is being an inventor and an engineer.... and in some cases a MacGyver too.

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

Well I wouldn't say "purely" but I use a lot of different software. It all depends on the project. As an artist, it's good to learn as many different tools as you can so you have a bigger tool box, so to speak, when a particular projects presents itself.

For me, I rely predominantly on Illustrator, ArtRage, Sketchbook Pro, Maya, Zbrush and AfterEffects.

These days, I've been doing a lot of digital painting so Photoshop and ArtRage are my apps of choice! ArtRage is the MOST fun and only something like $25! Also, Alias' Sketchbook Pro is great for sketching and cartooning. They have a free trial on their site too so go check it out!

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 usually always start a project with a sketch in my sketchbook or on marker paper. Siiigh... nothing is more exciting than getting a new book of marker paper and tearing out the first page for scannage! Am I right!?? Ooh life's simple pleasures....

Sooo, I usually start a project using just a regular mechanical pencil and some paper. Then I'll scan it in or take a digital photo and paint on top of it in Photoshop. I'd say I rely 70% traditional, 30% digital.

I prefer sketching out my ideas before I scan them into the computer because it keeps me focused on the idea rather than the techniques and the color. Too many options can become distracting and before you know it, you have a beautifully rendered, boring idea. Kind of ironic how eliminating your options can make you more creative.

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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)?

It can be all of the above! I can't tell you how many hours I've spent researching something for unspeakable amounts of time when I should have started the project long before. But that's what's so incredible! The internet is an endless recourse. I'm going to sound like a huge dork right now, but technology has brought so many ideas to life, so many questions to resolution and so many seemingly unattainable dreams to reality. I've met people via Facebook and LinkedIn that are freaking giants in the art world and they've taught me so much! Social networks and blogs have bridged generational, occupational and experiential gaps like nothing has ever done before! And online tutorials are teaching people things that us chumps paid, oooh, only about 100K for! Hahah (this is where I break into Kip's "Technology" song from Napoleon Dynamite). Anyway, I like learning new tools and with the internet and software today, the skies the limit!

Some good sites for meeting other artists are: LinkedIn, Facebook, CGSociety, ZbrushCentral, Etsy, Artist's Blogs, Artist's Websites, and Google.

If you play your cards right and try not to freak anyone out (which I've done myself too many times to count hahaha) you can directly email your idols using these sites! Just tell them that you're an artist looking for some feedback, blah blah blah, whatever! More often than not, you won't hear back, but sometimes you will and that's what makes it all worth while! One day when we're all rich and famous artists, someone will randomly write us for guidance and we'll be happy to help!

Thanks Whitney!

You can find Whitney Pollett online at her portfolio website whitneypollett.com, and on her weblog whitneypollett.blogspot.com.

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Ana Galvañ

Posted on September 08, 2009 | Comments

Ana Galvañ is a cartoonist and illustrator living in Murcia, Spain.

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

My favorite drawing tools are basically digitals: drawing tablet, digital brushes... I only use graphite pencils (Staedler 2HB, Faber-Castell 5HB) to plan a comic, doodle some ideas and concepts.

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

For a comic story, I usually start drawing with graphite pencils, however, I use a vectorial brush for lineal drawings, or working directly with Photoshop if the textures predominate over the outline.

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

I occasionally do the color with watercolor pencils and gouache, using brushes and a sponge, looking for finishes like I get in digital form.

I also use markers, specifically Touch markers with two points. I use them over pencil, but only in small areas and no more than two tones mixed in the same drawing.

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 the Photoshop dry brushes. Long live!

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 have a small Moleskine just for writing because I hardly draw by hand. For comic, I prefer an old notebook that constantly loses pages.

But my favorite is one with horizontal guides, decorated by Adrian Tomine, I only get to do some drawings on this one, perhaps because I don't have to face the full white.

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

I normally start drawing with the vectorial brush of Flash, then I model forms vividly, I love the flexibility of this program. The result is exported to Photoshop to reduce coldness and finally I use Photoshop brushes, mostly the application defaults, dry and wet.

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

I usually work with Flash, Freehand, Illustrator, Painter and finally Photoshop, my star program, with which I get (almost) everything I want.

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?

Before I start drawing I was an art director for an ad agency, but my designs derived increasingly toward illustration, so I ended up doing drawings. I started drawing in a very unorthodox way, with the computer mouse and later, at last, with the drawing tablet. So I find digital work so convenient, a way wich I'm very accustomed to and which I feel more comfortable when I have to face certain projects.

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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)?

In my particular case, the computer has been a key factor in many ways to use certain resources such as textures, patterns, fonts..., I don't have my own bank but I used to look for resources on the network every time I need them. I think the internet is really useful with the promotion of your work and let more people know it. You can get notoriety, of course, despite all the time that this entails.

Thanks Ana!

You can find Ana Galvañ online at her portfolio website anagalvan.com, her weblog, and on Flickr (elmyraduff).

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Chris Rodenhurst

Posted on August 31, 2009 | Comments

Chris Rodenhurst is an artist, illustrator and art instructor living in Liverpool, England.

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

I like mechanical pencils because I tend to draw in a very quick scruffy style and would have to sharpen a normal pencil about every couple of seconds. Even illustrations that end up rather minimal and tight start out as a mess of lines and corrections. For that reason, I also find a putty rubber indispensable, because it can get into all the little nooks and crannies of my drawing. I get into a panic if I don’t know where my putty rubber is. It's a bit like Dumbo's feather.

I use a lightbox a lot, because I like to keep my pencil artwork separate and the lightbox enables me to experiment with different approaches to the same illustration.

I use a Wacom when I'm on the computer, although it's just a little A6 tiddler, so I find it's only useful for rough sketches and quite broad actions, like using the burn tool in Photoshop.

My favourite pen would be my Pentel brush pen.

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


It generally depends on the subject matter. How a given medium supports what you're trying to communicate is something that really interests me. For example, I recently drew a character for a story set in the 80s so I've used half tones to give the illustration a kind of 80s newsprint feel. If I want to do a creepy, Victorian style illustration I'll use dense linework and treat paper in Photoshop to make it look older. Upbeat kids stuff might be looser more expressive pencils with bright, fresh watercolours.

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


I'm forever hassling people to take up Pentel brush pens. They're really convenient and versatile, you can use them in an expressive loose kind of way, or reign them in for nice tight graphic work. That said, I've recently started playing around with a mapping pen and have been really pleased with the results. 



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



Mainly watercolours and Photoshop. If I'm using watercolour I tend to make a set of swatches, scan them in and then compose the colours in Photoshop. I also colour things directly in Photoshop, and use bits of texture – old paper, metal etc. to give things a bit more depth. Photoshop is great with watercolours and pencils.

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 like using felt tip pens, I think because of their associations with being a kid. If I think of colouring in, I think of felt tip pens. I also like drawing with biros, for a similar reason – it reminds me doodling in exercise books in school.

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 do most of my work in A4 sketchbooks with heavy paper with a bit of a grain to it. I need heavy paper because I make such a mess, it needs to be paper that can take a bit of a battering. I like the grain because of the way it picks up the pencil and the smudges…it gives more information to Photoshop that I can play with later, burning bits in or cloning nice bits of texture etc.



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


Pretty much everything goes through Photoshop. I use curves a lot, and the burn and dodge tool. I play with the colour values and I like to use multiply layers, e.g having a bit of old paper as a multiply layer, or having my inks on a multiply layer and colouring beneath. Even the scruffiest sketch gets curved up and has some bits burned in and other bits knocked back.

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

Almost everything I use. I think it's really important to keep experimenting and to stay clued up. Everything I've mentioned so far can be traced back to hearing about it or seeing it somewhere. I picked up the Pentel Brush Pen because the guy who does the concept art for the Metal Gear Solid videogames uses one. The last design studio I worked at had a really healthy culture of trying stuff out and sharing knowledge. I picked up loads of useful bits of Photoshop from the designers there. If I’m not sure how someone's achieved a particular effect I hunt around on the Internet for a relevant tutorial.

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

Not really. After talking up the computer so much I'd like to say that I’m a big fan of the ordinary! If the audience can understand how a picture was made, then I think that's another level to the relationship between the work and the viewer. There's something magical about seeing an amazing piece of art that is just pencil marks on paper.

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

I'm going to continue the trend of contradicting my last answer. I really love drawing in Flash, especially the way you can grab your lines and fills and pull them around until you're happy with them. Also, Flash and Illustrator are great for more modular pieces – loads of characters and stuff, because you can easily rearrange, resize and edit different elements.



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?


Nothing beats drawing in a sketchbook.

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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)?


Well, generally I think computers are great. Especially for getting your work seen, communicating with clients, researching content for work or seeing what everyone else is up to. The danger with computers is that because they're so clever and offer you so much choice, you can struggle to keep a focus on yourself and your work. Regarding the Internet, sometimes it can be inspiring and sometimes it can be a bit bewildering when the whole creative industry is out there for you to explore and find your place in. Regarding post-processing, it's always a worry that by the time I've inked a sketch and scanned the inks and cleaned them up and moved them about and coloured them and added a texture I may have killed the spark from the original sketch stone dead. The trick with computers is using them to enhance whatever it is that makes you unique as an artist in the first place.

Thanks Chris!

You can find Chris Rodenhurst online at his weblog Sketchybeast.

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Tin Salamunic

Posted on August 24, 2009 | Comments

Tin Salamunic is an artist and illustrator born in Bosnia and currently living and working in Richmond, Virginia. He also teaches art courses at Virginia Commonwealth University.

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

For my sketchbook drawings, I use a Pilot Precise Rollingball V7 (fine tip) Pen..in colors black and red. For my commercial work I use the Wacom Tablet. I also ink my commercial pieces digitally. For Spot coloring and some full page coloring in my sketchbook, I use watercolor brush pens.

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

Trial and Error is the most honest answer. I have tried every pen... every tool on the market. And while I don't believe that the ones listed above are the best of the best in general, they are the best for me. Everyone needs to find their tool of choice..and sometimes it might take years of experimentation and quite a bit of failure. However, the proper tool can not only make drawing and/or painting easier..but also better looking.

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

Pilot Precise Rollingball V7 (fine tip) Pen- They flow beautifully on the Moleskine paper of my sketchbook. The "FINE" thickness is perfect for me, because the thinner the pen, the more it slows me down. I use the color black for my main drawings, and accent details and fill negative space with a red pen.

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

For my sketchbooks, watercolor mainly...rarely acrylics.

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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?

There are rare occasions where I find myself traveling and working on sketch journals. In those instances, I prefer to use the watercolor brush pens...not any kind of sets, because I prefer to limit my color palette.

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 always use the Moleskine sketchbooks. I use the 100-page one with slightly thicker paper to reduce transparency and support watercolor and/or paint application. The feel of my ink pen flowing on the Moleskine paper alone is reason enough for me to use this sketchbook.

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

Have not painted since college :(

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

My commercial work has gone full digital now. However, I do find myself fixing up, adjusting and adding digital touch-ups to my sketchbook pages. Pretty much every sketch page that I scan is carefully fixed up in Photoshop... even if it is the simple addition of the white color in some spots.

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

Everyone has been praising the pen that James Jean uses. Once I got a hold of a box... I realized that it is nothing more than a very think ball-point pen that has a tendency to smear and is too thin for my taste. But that just goes to show that there is a specific tool for everyone.

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

My sketchbooks are the most experimental works that I have. My recent experimentation was playing with transfer markers and xerox copies...nothing out of the ordinary, though.

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

It's all Adobe Photoshop. On very, very rare cases, I use Adobe Illustrator...and even more rare cases Corel Painter.

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)?

A computer is a tool. As long as the artist keeps that in mind, it is extremely helpful. Most people these days misuse the computer, causing endless circular debates whether it is good or bad. If you cannot draw..any tool is useless and cannot be used to your advantage. if you can't paint, oils are us eless too. The only bad thing about the computer is that it allows those without skill to cheat..and those people are the only ones creating the problems in the first place.

Thanks Tin!

You can find Tin Salamunic online at his portfolio website salamunicart.com, on his weblog, on Twitter (@Salamunic), and he also contributes to the group weblog Urban Sketchers.

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Interviewee Updates - Aug. 18, 2009

Posted on August 19, 2009 | Comments

Another round of updates on what some of the artists I've interviewed are currently up to:

More updates in a couple of weeks or so.