The Tools Artists Use

Ilana Kohn

Posted on May 13, 2009 | Comments

Ilana Kohn is an illustrator living in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

ik-houston-press-cover

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

I love my acrylics. In the tube, in the pot, liquid. I'm also pretty partial to Caran D'Ache crayons, I've got a pretty impressive stash.

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'm pretty particular about my paints. Only Liquitex when it's in the tube, Liquitex or Golden for liquid acrylic though I prefer Golden for line work - it's thinner, easier to control for that perfect, delicate line. Love the Golden heavy body acrylics in the pot.

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 painting on Rives BFK. It takes the paint sooo very nicely. For faces however, I find it a little difficult to really get those tight details in on the Rives. It's a bit rough so I tend to paint those parts on scraps of Canson recycled drawing paper and collage them in. I've tried tons of other drawing papers over the years and always come back to the Canson recycled.

ik-roxanne

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

MDF, been painting on it for years. Used to just gesso the board and then paint on top of that. Now I put down the BFK on top of the mdf and paint on top of that. Illustration board and plain paper always felt too flimsy for me.

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

Everything always gets scanned and photoshopped. I used to work in the InStyle imaging department so I learned photo retouching from the masters. I definitely put that to use once I get the painting into the computer. Sometimes my retouching is just superficial color correction but other times you'd never even recognize the original painting once I’m done.

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?

Being comfortable in Photoshop, I certainly find myself less anxious to make the original painting 'perfect' every time. I always know that I can make those little tweaks after the fact. Buy myself that extra hour or two of sleep when on deadline....It's like 'Apple Z' for painting!

ik-musicians

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)?

Ha, all the above for sure...

Thanks Ilana!

Ilana Kohn can be found online at her portfolio website www.ilanakohn.com, her weblog, and on the group weblog welcome friend or foe.

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Alice Pattullo

Posted on May 11, 2009 | Comments

Alice Pattullo is an illustration student currently studying at Brighton University.

ap-a-womans-touch

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

Brush, or nib pen and india ink. I tend to go through phases of what I like to draw with but this one has lasted for quite a while..!

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

Definitely don't have a wide collection of materials as a student! I use the same pot of ink until it has completely dried out, and I'm particularly fond of an old battered paintbrush with about one strand of hair left in it!

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

N/A, although I do quite like using Rotring pens every now and again. They are nice and inky.

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

I often work in just black and white but if I'm going to use colour I almost always introduce colour into my work through screenprint. I find it really hard to visualise things unless I'm going to screenprint, I think sometimes I get a bit reliant on being able to screenprint because I can't always! Otherwise I'll paint with a combination of inks, gouache, coloured pencils and acrylics.. I find it hard to work with just one of them!

ap-tv-dinner

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?

Favourite paints..I love really cheap black acrylic from WHSmith, but the rest of my paints are Reeves or Daler-Rowney gouache and Daler-Rowney acrylics, I wouldn't have said they're my favourites they are just what I have!

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'm sure everyone has said this but I love Moleskines. Although I prefer just to write and doodle in them than actually properly work in them. Most of my drawings and screenprints I just do onto sheets of cartridge paper.

I like the idea of having lovely chunky black sketchbooks but when it gets round to it I always feel a bit restricted working in a sketchbook.

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

I really don't like adding colour to work on Photoshop because all I can do is the paint bucket pretty much. If I could do textures etc I'm sure I would use it more. However most of my drawings I do on loose sheets of paper, which I scan in then create layouts and compositions on Photoshop which I usually then print out and screenprint.

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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 once saw a man drawing in Paris with a really chunky propelling pencil and lusted after one for years, but could never find one. When I eventually did I didn't actually like it...bit of a waste of time really!

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

Not really. I sometimes do collage with old scraps of paper and collected vintage ephemera although these don't seem out of the ordinary to me! I sometimes introduce textiles and stitch into my work but at the moment I'm pretty focused on printmaking.

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?

Definitely prefer doing things by hand but more and more I find that I need to use the computer for certain projects. I could work purely digital, I would go insane staring at a computer screen. It always feels much more rewarding when you physically/manually produce something as you can actually see the process and mistakes made along the way, where as on the computer that often gets lost, deleted or left behind.

ap-jailbirds

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 as an illustrator its pretty much vital to have a website or at least have an online portfolio of your work because illustrators often get commissioned work through art directors trawling the internet to find new talent, or simply going through links on websites, chances are the links will eventually lead to you.

I look at a lot of illustrators work online and on design blogs etc which I find inspiration from, but its not quite the same as flicking through a book is it?!

Also when doing illustrations you often need obscure images to draw from, and google and flickr are lifesavers in those situations, although again I would much prefer to draw from observation or my own photographs and books.

Thanks Alice!

You can find Alice Pattullo online at her portfolio website alicepattullo.com, on her personal weblog alice-pattullo.blogspot.com, and on the group weblog Illustrator's Elbow.

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Julia Gfrörer

Posted on May 08, 2009 | Comments

Julia Gfrörer is an artist living in Portland, Oregon.

jg-portland-mercury-cover

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

Pencil is my primary medium. Most often I use a .9mm mechanical pencil with a 6H lead to sketch a few guide lines, then finish with an HB lead or, for a bigger drawing, a toddler's fat pencil, like Lyra Ferby or My First Ticonderoga. I use a lot of pressure when I draw, so a thick lead that doesn't break easily is important. And my favorite Rapidograph is essential for any ink drawings or comics.

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

A .35mm (size 0) Rapidograph, the one with the gray collar, is my constant companion, and I've been known to really lose my shit if I misplace that pen when I need it. (You'll know it's mine because it has a strip of black bookbinding tape wrapped around the barrel, and the inside of the cap is stained brown.) I also use a red .6mm Rapidograph for larger drawings, and I have a few others that I only use once in a while, if I need them. All my ink illustrations and comics are done with these pens. (For comics I rarely pencil first, which is probably obvious if you've read my comics.)

I like to use brown ink with a few drops of black, because drawing in brown makes me feel like a monk.

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

Most of my drawings include areas of opaque color laid up against the pencil lines, and I'm always looking for coloring tools that provide the right amount of control as well as opacity. Prismacolor colored pencils are excellent. I also use china markers for lots of my reds and whites. (The red area on my Mercury cover is china marker.) I like pencil-style coloring tools because of the scratchy marks they make. Often the only real color hue my drawings comes from the background, which is a colored card stock, and the drawing itself is executed in black and white pencils.

jg-julia_bikini

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?

Since I prefer a very limited palette (usually only one or two colors plus graphite), a travel or starter kit of paints or colored pencils is useless to me. I buy individual Prismacolors in White, Cream, and Sky Blue Light, and about 90% of my drawings are executed with those colors alone.

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

Bookbinding is a hobby of mine and I generally make my own notebooks and sketchbooks. Most card stocks are fine as long as they take both ink and pencil well, without bleeding or too much smudging (though I like a little pencil smudging). I have seperate sketchbooks for comics, with the panels already in place, and these are a great innovation because they keep me on task, and prevent story fragments from being lost amid fifty sketches of my boyfriend's monkey feet. For a finished pencil drawing, I prefer soft cotton rag papers--Stonehenge, or Magnani Pescia if I can afford it, which I usually can't.

jg-leica-sketch

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

I use Photoshop to make my scanned drawings look more like the originals. The pale blues, for example, tend to scan pretty grayish, so I'll increase the contrast on the image to brighten them and make sure they read as blue online. I sometimes add color for illustration projects, if I'm delivering them digitally--my Brett Dennen poster originally had a white background, but it looked too stark on the scan so I added a pale yellow tint to the entire image--but I would never do that for self-generated work. The original drawing is the finished piece.

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

Yes, but for the most part that hasn't worked out for me. I love other people's charcoal line drawings, for example, but my own never satisfy me. The one exception is the Rapidograph pen, which I always insisted I didn't need, until my boyfriend started using one and I got envious.

jg-the-fog-comic

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

Two slim hardcover books: "The Life and Times of Saint Francis of Assisi," a children's biography with full-color photos of his relics, and "Les Bidochon: Ragots Intimes," a pretty dark French comic book about lower-class married life. Both of them provide a lightweight, portable drawing surface, safe storage for unfinished work, inspiration, or distraction, as needed. I don't have a desk, but I always keep one of these books with me.

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 do a lot of my drawings from photos that I take myself or find online, so the computer is an important part of my work in that respect. The internet can be a distraction, but it's so useful for research, and to keep in touch with other artists and with people who want to support your work, that any artist who doesn't use it is handicapped.

Thanks Julia!

Julia Gfrörer can be found online on her website thorazos.net and on Flickr (thorazos).

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Mick Statham

Posted on May 06, 2009 | Comments

Mick Statham is an artist based in Staffordshire, UK.

ms-skaterboy

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

When I sketch it is usually with ink. A drafting pen or markers are my favourite choices. I find that you can't hide your mistakes when you draw directly in ink. I love that. Occasionally I will use a blue pencil. This allows me to ink over this so that when scanned, the blue sketch lines can be edited out.

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

In the past I have used pretty much anything to hand to create art. Spray paint, oils, acrylic. makers. You name it and I've probably used it. These days most of my pre-production work is done on a computer with Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro and Illustrator. But when it comes to sketching I'll always stick to ink.

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

Always black, if I'm using ink, and always 0.5-1.0 tip Edding draft pens. Markers can range from thin to really thick tip. Sometimes I'll use a brush pen. I'm trying a few different makes to find perfect brush pen for me.

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

On the odd occasion that I actually have the time to paint, I do prefer Oils. But I still mix it up a bit when it comes to the media that I use. It depends what the work calls for.

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?

My favourite markers are Pantone make. Auto spray paint is also good.

ms-hades-screenprint

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 very rarely get to work outside the studio as that is where my screen printing equipment is, however I always carry a sketch book and a drafting pen or two.

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 I have a choice I'll always pick a Moleskine note book, just for the cool factor really, ha, ha. But really anything that you can draw on is fine with me.

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

I always paint on plywood panels. I get these cut to size at a local timber merchants. I like unpredictability of the surface. No two respond the same to the paint. My screen prints are done on acid-free paper, about 200lb. smooth surface.

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

For my screen prints I'll always use my computer to create the image. Even if I have prepared something by hand it usually ends up being scanned and into Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro and edited.

ms-infamouse

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

Sometimes but mostly I'll see something new in the art supply store and try it out for kicks.

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

I did use coffee granules once as an aging agent for the ply wood on a couple of pieces that I did way back.

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

I don't create collages per se, but my current work is created from found bits and pieces as well as original elements. I do use allot of imagery that I find either in magazines or on the Internet. I'll fiddle around with a scan or picture from the web until it is suitable for what I need.

Do you have any special tools you use for creating collages? A particular X-acto knife, or a certain stamp set?

Just the computer and my scanner.

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

Mainly Paint Shop Pro, Photoshop and Illustrator. Layers are the best thing ever. I use Illustrator to convert scans of my like drawings into vectors.

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?

These days the pre-production work is always finished off digitally. This isn't a preference it's just how the product dictates how I work. I need to produce acetates for the screens that I'll print from. So, even if everything is done by hand, the final stage will always be scan, fiddle and print.

ms-beetlebum

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 that the use of a computer is invaluable these days. Even if you don't use it for producing the work, the promotional opportunities are so much better in cyber space and save on shoe leather. That said, I have the attention span of a gnat so when I'm online it is so easy to get distracted. Before you know it, two or three hours have gone by and you have nothing to show for your time. I try to update me blog at least once a week, if possible. I find that this simple process helps me to think about my work, what I've done and ideas for the future.

Thanks Mick!

Mick Statham can be found online at his website/portfolio mickstatham.com and on his weblog.

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Ed Kwong

Posted on May 04, 2009 | Comments

Ed Kwong is an artist and illustrator living in Vancouver, BC.

ek-siren

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

Good old F and H pencils are what I've been using lately. Col-erase pencils are fun as well. For sketching I quite like brush pens that you can cut up and cheap ballpoint pens that leak and do funny things are great.

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

Depends how I'm feeling. Some mediums are more forgiving that others and things either lends themselves to good drawing days or not.

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

I found these really cheap, almost poorly made black dollar store pens made by a brand called Menji. They're not really good writing pens per say but great to sketch with. I find pens that do sometimes unexpected things are more satisfying to sketch with and things turn out to be a bit spontaneous.

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

I really like watercolour and gouache, though I don't consider myself very proficient with either medium. Coupled with pencil crayons and Photoshop, the mix is interesting to work my colour with. I have a love/hate relationship with Acrylics. Sometimes they do what I want and other times they drive me up the wall as I'm not the fastest worker. I'd really like to get back into oil painting like my early art school days.

ek-popgun

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?

Paints, I generally stick to Winsor & Newton and Golden, but I haven't branched out much. I'm ashamed to say I bought a pocket watercolour set recently, but have yet to put it to any good use yet.

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 sketch mostly in my Moleskine sketchbook, but any heavyweight drawing paper is good. Bond paper is okay too.

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

I like to paint on heavyweight paper (140-300 lbs watercolour paper block is nice) or cheap scraps of masonite.

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

I use Photoshop quite often in terms of applying colours or tweaking, but not exclusively. Lots of the foundation work is done in gray scale with traditional media, with colour applied afterward.

ek-sketchbook

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

Sometimes. Much more satisfying to experiment and muck about on your own.

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

Nope, can't say that I do.

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?

Lately it's been half and half, but I find myself pushing towards traditional methods more and more. With no undo key, it keeps you on your toes and at the end of the day feels more fulfilling to me.

ek-hyde

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 don't think it's necessary at all really. Walk into an art museum and look at a masterwork on the wall and that'll say enough. If anything it's been bad and good. Bad in the sense that it can be a crutch, where you can come to rely too much on simple tricks, smoke and mirrors and what not. Things can look mechanical or devoid of any personal human touch. Really depends on the industry you work in too. They're indispensable when it comes to things like concept art where you can quickly make edits and pump out variations of pieces in relatively short time.

I'd have to say they sometimes help take the edge off my short comings as an artist, but I find them convenient at the same time. In saying that though, I make more of an effort these days to use the computer as a post processing tool because I really prefer putting real media to whatever canvas I choose. That's fundamental.

Thanks Ed!

Ed Kwong can be found online at his portfolio website edkwong.com and on his weblog.