The Tools Artists Use

Blanca Helga

Posted on May 25, 2009 | Comments

Blanca Helga is an illustrator and animated film director living in Madrid, Spain.

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

I normally use pencils, markers, papers, cardboard, small objects I come across, wool, wood, thread, needles and even the drawing tablet when using my computer.

I consider paper and objects as drawing tools because one part of my work is collage, so I utilize these materials to "paint" with them.

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

It depends on the work. If it is a commisioned one, its character helps me make the decision. When it is free work I prefer collage, so I have a pile of scrap papers all over my table, and I play with them until I find an association that catches my eye and serves as a starting point. If I have no papers nearby, my choice is to draw in my notebook with propelling pencil or with markers.

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

I use a propelling pencil with 0.5 leads. I love fluorescent markers too.

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

Colored pencils, markers, papers and computer colors.

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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 a bunch of colored pencils and markers of different kinds and origins all mixed together in a bag. I can buy them from a specialized art store to the convenience store next door. My favorite one depends on the mood of the day.

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 sketching, I prefer Moleskine and Muji notebooks, but any other notebook with a nice paper could do as well. Nevertheless, the notebook has to be small in size; the limits of the paper help me with the composition of the drawing.

For final works, my favorite is the Fabriano paper.

And of course, for collages all kind of old and used papers are great, and sometimes I even rip off pieces of paper from worn-out posters I find in the streets. I also do some scavenging in the paper recycling bins I happen to pass by.

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

I apply color and texture to some of my pencil drawings with Photoshop. In the case of collage, I post-process them very few times on my computer.

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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?

Yes, for example reciently I saw an artist friend of mine using felt markers and I wanted to try them instantly. Also books and the internet are an inspiration for new tools.

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

Maybe the cardboard and found objects, but I don't know if I can say they are out of the ordinary. Lots of people work with them.

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 starting point is always non-digital. I feel freer and closer to the work, when I touch the paper with my hands. Another reason is that I love the warm, imperfect look of the non-digital materials. But I need most of the time the digital tool to finish the work.

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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 is fundamental for all the reasons above, but it is also a big distraction. You know; checking your e-mail, browsing the internet, chatting with friends, one can't decide when the work ends and the fun begins. Time flies.

Thanks Blanca!

You can find Blanca Helga online at Flickr (blancahelga), her profile at Studio Banana (the arts collective she belongs to), and her Etsy shop. Blanca Helga's latest video, called "The story of a little blue horse", can be seen on Vimeo.

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Anke Weckmann

Posted on May 22, 2009 | Comments

Anke Weckmann is a freelance illustrator living in London.

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

I usually draw my work with black pens, and I always try new brands or types that I see.

For rough sketches I have a love of pencils, I like colourful and sparkly ones, just because it's more enjoyable to draw with pretty pencils.

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

If it's a commission then I'll draw with black ink pens. If I'm doodling in my sketchbook I use all kinds of pens.

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

I love Uni-Ball pens because they're really black and they're waterproof, so you can paint over them with watercolour without smudging.

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

I use digital colours for most of my illustrations. Occasionally I use a bit of watercolour. I do like coloured pencils and markers, but I mostly just use them in my sketchbooks.

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?

Schmincke watercolours are wonderful, I think.

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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 use a paper with a light texture, which is meant for drawing and watercolour.

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

Yes, I usually colour my illustrations digitally.

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 mostly I try new things because I see them in the shop.

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

I don't think so.

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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 love the computer and the internet. Without it, I couldn't work in the way I do. I'm sure I could create my art without a computer, but it's become so essential for communication, sending work, making contacts, research / reference material, promotion etc.

Of course it can be distracting, but I think I'm quite lucky that once I work I find it easy to focus completely.

Thanks Anke!

You can find Anke Weckmann online at her portfolio website Linotte.net, her weblog, Flickr (miss linotte), on Twitter (@Linotte), and her art and crafts are available to purchase online at her Etsy shop.

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Jessica Burke

Posted on May 20, 2009 | Comments

Jessica Burke is a full-time artist as well as an Assistant Professor of Drawing at Western Oregon University.

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

At the moment, I am in love with graphite pencils, specifically a 4B woodless and even mechanical. I will also always have a soft spot for charcoal, especially vine and my trusty 6B General's charcoal pencil.

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

The tool I use really depends on my ultimate desired effect. If it is going to ba full vaue study, I will use different tools than a more contour-driven composition. Time would also be a factor.

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

I like my color stuffed into an oil paint tube. I have experimented with the others and I just prefer working with oils. I like the versatility, drying time and surface effects. Acrylic and watercolor are my go to tools for flat color projects, but anything that is modeled, I have to go with full body oils.

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?

At the beginning of my career, my paints were chosen by economic considerations-the cheapest available. But has time has passed, I do realize the value of investing in your tools. I do not use one uniform brand, but I do like Holbein and Gamblin.

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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 will draw on anything, but if I have the option, I like to draw on Bristol board (smooth).

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

I love to do portrait work on Linen, but I have also had really good experiences painting on panel, mostly Masonite. I like to buy a large sheet and then cut it done to a variety of sizes. then I brace it, gesso and go.

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 it before and usually come away with an even greater appreciation of that artists' use of the material because my attempts were primitive at best.

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

Lately, I have been experimenting with collage elements within my drawings. I like using mylar as a drawing surface so I can play with layers of transparecny. Mostly I use patterned paper or hand drawn repetitions for the additional collage elements.

Thanks Jessica!

You can find Jessica Burke online at her portfolio website jessicab-artist.com, her weblog, and the weblog for her students.

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Amanda Grazini

Posted on May 18, 2009 | Comments

Amanda Grazini is a freelance illustrator from São Paulo, Brazil.

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

I like to start sketching with a simple 6B pencil or a blue pencil, sometimes I use markers, sometimes I sketch directly on Photoshop with a tablet (I have one of those Wacom Bamboo).

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

It depends on the project and on my mood! But I like to try different tools a lot.

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

I use those Sakura Micron pens a lot, and sometimes I use Tombow's brush pens, they have a lot of colors. Sometimes I use white ink Uni-ball Signo Gel Pens to do some details as well.

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

It depends! I've been trying acrylics diluted on water on canvas lately... it looks like watercolors. Talens gouaches are fun to use too!

On my sketchbook I use a lot of markers and sometimes colored pencils too.

But mostly I color with Photoshop.

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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 a Winsor & Newton travel set for watercolors that I almost haven't used yet! I need to practice some watercolors! As for inks, simple India ink and a nice Rembrandt number 2 brush.

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 lot of sketchbooks, with lots of types of paper! For a simple experimental sketch, anything works. For watercolors or any watery paint its better to use Fabriano papers.

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

Yes. I do it a lot! I mostly use Photoshop to adjust levels, colors and to put pieces together when I'm not directly drawing or coloring with it already.

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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?

Yes! I'm always looking for tips on what kind of material it's best to use! And I love to try new materials or medias.

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

Hmmm, lately I've been sewing up some details on canvas... just an experiment! :D

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

Mostly Photoshop, sometimes Painter and sometimes I like to sketch a little bit on ArtRage or Open Canvas.

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 do more digital work. Mostly because it's more practical for the kinds of jobs I do. But I like to balance it and try to do non-digital work whenever I can.

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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 nowadays it's more than helpful for me, it's a necessity! But you need to be careful not to be too distracted with that bunch of information you have in front of you.

Thanks Amanda!

You can find Amanda Grazini online at her weblog amandagrazini.blogspot.com and on Flickr (amandagrazini). Amanda also has some work available for purchase in her Etsy Shop.

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Irina Troitskaya

Posted on May 15, 2009 | Comments

Irina Troitskaya lives in the capital of Russia and works as a freelance illustrator by day and an artist at night.

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What are your favorite drawing tools (pens, pencils, markers, drawing tablet)?

Probably you'll be surprised, but it's an ordinary graphite pencil. The softer the better. I like 9B most of all, but everything up from 4B works great too. They are usually wooden or just pure graphite. One of my favorites is the Austrian wooden clutched pencil Cretacolor I bought in London. I also like Faber Castell PITT Artist pens, Tombow ABT Dual Brush Pen and Pentel Color brush pens.

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

I carry my drawing tools in my bag, so it's always a bit messy inside. I was thinking about getting boxes, but still don't have one. Going out I just pick up some tools I like at the moment, or the ones which are more suitable for the place where I'm going. It's much more comfortable to draw with a pencil and felt tip pens while traveling on the subway for example. And the Pentel Aquash Waterbrush pen is good during a coffee break, when there's some time to dry the pages of your sketchbook before you need to run somewhere else.

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

I like color in general, so I don't really care what I use. I haven't worked with oil since my uni days though. But all the rest, yes! Watercolor is tricky, but grateful, acrylics are good for my matreshkas, colored pencils remind me of childhood and felt tip pens are so bold I just can't resist. Gouache Master Class is also one of my favorites. It has such a nice velvet texture!

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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 like Russian watercolors like St. Petersburg's White Nights. I remember them from my childhood. Usually each pan of paint is wrapped in foil, so I felt like a child unwrapping them, like I've got a box of candies. And the quality is excellent, too. Foreign paints are usually too expensive and I hate expensive art tools ... they don't give me any chance to experiment, and I'm always afraid to ruin them. When I travel I tend to choose a small range of materials. For example, last time when I was traveling I had two Pentel Color Brushes filled with Indian black and orange ink, a dark grey Faber Castell PITT liner and two Tombow Dual Brush Pens, light and dark blue. The only thing that never changes is my soft graphite pencil.

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

The main rule is the cheaper the better. I hate all those trendy sketchbooks deep inside.
I don't want to think something like "I need to draw a masterpiece, because this sketchbook looks so nice and costs a lot." Despite that fact, I have some Moleskines, but who doesn't! Cahier Moleskines work best for me. They come in three different sizes, large one is good for projects and research, the one in the middle is for sketching and the smallest one is for notes and quick drawings on the run. My recent love is Muji Scribble Pads, they seem to be made for drawing with pencil. Scrap paper works good too, you just need to bind it properly and to not get irritated by the mess and to keep a step-by-step order.

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

If it's an editorial, then yes, there is some post-processing, but mainly because of rush. Usually deadlines are so tight, I don't have any chance to experiment or make mistakes. With Photoshop I can change the color, add or remove something from the picture in two seconds. With, for example, watercolor I don't have any chances to survive right now. The last editorial piece I was working on, it had to be made in an hour, for example.

On the other hand drawing for myself I make only analogue things. All the pages of my sketchbooks you can see in my portfolio are absolutely hand made.

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

A lot of times! That's how we all share information. For example once I've noticed colorful ink pens with a brush on its end on Bubi Au Yeng's Flickr photostream. I asked her about the brand (it was the Pentel Color brush) and purchased the same thing for myself.

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

Not really. The way your art looks like isn't the result of using some special tool. The most important thing is your personality, way of living, who you are. Your inner world can help to turn an ordinary pencil into the magic wand. And if you don't have much to say, I doubt there's something that'll help you.

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, it's helpful, yes. You see, in case of editorial illustration there are deadlines you can't avoid. And you don't have time to go to the street or library to make a proper visual research. If I need to draw a giraffe, I'd like to look at it one more time to have a fresh point of view. The computer is also an excellent tool for self-promotion. I found my first client through the internet. To be precise, it was the client who found me. Nearly all of them came after they checked out my online portfolio. It helps me to reach art directors worldwide without even sending them a paper version of my portfolio, isn't it magic?! And to meet people! I can't imagine my illustrator's career without the computer now.

Thanks Irina!

You can find Irina Troitskaya online on her portfolio website irtroit.com, on her weblog, and on Flickr (irtroit).