The Tools Artists Use

Rebecca Volynsky

Posted on July 02, 2009 | Comments

Rebecca Volynsky is an artist living in Providence, Rhode Island.

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

I prefer using Faber-Castell indian ink artist pens/markers for most of my work because they just have incredible quality, great colors, and last a super long time. I have recently purchased a few Pantone Universe markers, which are extremely permanent, and have fine line and brush tips. Yet, they are overly potent, and kind of difficult to hold due to their square shape. Micron pens and Pilot pens are another favorite of mine for tiny details (lines, triangles, etc.), as well as white gel pens. When it comes to using graphite, I tend to use lead/graphite sticks housed within a metal holder for more control. I also frequently use powdered graphite to cover larger areas, create smudges, and build upon the page.

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

Everything (including my media/tool choices) usually just evolves in itself. I suppose it just depends on what I am creating and what kind of effect is occurring at the time.

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

I use a lot of Faber-Castell watercolors, in addition to Acryla gouache paints. Recently, I began working on a larger oil painting, which is very strange due to the change in media and size.

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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 work in 9.5" x 7" Moleskine sketchbooks/notebooks, as well as various scraps of paper. I'm currently working on a bookmaking project to create another sketchbook for myself. I like that it has a more DIY/hand-made feel, especially since I can make use of all the random paper just lying around.

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

No way! I am very passionate about working on everything with my very own two hands. I try not to dwell and over-analyze/work on anything too deeply, and feel like that would probably happen if I began relying on a computer to "edit" my work.

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

A friend of mine told me about those Pantone Universe markers, and although they have a huge array of colors...I'm just not too thrilled about them. Other than that, I haven't really experimented with any new brand/company of art supplies.

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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)?

I think it really depends on what kind of art work one creates. Corporate graphic designers tend to strictly rely on computers to make logos, etc., but I love designers that have more of a DIY/hand-made aesthetic (such as Martin Venezky). Tumblr is a great tool that I regularly use for displaying work and discovering inspiring imagery. I keep up with various art/design blogs (such as designformankind.com and booooooom.com while drinking my morning coffee, too.

Thanks Rebecca!

You can find Rebecca Volynsky online at her personal art weblog, and she has some work for sale in her Etsy shop.

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Andrew DeGraff

Posted on June 29, 2009 | Comments

Andrew DeGraff is an artist living in Fort Greene, Brooklyn and teaches at the Pratt Institute.

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

I'm definitely an old fashioned type of fella when it comes to drawing. My favorite of the past couple years is brush and ink. I have yet to find anything that gives me equal helpings of control and spontaneity. I love the Silver Ultra mini brushes - they keep a fine point and last a while if they're kept clean. The only thing lacking with the old brush and ink is it inability to travel well. For portability I, like so many, like the .005 Micron in various colors. I love to be able to mingle some different colors in a drawing, especially if I'm working outside or on the subway. I'm also a fan of the Micron Brush Pens. I've also become a fan of the COPIC sketch markers. They're a little pricey, but they're dual tipped with a fat, flat end and a pretty sharp brush end. I also buy cheap calligraphy markers, mostly in black. I've been picking up Elegant Writer pens and using them to death for quick sketches. Again, the variable line is nice and you can do really fast fills. The line decays through the stroke, but that can give things a nice character and give you something more than a flat saturated black - something almost more photographic, especially in small sketches.

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

For a drawing day at the Natural History Museum, or the subway, I like to make purposefully random selections. A handful from the maker bin, and then try to go make it work. Illustration can get formulaic by design, so a strange assortment of pencils and pens can be really helpful to get out of a drawing rut.

For an illustration, I'll generally rough in pencil, and then move right to ink, or gouache of late, to lay out the line structure.

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

As far as ink, I'm still trying to find the perfect ink. Since I use a lot and can correct in photoshop after the fact, I will use the old standard, Higgins waterproof black. I find it's pretty wishy-washy. For more gallery type drawing I have been using Speedball's Super Black India Ink. It gets better coverage and cavernous deep blacks. Although it professes to be non clogging, I find just the opposite. It can get a little chunky, and even syrupy if left open even a little too long. It also has a slight but noticeable bleed. I have experimented with Bombay inks as well, but find they have an iridescence I'm not too fond of.

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

I was an acrylic painter for a longtime, and love the saturation. Maybe it's because I'm getting older I've moved to watercolor and gouache paint gouache. Gouache can give you that really nice saturated color without the chunkiness of acrylics, along with a really nice matte finish. Since a lot of my work is reduced pallette work, it's nice to do a full tone of watercolor on the bottom with a little mask to leave some of the white of the paper showing, and then draw with gouache on top.

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?

For watercolors and gouache, I definitely like the Winsor & Newton stuff, and for watercolor I do use a Winsor & Newton 14 color travel set as my default setup. It does have some drawbacks - the cools in travel sets always seem to be a little weak. I pull out the cobalt and substitute cerulean (I love the plastic-y, processed look of cerulean). I will also premix some gouache in the water dish that I'll use as my major line color. I also have a Daler Rowney 12 set that Ive been pretty happy with too, and is a little smaller.

Is there any particular type of notebook or drawing pad you prefer? Or does any scrap of decent-sized paper work in a pinch? / If you paint, is there any particular type of canvas you prefer? Do you like to paint on wood or any other materials?

In general, I think paper is the most underrated supply people buy. Unfortunately, sketchbook are always notoriously filled with weak paper: 60lb paper is just sort of weak for my purposes. That does lower the price point and make it more expendable, which I suppose is the point, but I find sketchbooks a little frustrating to buy. I generally use the Daler Rowney bound sketchbooks. My favorite, which I've had a hard time finding of late, is the Canson Balloon Field Sketch book. It's wire bound from the top which I definitely prefer. Dealing with the gutters in the bound sketchbook can be frustrating when you just need that extra half inch to make it work. I also like a Il Torchio notebook my cousin brought back for me from Florence. It has a really nice tooth and holds up really well for 50lb paper. My other little fettishy sketchbooks are a 3" by 5" R. Baldwin 150 gms cartridge paper book from England, and a 4"x 5" Daler Rowney Fabriano colored paper sampler book.

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As far as painting, if I'm working on canvas or board, it gets the same treatment. I use the NY Central Acrylic Gesso - about 5 layers - and sand it down to as glassy smooth a surface as I can get.

I've come to prefer painting on paper, and haven't found anything I like better that Arches 300lb, hot press for gouache and acrylic and cold press for watercolor. I also like their 140lb cold press for mixed media work and watercolors with very controlled but small bleeds. I will also use Strathmore smooth Bristol, but mostly for work line work that then gets re-colored in photoshop. Rives BFK is a close runner up, probably my drawing favorite for straight ink and pencil.

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

I often do, especially for quick turnaround illustration assignments. I still draw everything by hand but will work with black and two or three arbitrary colors (generally a hot and a cool) to flesh out the design, and then assign them new colors 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 saw a Marcel Dzama show at the Richard Heller Gallery a few years ago, and it really made me realize the power of working on paper. I had been making acrylic paintings that were really emulating silkscreen and woodcut prints, and realized that they should be on paper to really get that matte finish I was looking for. Acrylic suddenly felt way too plastic.

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

I generally use the edge of an old credit card to apply gesso, a trick I picked up from Tom LaPadula, one of my teachers at Pratt. It saves a lot of time with sanding down a canvas or board.

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?

After a few years of creating art that was about half digital, I'm really trying to move back towards more traditional media. Mostly because I am working in better spaces and have constructed a light table and have the space to really avoid putting things into the computer until it's sitting on the scan bed.

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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)?

The computer is an amazing resource. I was very anti-computer as a young idealistic artist/idiot, and have come around big time. I use to feel that digitally produced work was a rather hack-y type method, but I've long since seen the light. What people are doing now with digital collage and painting and drawing is really incredible. I keep finding out people who I thought were traditional illustrators are working totally digitally.

As far as work as an illustrator goes, it's a double-edged sword. In this economic downturn, magazines and newspaper are having a rough go. As more and more go online, it's more common than not that the illustrators they used to hire don't come with them, or if they do, the illustrator works for smaller fees. Conversely, having a website which you can construct and update yourself for free, a blog you can post on for free, and emails which you can send for free - it's pretty convenient. It does have a democratizing effect of allowing new people to get wide coverage, and allowing me to look at work from all over the world. That being said, it can be a bit of a distraction. It's easy to find yourself lost in a multimedia labyrinth only to emerge a hour later and none the wiser. . .

Thanks Andrew!

You can find Andrew DeGraff online at his portfolio website andrewdegraff.com, his own weblog DEGRAFFLOG, and on the group weblog welcome friend or foe.

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Yuta Onoda

Posted on June 12, 2009 | Comments

Yuta Onoda is an artist originally from Japan and currently living in Canada.

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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 pencils, ballpoint pens and brush pens. I love switching them around when I work on illustration work.

I love trying something new and making mistakes. I think this progress is essential for artists to grow.

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

I guess it really depends on what kind on project I am working on. I would have to pick materials that I can work faster if a short time is given for the project. I would probably pick something that I can take my time working with if I have extra time for the project.

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

I mainly use the pencils from Lyra (Germany) from 8B-4H. These pencils are very smooth and are very comfortable to work with.

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

I use Acrylics the most. It's because it dries faster. I would love to start using oils when I get a chance though.

I have recently started using Colored pencils as well. They're fun to mix with 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?

I have been using Ceramcoat paints which are very cheap like one tube for a dollar. I love them because they are really chalky and I love how they look when they've dried. It makes an odd texture and it's great material to give some texture to a piece.

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 use the Moleskine. I used to use another kind of sketchbook but I guess they have stopped producing them. I have been looking for a good sketchbook but it's really hard to find one.

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

I normally paint on Stonehenge paper and wood. I work with a lot of layers of paints, as I mentioned, so I like the material to have a harder surface so that it dries faster and I can work efficiently.

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

I often take a photo of my sketch before starting painting to check what colors would work the best. It's hard to start painting without visualizing how it's going to be done, so I normally try to use Photoshop to check when I paint.

When I work on illustration, I normally combine both traditional and digital, so I would say 50% of an image is done by traditional and the other is done digitally.

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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?

I have tried so many materials because I love to try out something new. I forget the name of the ballpoint pen Joe Morse (illustrator) uses.

He was teaching a life drawing class one day and I had a chance to see his sketchbook. I was so amazed how fine his line work was.

And I bought the same pen and tried it out. Then I figured it's not because of the pen, Joe Morse has such an amazing control of pens. He is so amazing.

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

I often make textures out of Acrylics and scan them in.

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

Definitely Photoshop. I am not really good at other software programs to be honest.

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 hard to decide actually. I think both of them are very different from each other. I love painting because every decision you make is crucial, so it's very adventurous. I love digital because it allows me to undo things and try many things, so it's very adventurous as well.

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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)?

I think it's a helpful tool for making art. Especially when I need to reference something, it's very accessible and time saving.

It's a distraction sometimes though. It makes me procrastinate.

Thanks Yuta!

You can find Yuta Onoda online at his portfolio website yutaonoda.com, his weblog, and he is beginning to sell prints of his work at inPRNT.

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Kiersten Essenpreis

Posted on June 10, 2009 | Comments

Kiersten Essenpreis is an artist originally from the suburbs of Chicago, now living and working in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

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

I actually love 3H pencils, Micron pens and very small (00 or smaller) inexpensive paint brushes. My boyfriend has been trying to get me to buy a drawing tablet (he swears by it!), but that hasn't happened yet.

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

I tend to go through paint brushes VERY quickly, so I don't like to spend a lot of money on them. Every time I head to an art store I always try to stock up on the smallest, thinnest and least expensive brushes I can!

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

My favorite are 005 Black Micron pens, they're the best!

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

I actually use Flashe paint, which is a high pigment vinyl based paint. It dries very flat, which is great for scanning.

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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 love a brand new notebook of any sort (cheap or expensive, small or big) and I always have great intentions of filling it with beautiful ideas and drawings. But somehow I always end up using them to make lists.

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

I usually only like painting on sanded and shellacked Baltic Birch wood.

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

I sometimes use Photoshop when color correcting my work, or if I have a short deadline on an editorial job.

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

I actually started using Flashe paint after seeing another artist who used it. I had been working with acrylics, but was unhappy about the shine it produced on the wood when scanning the finish.

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

Nothing too strange.. I do use small pieces of contact paper for each color I mix, when painting. For some reason, the typical mixing palette never worked for me.

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

I don't use it a lot, but Photoshop can be very handy!

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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 feel most comfortable painting, but that's probably because that's what I do everyday.. I guess everything else is kind of out of my comfort zone.

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)?

Computers are definitely the most helpful tool when it comes to promotion. With all the great art and design sites and blogs, there are endless opportunities for people from around the world to have access to great art and artists.

Thanks Kiersten!

You can find Kiersten Essenpreis online at her portfolio website youfail.com, on her weblog, and she is currently having a sale of her original art to raise money.

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Stephanie Levy

Posted on June 08, 2009 | Comments

Stephanie Levy in an artist living in Munich, Germany.

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

I most enjoy working with pencils and permanent ink pens.

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

Often I start making sketches in pencil, but I use pens with lightfast ink on all my final drawings to make my artwork more archival.

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

My favorite pens are from the Faber-Castell PITT artist pens series, especially the pens with black waterproof India ink.

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

I use a combination of water-based painting techniques - watercolor, gouache, and acrylics.

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 Lascaux acrylics and Winsor & Newton watercolors. I use top quality paints to make sure my artwork will last for a lifetime.

Travel sets are fun, and I do usually take some art materials with me when I travel.

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

My favorite papers to work on are thick handmade papers that are made in France. I love the deckled edge and the textured quality of the paper. It makes the completed works seem almost like "objects."

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

I do sometimes work on canvas or panel, and I like working on wood very much. Sometimes I carve bits out of the wooden panels to give my images a more dimensional quality.

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

No.

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 am usually more inspired by the imagery in the work, than the actual materials. However, I especially like looking at artwork from other mixed media artists.

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

In my collage work, I use papers that I collect from all around the world. I love Japanese, Indian, Asian, and Italian papers; there are many multi-cultural, handmade papers that I find beautiful.

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 prefer to work non-digitally as much as possible. I just like getting my hands dirty, I suppose!

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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)?

Although I don't use the computer to make my actual artwork, I have found the Internet to be an incredible tool to use in promoting my artwork and making contacts. Through the Internet, I have found an online network of artist and designer friends who are wonderfully helpful, friendly, and like-minded. I don't know what I did before I met them.

Last year, I bought an iMac and a new digital camera, and I am really happy with both. The quality of the photographs I can make of my work has improved dramatically, and I am now able to print and sell high quality digital reproductions of my artwork in my online shop.

Thanks Stephanie!

You can find Stephanie Levy online on her weblog stephanielevy.blogspot.com, on Flickr (stephanielevy), Twitter (@stephanielevy), and her work can be purchase online in her Etsy shop. Stephanie also runs the wonderful Artists Who Blog.