The Tools Artists Use

Alycia Garcia

Posted on April 20, 2009 | Comments

Alycia Garcia is an artist and Illustration Senior at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

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

My favorites are mechanical pencils and Prismacolor markers.

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

My decision on what media to focus on in a project is usually determined by the previous piece. If the last illustration was constructed mostly from cut paper, then I might focus more on the use of pen or embroidery for the next. I try not to fall into a formula for making pieces.

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

For drawing materials I prefer Prismacolor markers, usually .03-.005, and mechanical pencils. Sometimes I'll use Prismacolor colored pencils or markers for color.

For papers and fabrics, I respond more to the texture and color. I spend a great deal of time sifting through papers, and just try to find samples that draw me in. I like the juxtaposition of different patterns and textures. I also incorporate a lot of my own handmade paper.

For all stitching I use DMC embroidery floss.

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

For color work I feel best using cut paper, thread, fabric, or a combination of the three. If I can cut it up and sew through it, it's usually fair game.

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 don't really ever use wet media, and pencils and pens are always a staple that I carry with me everywhere. I've found that threads and papers aren't necessarily the easiest to travel with, so most of my art making is done from home, with access to a wide range of materials.

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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 find I have a hard time drawing on a surface if the material is too flimsy or has no tooth to it. For quick sketches, any piece of paper will do, but if Im sitting down to draw I prefer to use something more substantial. Recently I have gotten into book making, and right now am working out of several sketchbooks I have made from heavy printmaking paper.

I have several Moleskines, but find I have a hard time working in them.

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

I have used Photoshop in the past to create digital collage images. I would scan in found textures and pieces I had sewn and combine them together digitally. These days I am much more interested in the results I get working with the materials traditionally.

I still use Photoshop, although it's for my preliminary work. I do sketches by hand, then color them digitally by collaging the papers and other materials I will be using on top. I find this to be a fast way to get my point across to others and also to work out issues before I start the actual piece.

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

My friend Allison Bamcat always seems to have an endless supply of pens, markers and pencils that I haven't tried before. I pick up new markers or pens after seeing her work with them.

Right now I'm trying to find a comfortable pen/pencil that isn't black or gray. I love the look of drawings in sepia.

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

I make all of my art from cut paper, needlework and fabric, which are not things I regularly see in illustration. I enjoy paper, texture, drawn elements, and embroidery, and am trying to create a way to combine them all into "super illustrations."

In my personal work, I've been working a lot with mola making. Mola is a craft indigenous to the San Blas Islands in Panama, and is basically a reverse appliqué method for quilting, where you cut through several layers of fabric and create a shape with the revealed layer.

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

When I work digitally, I use Photoshop.

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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 find myself getting further and further away from the digital world. I enjoy the sensation of touching different materials, and responding to patterns and textures reacting to one another. The monotonous movements and time spent stitching hundreds of stitches by hand is something I find very therapeutic. The overall feel I get from work done traditionally is not something I can recreate in Photoshop.

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 the computer is a valid vehicle for making art. I have seen artists create beautiful imagery in Photoshop, Illustrator, and Painter. That being said, there's plenty of terrible digital artwork out there, and for me, nothing beats having a physical object in front of me as a final product.

I've found the computer to be a useful tool, both in promoting and getting your artwork out to audiences you might not otherwise reach, and finding inspiration.

Thanks Alycia!

You can find Alycia Garcia online at her website/weblog alyciagarciaillustration.com.

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Ying-Chieh Liu

Posted on April 16, 2009 | Comments

Ying-Chieh Liu is an artist living in Taipei, Taiwan.

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

I like to use pens, I enjoy using traditional tools. I use a drawing tablet everyday, but I seldom use it to do drawings.

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

I use pens in black (for comics and travel sketches), but I also use watercolor pencils and more pens of different colors when I make my travel sketches.

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

Rotring Rapidograph -- mainly black, and sometimes I add colored ink (Winsor & Newton) to it.

Pentel hybrid gel pen -- silver and gold. And the Faber-Castell Ecco Pigment pens.

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

I like the color of oil painting, but the material is so complicated for me, and it's messy, so now I seldom use it.

Now I mainly use colored ink and watercolor pencils.

If you do use paints, inks, pencils, or markers for coloring, are there any in particular that are your favorites? Do you prefer travel sets of paints to a full set?

I think my favorite are watercolor pencils, because they are convenient and simple.

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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?

My favorites are Il Papiro paper (made in Italy) and Moleskines. But the paper of new Moleskine Japanese Album is different, and I don't like the new paper, it's too smooth (not rough enough) for me, so now I've stopped using them.

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

I only like to draw on books.

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

Sometimes. Like recently I used Photoshop to cut a shape from my original drawing, that I'll use to make T-shirts.

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 found the Moleskines via a Flickr group.

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

Once I tinted with a tea bag, and sometimes I'll use my fingers.

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

Photoshop, more than Illustrator.

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 do non-digital drawings. It's more comfortable and I enjoy it. And I don't want to carry a computer everywhere I go, but I am happy to carry a sketchbook. I do like to use the computer and the internet, but not for drawing.

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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)?

Yes, the computers are so helpful, they are my slaves :)

I think the ruler is hard to use, but the computer is easy to use. I use the computer to make my comic books. I've made homepages for the last 10 years. And I've found that Flickr is a nice place to show my drawings.

Thanks Ying-Chieh!

Ying-Chieh Liu can be found online at her website liuyingchieh.com/imagination/, and posting regularly on Flickr (imagenation). Some of Ying-Chieh's comics, art prints, and decorated wallets can be found on her Etsy shop.

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Jenny Vorwaller

Posted on April 13, 2009 | Comments

Jenny Vorwaller is an artist living in Seattle, Washington.

jv-conversations

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

I really adore calligraphy pens, the felt tipped, waterproof archival kind... they are superb for correspondence, making my titles and handwriting a little more fancy. There's something magic to those Zig brand pens, that give my lines an extra edge. Also totally addicted to gel pens, their flow and ability to blend or bleed a bit into watercolors depending on what I'm doing is satisfying. As for pencils, I love all kinds, but they have to be totally sharpened at all times since I draw so lightly and like details. I use a metal sharpener that makes a killer point.

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

I'm a bit spread out as far as mediums go - since I always have to be creating, I never run out of projects to do and rotate between them all to keep the momentum alive. If the light is right (sun is now coming to Seattle) I'll pick one of my many loaded film cameras and go shoot some frames; if I have new music to paint to, I'll be at my desk bursting out the watercolors... My jewelry line is always in the forefront, I work on something for it everyday - whether it be shipping orders, dropping off pieces at boutiques, sketching and researching new ideas or getting out all my chain and laying out what's next.

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

Uni-Ball Signo 207 Gel Pens. Black!

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

Yes please.. all of the above. Especially watercolor. Before my first son was born, I primarily worked in oils. But I soon turned to water-based paints when I found out I was expecting him to cut down on the fumes and chemicals I haven't looked back since - and he's seven! I love my set of Prismacolor pencils, I've used them for years. And anything from cheap craft paint to pricey real deal tubes can yield all different results depending on the purpose I need them 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 of paints to a full set?

I adore my flat, folding palette. Even if I'm at my desk, I work from it, and it's the same one that I've traveled to South America and Europe with. It's simple, clean and reliable and I have all my colors right there for me when I need them. When I'm ready to work on another project and need to clear my desk space or take it with me, they are easily whisked away or tossed in my bag. It holds 28 of my most used colors, and has lots of room for mixing, so I always have an extra tube of white with me. There's also this amazing Niji waterbrush my Mom discovered and sent me a few years ago, it's brilliant for 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?

Like pencils, I'm not picky to any one type, everything changes depending on the project or mood. Right now I'm using this small square sketchbook, the Co-Mo Sketch 6 x 6 with heavy weight paper that takes wet media because the size is so easy to take with me. Oddly enough though, most of my best ideas and sketches come from tiny scraps of papers that I find while I'm not around my materials or have anything with me and I make do with the back of something I find... napkins, flyers, anything. Then I take it back to my desk and expand from there. You never know when inspiration will strike! I think it's important to stay flexible and adaptable, able to work with anything.

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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?

All surfaces excite me. I've painted on glass, discarded wood, prepped canvas, linen, cardboard, fabric...

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

I have experimented with working pieces that way, and I really enjoyed it! But I've found that lately, the most digital my work gets is when it's scanned. I guess like to get my hands messy and into the materials.

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

Alexander Calder's use of industrial metals in his jewelry has always given me more bravery. And reassured my belief that artists shouldn't be turned off to anything that isn't precious or seen as what only the professionals use. I think finding and giving meaning to vision is what the artist is all about, no matter what the material.

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

Oh yes. Many times my jewelry is created from something offbeat and unconventional, not typically meant for jewelry. Travel really fuels my interest and ideas for wearable art. I've used enamel address numbers found at street antique markets, miniature train set figures, old charms that are typically hung on candles or alters to offer to saints in Mexican cathedrals... I like that challenge that jewelry designing proposes: there is always something new.

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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 really appreciate any way that art comes into form, whatever the method of expression, I believe everything serves the artist as a vehicle to arrive at their unique voice. Sometimes you hear about certain artists who eliminate certain modes of expression, like the photographer who sneers at digital cameras or the painter who finds acrylics to be too synthetic... I agree that we all have preferences, but I wonder why turn off those opportunities? The same is true for the internet... it's a wonderful tool to magnify and connect in what we do. Blogs revolutionized the art world, and its audience, there's no questioning that! It's awesome.

Thanks Jenny!

Jenny Vorwaller can be found online at her weblog true nature, and her portfolio site jvorwaller.carbonmade.com. Prints of her photos and artwork can be found at HER Studio, and her jewelry at Natural Historie.

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Nathan Stapley

Posted on April 10, 2009 | Comments

Nathan Stapley is an artist originally from California, now living in New York.

Painting by Nathan Stapley

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

I love pens and pencils, I haven't played with markers too much lately but those are nice too. But mostly pens and pencils are my favorite drawing tools. lately I really like this mechanical pencil I have.

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

I guess it depends on a lot of things, from what's laying around to what kind of surface I'm going to be drawing on.

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

I can say that I love most Japanese pens. There are these really nice ones called HI-TEC I think. they come in all tip sizes and I would always have a few different ones. I'm out of them now though, I need to find a good place to get them around here. I like the brush pens too with the stiff tips. another pen I like to use sometimes is the ball point, they are kind of like pencils in a way.

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

Mostly oil, gouache, and watercolor.

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 mostly use a limited palette, I try to paint with like 4 colors tops. I guess I have my favorite colors, lately it's been white, ultramarine blue, cad yellow, and burnt sienna. Sometimes I will need a stronger red with that one though. I have a tiny little Winsor & Newton watercolor kit that I carry around, I've had it since like 1998, I refill it as needed. It's awesome. For gouache, I use an old CD cover for a palette and just a few tubes of paint. I haven't painted outside with oils in a long time.

Starbuck

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 Moleskines like the rest of the world. I'm grateful to whoever decided to bring those back from the old days. Sometimes I put too much pressure on myself to make an awesome drawing in those things, which can be good or bad, so I have a crappy sketchbook I bought at Walgreens 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 Masonite a lot, with a nice coat of gesso for an oil painting. For gouache I like the Moleskine paper actually, the kind in the 'sketchbooks'. And watercolor paper for watercolors, I've been meaning to get some good watercolor paper.

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

Sometimes if a scan is weird I will have to tweak it to be more like the original painting before I post it on my weblog.

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

Probably. Whenever I see some great piece of art I get excited about it and want to know how they do it, and look at the tools I think that person used. but I usually realize that it doesn't matter what kind of pen, or brush, or prepared canvas, or painting medium, or wacom tablet I use. but I have discovered things that work for me this way.

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

I don't think so, just the usual stuff.

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

I use Photoshop CS2 for my work at Doublefine productions. And the web comics I make there are all Photoshop all the time.

Dog painting

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?

Well lately I've been finding myself doing more digital work for my job, but I'm also starting to use Photoshop for my gallery paintings too, just in the preliminary stages though, composition, color, value. It's a really fast and fun way to plan a painting. I do like drawing and painting in my sketchbook though too.

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 the computer is a very helpful tool for me personally. The internet is amazing for reference. They are small and clean and you can do pretty much everything on them. Weblogs are great for people who know nothing about how to make a website, such as myself. I've also learned about many amazing artists I probably would have never heard of if it wasn't for blogs. I don't think a computer is necessary for making Art at all, but for me they are helpful and yes, a distraction.

Thanks Nathan!

Nathan Stapley can be found online at his weblog nathanstapley.blogspot.com, his portfolio is at nathanstapley.com and he has a online comic at Doublefine. Some of Nathan's prints and original art are available at Gallery 1988.

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Scott Campbell (aka Scott C.)

Posted on April 06, 2009 | Comments

Scott Campbell (also known as just Scott C) is a painter and creator of comics living in New York, NY.

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

When I am sketching, I usually like to use Col-erase blue pencils on zerox paper or 6B pencils. I like to ink with this strange little Japanese pen that I cannot read the writing on, but it is blue on the outside with a small spongeish tip. I like to paint with watercolors using a large flat brush and a cat's tongue brush for the lines and details (which are hard to find, it seems). I also use Photoshop with my Cintiq for piecing things together and trying out value roughs. I also paint full concepts on it for my video game concept work.

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

Well, it is usually all the same. Comics are with the pencils and brush pens, while the watercolors are for the paintings. Almost always. I sometimes watercolor my comics when I have time. When I am sketching, I usually have to feel out what makes me most relaxed to help me think of ideas. I am superstitious like that somehow.

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

I really have no idea what kind of pen this is that I am using, but I have been using it for many years. I can't refill the ink cartridges so I have to keep buying new ones. Expensive and wasteful. I am sorry, the earth.

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

I like watercolors the most because of the texture and airyness. I also have a hard time with committing to things, so I can work light and keep bringing up the value contrast with layers. I can also wipe stuff out if I want. Watercolors are really forgiving. But the texture is what I really dig about them.

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 use Winsor & Newton out of tubes. I look for colors that feel good in a spectrum. The basics.

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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?

Any scrap works good, but I find that copy paper is the most relaxing when I am trying to come up with ideas. I sometimes sketch in little Moleskine books and various spiral bound books and toned paper, but the copy paper is less permanent. I have stacks of doodles on copy paper.

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 rough watercolor paper, so I can get lots of texture!

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

I try not to do this, but when I am concepting, I do quite a lot.

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

Definitely. I have seen numerous artists get great muted colors and textures on paper and tried experimenting after seeing such things. Marcel Dzama gets great muted colors with his work. One of his shows that I saw, really inspired me to explore the watercolor chilled out route.

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

I've been using the same little 50's coffee saucer with the little ring of designs for the past few years. I use it as a palette to mix my paints.

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

I use Photoshop primarily. I have accumulated a bunch of amazing brushes that fellow artists have made, that helps the process a whole lot. The Cintiq has changed my life for sure. I may rely on it too much. When I am away from my home studio, I struggle with a mere Wacom tablet.

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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 prefer non-digital because I like the roughness and imperfect looks. You can get some great texture in Photoshop, but basic drawing and painting materials still feel and look the best for 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 definitely have rules for myself for keeping away from the computer, especially in the mornings. Email and the internet can be very very distracting. But on the other hand it is incredibly helpful to me. Even for my painting process, I use it to piece together all of my doodles and mess with sizes and compositions. I definitely rely on it quite a bit. as far as promoting with weblogs and things, I think it is an amazing tool. I love that part of it. it is very exciting to share your art with people around the world and discover inspiration from others. The quick feedback with comments is very satisfying. It used to be that you slave away on your paintings and comics and wait for the public to see it after it is published, but with the internet, you can get quick fixes of gratification by posting your comics and paintings yourself. I think this has helped my motivation to create tremendously.

Thanks Scott!

Scott C. can be found all over the web! You can start with his weblog at scott-c.blogspot.com, then Flickr (scottlava), and Twitter (@scottlava), his online comic at Doublefine (the first compendium of which will be released by publisher Nerdcore in Spring 2009), and his art is available for purchase at Gallery 1988, Gallery Nucleus, and at a Paper Tiger.