The Tools Artists Use

John Martz

Posted on March 09, 2009 | Comments

John Martz is a cartoonist and illustrator hailing from Toronto, Ontario.

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

I like mechanical pencils so I don't have to sharpen them. I like to use coloured Col-Erase pencils for roughs, too, so I don't have to do any erasing before scanning.

For inking I prefer dip-pens, and my favourite nibs are the Hunt 108 and the Nikko G-Nib. I've played with brushes, but never really took them over nibs, but I do like the Pentel pocket brush pen for sketching.

Tablet-wise I use a Wacom Cintiq.

jm-eat-at

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

I generally use whichever is right for a given project. Generally, most of what I do involves pen-and-ink drawings and Photoshop, so I don't vary too much.

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

See above.

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

Almost all my colour work is done digitally. I can't visualize colours well enough to do them right the first time, and I'm too impatient to do colour studies beforehand, so I like working digitally and being able to alter colours on the fly. I work with dozens of layers and masks which gives me the freedom to experiment in changing the hue and saturation of my colours.

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

Anything will do in a pinch, and there's a certain freedom that comes with using cheap paper since I'm less afraid to make mistakes, and oftentimes the mistakes are what make something great. Expensive sketchbooks can be intimidating, but I do like to use the cheapish generic black hardcover sketchbooks. Their quality seems to vary, and I've found it difficult to find ones with paper that can take ink without bleeding. But when I do, they're the perfect book for me -- I like the size, and they're generally durable enough to toss in a backpack and go.

jm-teenmeme

I like Moleskine notebooks, but I find them too precious for everyday sketching. But I do use the squared graph-paper Moleskines for planning-out and thumbnailing comics since it's quick and easy to throw down grids of various dimensions.

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

Practically all of my colour work is done in Photoshop, so it's not post-processing so much as it is, well, processing. Using the computer is a standard element of my workflow, and many of my illustrations are created from start to finish on the computer without ever having touched a pencil or piece of paper.

But, I do use Photoshop to clean up and edit pen-and-ink drawings. It's often quicker and more accurate to fix things on the computer than to pull out the white ink to paint corrections.

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

On occasion, but generally I just like to scour an art store for things I've never used before and try them out. Recently I've been aching to try out these Ackerman refillable brush and dip-pens on the recommendation of Michael Cho. Twitter is a great place to network with other artists to talk shop, which is where I first read about these pens.

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

I don't have anything particularly unusual, but my favourite art tool is my drafting table from the 1960s that I've had since I was a teenager.

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

I use Photoshop primarily, but Illustrator is indispensable as well for creating geometric shapes and technical drawings. Illustrator is also far more forgiving when playing around with type. Photoshop's type tools are still rather limiting; I prefer being able to pull words and letters apart, convert them to objects, and be able to have fine control over everything.

I have also been playing around with Manga Studio, which I'm discovering has a unique approach to its drawing tools. It's the first digital drawing program I've used where the pen tool feels like and behaves like a dip-pen or a brush. It's still a bit sterile compared to using the real thing, but it seems to have been created with the cartoonist in mind.

Do you approach making art on the computer differently than you do with pen, inks, paper, and paint?

Absolutely. Working digitally allows me to better think in terms of shapes and colours. Working with flat colours on various layers makes the process of building an image a lot more like two-dimensional sculpting sometimes because I can add or take away mass from the shapes I'm working with. Drawing with traditional tools makes it too easy for me to rely on linework to define everything, and forget about the geometry and design of an image.

Since 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? Or perhaps because the client work you do?

I find I do most personal work with traditional tools, because it's a far more intimate experience, and I am not worried about meeting deadlines. With client work, any way for me to economize my time I will, and working on the Cintiq really cuts down on time spent drawing, erasing, inking, scanning, printing, etc.

jm-chirp

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)?

Obviously I find the computer to be a helpful tool for making art, but its greatest uses are just what you mention -- accessing an endless vault of inspiration and reference material, and being able to market myself and keep in contact with clients.

It can also be a distraction. The Internet is an incredible timesuck, which is dangerous when working on the computer, so I find it helpful to disconnect from the Internet every day for a few hours to concentrate on doing work.

Thanks John!

John Martz can be found online at his portfolio and his weblog robotjohnny.com. John is also quite active on Twitter (@robotjohnny) and Flickr (robotjohnny).

And if you're not familiar with John's fantastic comic/cartoon artist and illustrator resource Drawn!, then it's time you update your bookmarks and feed reader!

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Nina Johansson

Posted on March 07, 2009 | Comments

Nina Johansson is an artist living in Stockholm, Sweden teaching art, computer graphics, webdesign, multimedia and some more to kids between 13 and 18 years of age.

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

Variation is fun, but I usually draw with an ink pen, and either leave it as an ink drawing or colour it with watercolours.

nj-recreativos

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

I am not sure, I guess I just choose pens from what my hand feels like holding. You know, sometimes it's a fountain pen day, other times it may be a Micron day... I usually have a few different kinds with me.

Sometimes the paper decides too. Some inks bleed on some papers, so you have to choose pen according to that.

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

Lamy Safari is my preferred choice of pen right now, usually with Noodler's Lexington gray or Polar black ink. The Safari has a little springy feeling that I like, at least with the Extra Fine nib. I use other ink pens too, like Microns, dip pens, technical pens... Usually waterproof. I recently discovered Copic Multiliners, I like those a lot.

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

Watercolours, usually. Sometimes coloured 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?

In watercolours, Schmincke and Winsor & Newton are easiest to come by in Sweden, so those are the ones I use, both pans and tubes. Great quality and loads of pigments in both brands.

I have all kinds of sizes on my palettes, from tiny travel sets to a huge tool box with tube paints. I use an English handmade travel set most, the tool box is for larger paintings and experimenting.

I sometimes use coloured pencils too, Faber-Castell Polychromos are the ones I like best. They are very soft and rich in colour.

nj-wc_experiment1

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 paper will work, if I happen to have forgotten my sketchbook at home, but I prefer to use my own hand-bound sketchbooks. That way I can get the paper and format I want. I have yet to find a store-bought sketchbook that is actually good for both drawing and watercolours.

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

I enjoy working on my images in Photoshop, adding colours and textures and so on, but I rarely have time to really sit down and do it thoroughly. I teach computer graphics (among other things) so I get to do it a lot at work, and that makes me prioritize working by hand in my spare time.

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

Many times. I am, in fact, an addict to new pens, I try them all. Then I usually go back to my Lamy Safaris...

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

Not that I can think of, really. Well, I adore patterns, so I cut a lot of stencils with repeating patterns, but you don't see a lot of those in my sketches. I use them more for paintings and larger works.

nj-kit2

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

I rarely do purely digital stuff, but I use Photoshop and Illustrator pretty much, couldn't choose one over the other since they do different things.

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 with traditional art tools more in my own art, and digital tools at work. I enjoy digital work very much, but computers never get your fingers dirty or let you splash around with water or messy paint. I like that, so traditional techniques will always be part of what I do. There aren't as many "happy accidents" in digital work...

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)?

nj-kit

I think computers are very helpful AND a huge distraction. I find a lot of inspiration on the internet, and I have made a lot of online acquaintances (of which some have become real-life friends) with people who share my interest in drawing and painting. I keep an art-related blog and get a lot of feedback, so for social and inspirational purposes, the computer beats everything. But these are also the things that easily consume a lot of time, time that I could have spent drawing, for instance. You have to find a balance in how much time you spend online - even if it's inspirational and informative.

The computer is a great tool for making art, but I don't use it to make art that tries to replicate traditional techniques (such as drawing or painting directly in Photoshop). I think real art supplies are better for that. Purely digital art often looks a bit dead, it takes some handmade work to make it interesting.

Thanks Nina!

Nina Johansson can be found online at her blogspot weblog ninajohansson.blogspot.com and she also regularly contributes to the wonderful Urban Sketchers weblog. Nina's portfolio is located at ninajohansson.se.

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Meg Hunt

Posted on March 05, 2009 | Comments

Today's interview is with the Arizona-based illustrator Meg Hunt.

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

Let's see... I have a lot of tools that I use for different things-- I love brushes and ink for drawing, along with pencil (either Col-erase or mechanical). When I screenprint, I prepare drawings with ink and carve out Rubylith for separations with an X-acto knife. Waves mach 2, by Meg HuntI also really like using sumi ink, acrylic gouache, and random pens and charcoal for doodling. For coloring my illustrations, my drawing tablet and Photoshop are pretty key.

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

I have a lot of tools (a lot of which I don't use right now), but I've grown used to a small set of them and it depends really on what I'm working on-- I'm used to drawing my illustrations on bristol board using ink and Kolinsky sable brushes-- I use handmade designer's brushes from Rosemary & Co. After I ink in black, I add in white details with either a dip pen (G nib) or a brush or an Ackerman pump pen. I'll also sometimes use a light-box to ink other color separations, textures, etc to layer in on Photoshop when I color later. If I'm working on a screenprint, I carve out separations largely with Rubylith and an X-Acto knife-- it's more time consuming than perhaps doing it digitally but I like the old-school method and working in reverse like relief printing.

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

I use a few different inks but largely the brand I favor is Dr. Ph Martin's -- the brands I am mentioning here are theirs. For drawing screenprinting separations, I use Black Star HI-Carb ink. For white ink I use Pen-White, and for drawing on bristol I use Bombay black ink.

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

I like color either in screenprinting-using custom mixed inks with pure pigments-or using gouache.

mhunt-tricycle-suck-up-screenprint

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 Acryla gouache -- I just started learning a few months ago and have been really getting into it lately. I have a mixed set of 18 or so paints-- it's enough to get a wide range of color but not too many that it'd overwhelm me.

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 random sketchbooks-though I couldn't tell you their brands offhand-I usually just aim for as smooth paper as I can find as possible. As long as it doesn't bleed I'm fine! I doodle on random paper here and there too-- or on margins in my bristol board too...

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

Yup, I use Photoshop all the time to color my illustrations-I scan the lineart and color on lower layers, knocking out certain outlines and coloring the rest so it's not heavily outlined.

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

All the time! Sometimes it works out well and sometimes it doesn't. The Ackerman pump pen is a new acquisition that I picked up after seeing Michael Cho mentioning it on Twitter. Most of my supplies are picked up from word of mouth.

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

I think the Rubylith isn't that ordinary anymore just because it's rather archaic. I sometimes will make marks using twigs and q-tips and sponges and toothbrushes and anything I can make texture with.

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 use them both about 50-50-- I'd probably go nuts if I worked totally digitally, but due to time constraints I know I'll probably have to use digital just so I can make quick edits and get things done. I like mixing both-- I often get comments that people don't know how much is digital and how much is analog, so it's always a good challenge to push both. mhunt-giraffe-fruit-pick

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)?

Necessary hardly, but it's definitely useful. I'd be kind of lost without a computer now, but it's invaluable having the internet to research and promote and make connections with my peers, and making art is greatly aided by having a computer and drawing tablet (for me, anyway). It can be really distracting though, what with all the stuff out there-- but it's just a matter of self-control.

Thanks Meg!

Meg Hunt's personal/professional website is at meghunt.com, and her weblog is located at www.meghunt.com/blog/. She can also be found on Twitter (@meghunt) and Flickr (crossedfingers).

Meg is also currently running a offer where she'll paint you an original (an animal of your choice) if you suggest/pass along her name to an industry contact. More details on the offer can be found on her weblog.

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Scott Teplin

Posted on March 04, 2009 | Comments

This interview features Scott Teplin, an artist based in New York City.

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

GRAPHITE: I love weird .3mm heavy Pentel mechanical pencils. It's pretty hard to find a decent variety - but there's a great Japanese book store a few blocks from my studio in Midtown that has a bunch. I usually use Pentel HB polly leads. HB leads in those German Faber Castell wooden pencils too.

Scott Teplin - Alphaville Letter G INK: I use the Gillott 290 nib stuck in a crappy plastic holder. It's a little frustrating getting one started, because half of them just don't work. But the flexibility in the tip makes for such a beautiful line that I've never been able to duplicate it with anything else. When I buy them I pour out about 150 on a table and check each one to see if the tip is perfectly split down the center. If it's a little off, because they are so sharp - the ink won't ever flow properly.

The best black for the buck as far as ink goes is easily with Dr. Martin's Black Star India ink. They make Hi Carb and Matte versions - but I can't tell the difference between the two.

When drawing in my sketchbook - I used to only use Pigma Microns (005s), but I was introduced by a friend to Pilot HI-TEC pens. They come in tons of colors and sizes, have a smooth roller ball that doesn't smear (much), and never gunks up at the tip. I have only seen these at the Japanese bookstore as well - but I think they're sold elsewhere.

BRUSHES: I pretty much only use Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky sable brushes for watercolor.

ERASERS: Gum erasers if I'm planning on water coloring afterward on the same paper. It's a pretty gentle rubber - and doesn't ruin the surface on the paper which could effect the watercolor. If I'm not too pick - those plastic ones - like Mars Plastic are fine too. I use those in the click tubes as well. This Sanford Tuff Stuff eraser is pretty useful, too.

EDGES: I use a crappy $5 roller ruler, a couple heavy (French?) rubber backed aluminum rulers with an inserted steel cutting edge (good for inking and cutting paper & book board). I bought them at New York Central a long time ago and never saw them again. I love ''em. I occasionally use a couple acrylic rulers with a metal edge - but they get dirty/dinged too fast. Finally - I absolutely am in love with my 18" Incra marking rule. It's a bit of a pain to get used to - but the zero is in the center, which makes lettering in weird spots and architectural drawings way easier (than using my dreaded MATH non-skills).

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

Depends on what the project calls for - each one is different.

Scott Teplin - Airplane (crash)

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

see above

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

I'm a little crazy about my work being archival. I almost always use watercolor on paper for color - so I only use professional colors with real pigments as opposed to hues. Almost always Winsor & Newton from the tube. Any art on paper is already going have fugitive qualities - so I figure it's the least I can do.

There's this great little art supply store in Paris where I found a German made blue ink - and never saw it anywhere else. So when I know someone is going there - I send them this page I made along with some cash for them to buy me a bottle.

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 learned to watercolor when I studied in Europe my junior year in college - and I still use my cheap plastic palette I bought in Florence 15 years ago. I also bought a travel Windsor Newton field box that same year, which I use when I paint at home or on the road.

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 extremely anal with paper. I make my own sketchbooks out of Fabriano Artistico bright white hot press 90# paper (100% cotton, sewn with linen threads, bound with linen tape, PVA glue and vegetable tanned Nigerian goatskin). I try using Moleskine books because I'm always getting them as gifts - but the binding is total shit - and they fall apart too easily. Not to mention the paper is shitty. But still - I usually have one in my backpack just in case.

When doing non-sketchbook work - I almost always use the same paper buy in a 140# weight. I but sheets of 22" x 30" as well as 5 foot x 10 yard rolls.

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

No. Most of my stuff is made to be shown as is, live.

Scott Teplin - Supplies

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

Yeah - my friend, the amazing artist Renee French, is the one who gave me a HI-TEC pen a while back. I now have a million of 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?

Digital is only a means to show the hand drawn art online, 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 usually don't like digital stuff. It's too sterile. Sometimes it works perfectly though - like when coloring hand drawn comics. Specifically in the works of Brunetti, Ware and Clowes.

Thanks Scott!

Scott Teplin can be found online at his main website teplin.com, and on his weblog at teplin.com/futuretrash/. His art can also be found in the Adam Baumgold Gallery in New York City, and the g-module gallery in Paris, France.

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Opening up the site for contributions!

Posted on February 22, 2009 | Comments

My original plan for this site was to email and invite some of my favorite artists to answer the interview questions. I still plan on doing sending out interview questions, but I realize that some artists may not be interested, and I only follow a set number of artists' weblogs. Just relying on my interview emails to keep the site updated may result in a slow trickle of interviews. Plus--and this is a big plus--I would be limiting the interviews when I really shouldn't. So, I'm happy to say I'm opening up the site for reader contributions!

There are so many wonderful artists out there that I would love to hear how they approach their work and the tools they use. I learn so much from seeing what others do and use, and I hope that this site can become a helpful resource in that way.

If you're interested, head over to the Contribute page and follow the instructions. There are loads of interview questions there already, but if you see something that may be missing, please let me know and I'll make sure it gets added. I'll eventually put up a form or something to make contributing easier.

Thanks, and I hope you can contribute to the site!