The Tools Artists Use

Julianna Swaney

Posted on June 05, 2009 | Comments

Julianna Swaney is an artist living and working in Portland, Oregon.

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

The pencil is by far my favorite. I think the ones I use the most are Prismacolor Turquoise (they aren't actually turquoise) and I like them a lot, but I'm really not too picky.

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

I usually start with a medium hard pencil like an HB or H so it makes a lighter line but isn't so hard that it won't erase or make an actual dent in the paper. Then I move onto very sharp darker pencils to define lines better and do detail.

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

I don't use a lot of pens for finished drawings anymore. Sometimes I use Microns, 005 mm. in black ink.

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

I use watercolor, I'm tentative using color and afraid of messing up so I like having the option of doing progressively darker washes.

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 actually do have a small traveler set of Winsor & Newton watercolors that I love. It's so handy and has all the right colors; usually I only use browns and yellows, and hints of blue and red, and they're all in that set. I also have some small tubes, also Winsor & Newton, of colors that I use more of, like Van Dyck Brown and Raw Umber.

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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?

For ideas and sketching I use a spiral bound hardcover notebook, I think the one I have is made by Strathmore. I also have a lot of scraps of Stonehenge paper around which I useful since I do all my finished drawings on Stonehenge (in "Natural" or Warm White color). It's a cotton rag paper that I found out about through printmaking, it's smooth and soft and takes color really well.

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

I only use Photoshop for some cosmetic things after I scan them, adjusting the levels and adjusting the colors so it look like the original drawing.

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

I've tried Gouache several times because some people can make it look so wonderful, but that's been an utter failure for me, I just can't get it to work for me

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

I don't know if it's out of the ordinary but one of my favorites is a colorless blending marker made by Chartpak. I used some collage in my work and those pens have a chemical in them that will transfer photocopies to paper.

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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)?

Absolutely, I would be lost without it, I use it for blogging and promoting, and most important selling my work.

Thanks Julianna!

You can find Julianna Swaney online at her portfolio website Oh My Cavalier!, on her drawing weblog, and she has some original art, prints, and jewelry available for sale on her Etsy shop.

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Chris Crites

Posted on June 03, 2009 | Comments

Chris Crites is an artist living in Seattle, Washington.

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

I always have a 9" x 12" sketchbook going but have not drawn too much recently which bums me out. In that I work with Sakura Micron pens and Sharpies.

I also always try to have a softbound small Moleskine in my pocket and a black ballpoint pen so I can sketch on the go.

The watercolor Moleskine and a Waterbrush are a lot of fun.

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

Just depends on the mood I am in. Whether I want color or not, whether I feel like painting or drawing.

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

Sakura Microns are great since they are waterproof and come in so many sizes and colors.

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

Acrylic is my main medium. I used to use Liquitex Concentrated in bottles exclusively since they had so many opaque colors but more recently been using Golden fluid acrylics as well.

Daler Rowney FW Acrylic Artists Ink is pretty awesome. You can get so many "watercolor" effects but once it dries stays put.

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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?

Paper bag is generally what I paint on. I like the tooth, the folds and the way opaque acrylics "pop" off the surface. I have started branching out with Arches watercolor paper and Okiwara paper for the acrylic ink and wash effects.

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

No. I scan all my paintings or have them photographed. The only Photoshop action is sometimes tiling together multiple scans of larger pieces.

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

The water brush I got from seeing a friend use it and how handy it seemed (water filled handle allows for water to slowly flow out of brush tip). Great for traveling.

The acrylic ink I picked up on a tip from Robert Hardgrave.

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

Besides the bag, not really. My original bag paintings all had the drawings inked in with a bamboo pen, but now everything is pretty standard.

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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)?

Not necessarily a necessity, but the computer has certainly made the process faster for me. I am able to adjust images' contrast so that they work better for my limited palette style. I also like the fact that I can scan my images and that is about the cheapest, easiest and almost best method of documenting for me. Websites I think are pretty critical for an artists exposure. Sites like Flickr help as well. It sure does become a distraction having a computer in the studio. Hearing the email incoming or just thinking about checking the weather or other online nonsense.

Thanks Chris!

You can find Chris Crites online at his portfolio website bagpainter.com and on Flickr.

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Kurt Ankeny

Posted on June 01, 2009 | Comments

Kurt Ankeny is an artist and art instructor living and working in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

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

My favorite tools are pencils, ballpoint pens and the Pentel brush pens with permanent ink in them, which I purchased while I was living in Japan, god, eight years ago. The Pentel permanent ink is so nice and heavily pigmented that it is really permanent. I made our address sign for the placard at our apartment door with it, and it sat in the full blaze of the Japanese summer sun for two years without a sign of fading.

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

The project is usually going to dictate the medium. If the deadline is tight you need something that's going to be dry and finished fast, especially when working with paints. For the drawing tools, it depends on what kind of mood you're going to evoke. If I need a more uniform line weight, I'll reach for the ball points, if I need verve, power and snap, I'm going to go with the brush pen. If I need some subtlety and variation in tone, it'll be the pencil.

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

For pens, I usually use Papermate pens. The ink comes out of them pretty readily and heavily, and I can get a wide variation out of the line/tone quality. If the ink comes out meagerly or is too liquid, you lose that play and option in the linework. You don't need those SKG-whatevers that James Jean uses, you just need a ball point where the ink comes out easily but not too liquid. Then you can get all of that lovely "dry-pen" look that he gets.

How do you like your color? Watercolor? Acrylics? Oil? Colored pencils? Markers? All of the above?

I work a lot in oils, which are a very forgiving medium. Watercolors are also a favorite, but to work opaquely over them, I use gouache, which is some of the most unforgiving stuff out there. Mainly because the amount of color and value shift from the wet to dry paint varies widely from color to color, and when you've got a mix of them going on, well, you're never perfectly sure what you're going to end up with. But I use them anyway, and I'm getting better at predicting how they'll curveball on me.

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Do you prefer travel sets or do you need a full set of colors? If you have a different set of tools for working in your studio (or office, or home, or on the couch) and out in public (at the park, or a coffee shop), what are the differences?

I have a very portable kit that I take with me for sketching. It consists of a cloth fold-over wallet that holds several pens and pencils of different uses, and then a tin that contains a water brush pen and a small watercolor pan set. With those items I can make notations of almost anything I need to out in the field. The only difference between field work water colors and studio watercolors is that in the studio I have a wider selection of tubed gouache paints. In the field, I just mix the watercolors with Chinese White, which is just white gouache.

For plein air oil painting, I use the standard french easel and my full palette, which is a modified version of Richard Schmid's palette. From left to right on my palette, I lay out: Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue Deep, Viridian, Transparent French Red Ochre, Pyrrolo Ruby (looks like Alizarin but permanent), Cad Red Light, Yellow Ochre, Cad Yellow Deep, Cadmium Primrose (a greenish yellow) and Titanium White. (I'll use Flake or Zinc white for special effects some times, but Titanium is the workhorse.)

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 have a Moleskine with me, mainly because it's small and takes pen and pencil well. I don't use the sketchbook version, just the plain (I get more paper that way!) For bigger sketchbooks, my wife makes them for me out of selections of nicer paper that I buy in sheets and she binds together with covers and coptic binding, which allows the pages to lie nice and flat.

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

I prefer to make my own canvases, because the mass-produced ones are just generally crap: the weave of the fabric is skewed or wavy or the primer is acrylic, which is like sandpaper and can kill nice oil brushes. (I have a nice bristle bright that I used to scrub in some shadows on a 18x24" canvas and when I was done, at least two-thirds of the length was worn away.)

I do increasingly use panels, since they don't have the give of canvas and I can be assured that when I push the brush into the panel with some force it's not going to bend and make me miss the mark I was trying to hit. Real Gesso makes excellent panels with traditional panel gesso or oil-primed linen surfaces.

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

Other than correcting the photos of the artwork to match as closely as possible, not usually. Sometimes I will do some compositing to meet a deadline or accommodate some changes that an Art Director wants.

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

Sure! I think most artists do. I've tried out Rives BFK after seeing James Jean use it, but the loose nap got on my nerves. My favorite paper for ink and watercolor work these days is Annigoni paper. There's a light tan version that has a great unifying effect on any colors that go over it and it absorbs ink in a way that makes the ink look like it's part of the paper instead of sitting on top.

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

I have some weird brushes, like Epiphanes varnishing brushes and a weird assortment of calligraphy brushes I often use for oil painting, but that's about as "out there" as I get.

When creating your digital art, what are the software programs you use? Is one used more than another?

I use Photoshop with a Wacom tablet.

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 work digitally on certain projects like storyboards. That way they're done quickly and are easily editable and I can make quick changes and crank out a set of 10-15 in a day.

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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)?

Computers are a great and useful tool, as long as you know what they do well and what they don't. Promotion by computer is a necessity these days. I can't imagine getting the word out about my art without it.

Thanks Kurt!

You can find Kurt Ankeny online at his portfolio website and weblog kurtankeny.com and on Twitter (@kurtankeny). You can find out more about the classes he teaches at ankenystudio.com.

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Frank Stockton

Posted on May 29, 2009 | Comments

Frank Stockton is an illustrator living in New York City.

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

Faber-Castell HB and 2B pencils, kneaded erasers, gum erasers, Prismacolor Verithin non-photo blue pencils, Speedball india ink, Hunt 101 and 102 quill nibs, Isabey Kolinsky sable brushes (sizes 0-6), Stonehenge vellum finish drawing paper, Wacom 3 tablet and pen (9x12"), Mac 0S 10.4, Photoshop CS4.

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

I use whatever I need to get the job done; I'm not particular about any of the supplies, but what i have are my preferences.

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

Digital.

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 carry around one of several sketchbooks. One is from NY Central Art Supply, and another I like was a gift from a friend while who visited Paris.

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 much but when I do I guess I prefer panel.

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

Yes.

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

Sure, but not in a long time. Now I'll usually ask an artist what they use and I'll try it out. For example, I used to only use Hunt 101 nibs, but I was talking to American comic art legend Scott Williams "Wikipedia article about Scott Williams") about inking and he uses a 102, so I started using that to see what it was like. I still prefer the 101, but sometimes the 102 is better.

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

Sometimes I'll use construction paper or charcoal as fun textures to scan in.

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

Photoshop CS4.

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 work digitally because I like the end result and because it's very fast. Also it allows me to focus on drawing, which is my favorite thing.

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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)?

Computers are as essential as a pencil or a pen for commercial artists working today. The degree to which they are used in artmaking is up to the artist, but basic knowledge is a prerequisite.

Thanks Frank!

Frank Stockton can be found online at his portfolio website frankstockton.com. Some of his original art can be purchase at his Etsy store, and some of his prints are available at Gallery Nucleus.

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Mike Dominic

Posted on May 27, 2009 | Comments

Mike Dominic is a comic artist, colorist, and illustrator.

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

Pencil and paper. I like to keep things simple, with as little as possible in the way between me and the art. I construct my drawings in a non-photo blue pencil, then render them in either drawing pencil (2B & 2H) or in ink with a # 2 brush and disposable pens. From there, the work is (usually) scanned and colored digitally.

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

The tools used will depend on what the finished work will be used for. Comics will usually get the ink/color treatment, while illustrated works (e.g. a book cover, CD liners) may end up as a full-on digital painting.

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

I use disposable Micron pens. I used to depend on a set of Rotring Isograph technical pens that had an incredible ruler device in the lid of the case, but that set doesn't seem to be made any more, and the other technical pens I've used just don't perform as well. Microns (or any other brand of suitably dark brush pens) are quick and easy to wield, and give me a good solid ink line.

I also like to use a generic Staples brand black gel pen for sketching and looser work. It gives me a nice heavy black line, but allows me to more expressive and impulsive than do the Microns.

How do you like your color? Watercolor? Acrylics? Oil? Colored pencils? Markers? All of the above?

I like my color digital, if possible. I do use a Wacom at times, but, since I work from varied locations, I'm most comfortable with a mouse, and I love being able to manipulate photographs to add texture to my color. When I do paint a piece by hand, I prefer acrylics thinned with linseed oil (it slows the drying time and lets you work the paint better).

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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 or do you need a full set of colors?

Winsor & Newton acrylics work just fine for me. I've also got a travel set of Pelikan watercolors that I've had forever that I sometimes use for painting backgrounds. I've gotten pretty good at mixing colors by hand, so I tend to work with a limited palette when I paint. I don't have room in my studio or in my head for a wide range of colors.

If you have a different set of tools for working in your studio (or office, or home, or on the couch) and out in public (at the park, or a coffee shop), what are the differences?

My studio tools are mostly digital, excepting my drafting table. It's a huge wooden job with a built in light table that some friends gave me for a birthday a couple of years ago, and it's an object of pride in my studio. When working away from home, I mostly use a mechanical pencil or the Staples brand pens I mentioned earlier.

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

Strathmore bristol for finished pencil or ink work. For sketchbooks, it's a matter of what's at hand. I've got sketchbooks ranging in size from about 3 inches square to 11 x 17, although if given a choice, I'd rather do my rough work on plain old bond paper. Comes from all those years spent doing phone doodles in an office environment.

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

For commercial work, I prefer a nice smooth Hi-Art illustration board. I sometimes like to mix ink with watercolor with acrylics, and nothing else takes the various media quite as well. Occasionally, I'll work on canvas board or plywood with lots of primer, but they're exceptions.

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

Yes. Almost always. As I mentioned earlier, I enjoy fiddling around with photographs to add textures to my art, and a judicious use of filters can save me hours of drawing and painting time. I prefer working with The Gimp, but until they add proper CMYK support, I'll be working with Photoshop as well.

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

I use the Micron pens because a friend (Ian McDonald, creator of Bruno the Bandit recommended them to me, and I happen to really like his inking, and especially his lettering. I got the trick of using linseed oil with my acrylics from a book by Boris Vallejo, and from being very frustrated with the quick drying time, because I like to fiddle around with my colors once I've laid them down.

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

Is Google still considered out of the ordinary for this sort of thing? For reference, there's no better tool than Google Image Search. Also, Wikimedia Commons is the source of many a photographic texture for me. I've also just started using a program called Ginipic that searches various image sources like Google, Flickr, etc., but I'm still getting the hang of that one.

If you create collages, where do you get the materials and objects you use in your pieces?

I don't do collages as such, but I will sometimes scan objects from around my house to use as textures.

When creating your digital art, what are the software programs you use? Is one used more than another?

I like working with the open source program The Gimp. I find it's brush scaling preferable to Photoshop's, and some of its filters work well for me. There are some little interface tweaks in there that I prefer, but that may just be because I'm more used to them. Also, I've collected a nice assortment of Gimp brushes from Deviantart and haven't found Photoshop replacements for all of them yet. If I know that the piece is going to be used digitally, or if CMYK does not matter, I'll use The Gimp to complete the project. Otherwise, I'll very often build up most of the piece in Gimp, then export it as a .psd and finish it off with a CMYK conversion and some color adjustments in Photoshop.

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 last couple of years, I'd say about 90% of my work is finished digitally, although it always starts out on the drawing board. I love the tactile immediacy of pencils, pens and brushes, but I also like the speed and intricacy of digital work, so it's a tossup which I prefer. I work in digital more because that's where my market is. Most of my clients approach me online, and the work is delivered to them via email or online storage services.

md-utopian

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)?

For me, the computer is absolutely indispensible. It's a sales tool, a communications device, and a production shop all in one. The internet is the largest swipe file and reference book you've ever seen, and the availability of so many free tools for writing, art production and self-promotion has significantly lowered the cost of getting your work out to the public.

It can also be quite a distraction if you allow yourself to get lost in surfing the net or tweaking out your system, but that's a test of the discipline of the artist. Any tool is only as good as your use of it.

Thanks Mike!

Mike Dominic can be found online at his weblog paladinfreelance.com. His older webcomics can be seen at "The Journals of Simon Pariah" and guest stories at Bruno the Bandit.