The Tools Artists Use

Julian Callos

Posted on November 30, 2012 | Comments

Julian Callos is an illustrator and gallery artist based in Los Angeles, California.

Too Cool for School, by Julian Callos

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

I love working primarily with pencils, pens, and brushes. For sketching I use Prismacolor Col-Erase pencils (Tuscan Red, mostly) because they draw pretty smoothly. For line work drawings I use Micron pens, but when I want to get a lot of variety in line quality/weight, I'll use a Winsor & Newton round watercolor sable brush dipped in Speedball Super Black India ink instead. I use that same type of sable brush in different sizes (usually 00 to 1) for the line work in my paintings, as well as a few other types of brushes for washes depending on how large an area I need to cover (a size 3 sable brush for small/medium areas, and a size 10 Winsor & Newton Cotman or a random assortment of flat brushes for larger areas). My paintings usually don't go bigger than 18" x 24" so I haven't really had the need to go much bigger than those sizes.

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

First I panic at how many different tools I own, then I throw everything I have in the air and whatever doesn't hit me on the head will be used that day. No, um...It depends on the type of project it is. If I'm just sketching I'll stick to pencils. For finished paintings I'll probably cycle through most of the tools I just mentioned (except probably the Microns and ink, unless I'm doing a black & white ink drawing/painting).

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

For ink drawings I like using Speedball Super Black India Ink + brushes the most, but I use Microns too. I am, however, looking to try out some different pens and hopefully find something that works better than the Microns. I really wish I was better with nib pens because I like the calligraphic quality to their lines, but I've messed up so many drawings with blobs of ink from nibs; I switched to brushes because they allow me to get a similar line quality and are easier for me to control.

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

My paintings are a combination of line work, washes, and flat areas of color. For the line work and flat colors I use Acryla gouache. Usually I'll mix in some acrylic to get the hue that I want or as a filler because I don't want to use up all the gouache. For the washes I use acrylics and occasionally acrylic inks.

What Develops, by Julian Callos

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?

My favorites are Holbein Acryla Gouache, Liquitex Heavy Body Acrylics, and FW Acrylic Artists Ink. I've amassed a bunch unnecessary colors because every time I go to an art store I stand in the paint aisle, look at all the pretty shades, and try to resist (but occasionally give into) the urge to buy a new one to try out. They're just so...mesmerizing. And there are so many of them. And their names are so interesting..."Quinacridone Magenta." "Cosmos Pink." Anyway, usually I'll rein myself in and just stick to a couple different shades of the primary colors when I paint.

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 usually stick to my Canson sketchbook for most sketching because the paper isn't too thick or flimsy, but if I'm on the go I'll sometimes take one of those small, plain Moleskine notebooks for jotting down ideas and making dumb doodles when I'm bored. They're mostly filled with dumb doodles.

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

I paint on Rives BFK paper, sometimes mounted onto a wood panel. Clear gessoed Rives is the perfect texture for the way I like to paint.

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

You Eat Like a Bird (inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho), by Julian Callos

Sometimes I'll adjust the colors of a scanned painting just because the scan isn't perfect, but usually I'll work entirely in traditional media unless I specifically set out to do a digital illustration (which is rare, but I plan on playing around in Photoshop more). Even if I do set out to make a digital illustration, I draw and ink traditionally and just color the scanned line work in Photoshop.

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 I started using brushes to do line work after reading about a comic artist using it for his drawings and I've been in love with the technique ever since. I forgot who the artist was, though. It may have been Craig Thompson. I've also heard good things about the Pentel brush pen, so I want to try that out.

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

When I make sculptures sometimes I'll use unconventional materials, which are usually just things that are lying around the house. One time I made a banjo for a sculpture of Harold from "Harold and Maude." The banjo was a mix of Sculpey, wire, wooden skewers, brads, a big metal button, and a cupcake wrapper for the banjo head. I'm particularly proud of my ingenuity with that cupcake wrapper. If only all my work involved cupcakes in some way.

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 definitely work non-digitally more. I'm just much more comfortable with traditional tools and I like the tactile experience. Also I am an old man who has no time to learn all these newfangled gizmos and hey you get off my lawn! Just kidding. I don't have a lawn.

Sam sculpture (inspired by Moonrise Kingdom), by Julian Callos

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)?

All of the above! Finding inspiration, promoting your work, networking...all of that good stuff is made SO much easier because of the internet. I'm pretty sure 99% of the people who know my work only know it because they saw it somewhere on the internet. And I've gotten most gigs through some sort of interaction online, whether it was an email response or someone contacting me after seeing my online portfolio. Sure, the internet is a big distraction (the biggest distraction??) but it's also one of the best tools at an illustrator's disposal.

Thanks Julian!

You can find Julian Callos online at his website, on Twitter (@juliancallos), on Facebook, on Tumblr, and you can find prints of his work for sale in his online shop at inPRNT!.

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Laura Park

Posted on November 20, 2012 | Comments

Laura Park is an illustrator and comic artist based in Chicago, Illinois.

Poster for the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo, by Laura Park

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

I like most everything but I favor nib pens, ink, and watercolor. I love drawing in pencil and often I wish I wasn't so bad at drawing with a brush.

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

I try to use whatever fits the project best. If it's possible I like to avoid working digitally. Personally, it's just more satisfying to get my hands dirty and work traditionally.

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

Nib pens are my absolute favorite drawing tool. I use Tachikawa holders with a variety of mostly vintage nibs. My favorite being Hunt Lady Falcons, an oddly perfect crosshatching nib. The Hunt Lady Falcons are crazy difficult to find, so if pressed Eagle Pencil Company made a pretty decent Lady Falcon. I like Esterbrook oval points (or Deleter G Nibs) for standard lettering and Esterbrook 358 for script. I don't really have a favorite ink but Speedball Super Black is good and Winsor & Newton makes nice colored inks.

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

I love paints! Watercolor, acrylic and oils. I wish I had more time to oil paint because the smell and experience is so soothing.

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 a variety of travel kits with pan watercolors (a mix of Schmincke and Old Holland) with one of those Aquash water brushes.

A comic for Saveur Magazine, by Laura Park

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 like Moleskine sketchbook but they're not perfect.

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

When I painted more I liked using everything. Nowadays it's all watercolor on whatever reasonably priced paper I can get.

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

I'll clean up drawing or tinker with my watercolors to correct the colors and often I'll drop out the white in favor of a slightly off white.

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. I'm very promiscuous when it comes to art tools. I think I'm just half convinced that I'm doing it wrong.

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

Aside from vintage nibs I don't think so.

Comic self-portrait by Laura Park

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 try to work more non-digitally. There was a time when I had a job where I was working in Photoshop and Illustrator all day every day. I have no problem with digital work, but for me it felt like it was a skill suck. From my experience, If you watercolor everyday you get better at it and those skills translate into being better with color in a bunch of mediums. Computer skills didn't translate to being skilled in any other medium for me. Also working digitally makes me incredibly indecisive.

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)?

All of the above. For me the difficulty is trying to balance all the good you can use a computer for against all the productivity-destroying-distraction. I don't have a computer in my studio because I can't just be reasonable and use it for research and email.

Thanks Laura!

You can find Laura Park online at her website and on Twitter (@llaurappark).

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Lucy Knisley

Posted on November 07, 2012 | Comments

Lucy Knisley is an illustrator, comic artist, and author living in New York.

An illustration for The American Reader, by Lucy Knisley

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

Faber Castell Pitt pens, S and XS size, B for the black fills. I use .9mm blue lead mechanical drafting pencils, and color either digitally (in Photoshop, using a Cintiq) or using a Winsor & Newton watercolor travel set with a water reservoir brush from Pentel.

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

Depends on the look I'm going for, and what its intended for. More finished stuff tends to make me go digital so that errors can be easily corrected, whereas more freeform stuff I like to watercolor by hand.

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?

(see above)

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 love my little travel watercolor set, because it imposes some limits and lets me get very comfortable with the palette. I do a lot of travelogueing, so I like to be up on my quick watercolor game for when I need to do it in a hurry when I'm on the go.

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 a big fan of Stonehenge paper for watercolors, especially my travelogue stuff. It's nice sturdy paper without too much watercolor tooth, so it makes it easy to do quickly. It's also not too thick, so it can be schlepped around without breaking my back or bank. For inks, I tend to use Aquabee Marker paper, so it doesn't bleed, and because it comes in standard printer sizes in case I want to print out guidelines onto the paper.

Springtime in New York, by Lucy Knisley

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

I used to do a lot of painting in oil and acrylic on canvas and wood and masonite, but I mostly stick to paper these days.

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

Yes-- I usually scan and clean up all my work in Photoshop, and some of my work is digitally colored.

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

Definitely! For sketching and the occasional more inky look, I use a trusty old Pentel pocket brush, which I heard about from friends when it first came out. I scoured all over to find it (now they're everywhere! Hurray!), and absolutely loved it. I also like to experiment with new brushes for Photoshop when I hear about them.

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

I still use the same lightbox that I got for a birthday present when I was about 10. I used to use it to trace Archie comics as a kid. A couple days ago the wire finally frayed and gave out, and I determinedly rewired it myself! It's a tough old thing, but I love it, and I refuse to pay $100 for a box with a lightbulb in it. People are always curious about my travel watercolor set, which I found out recently was discontinued some years ago. I can still buy the little pans to replace the colors when they run out, but it's hard to find a travel set that has so many colors and a place to store my water reservoir brush. Like most of the things I use a lot, it's pretty beat and absolutely covered in paint, but it works like a dream.

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

I'm addicted to the inked page. I very rarely do purely digital work.

An excerpt from Lucy Knisley's comic, Stop Paying Attention

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?

They're both necessary for achieving the right look and feel to a finished piece. Working digitally helps me develop my non-digital drawing skills, and vice versa.

I asked about post-processing on a computer, but do you think the computer is a helpful tool for making art? Whether it’s looking for inspiration online, or using it to build a weblog to promote yourself and your art, do you think a computer is necessary, helpful, or a distraction (or all of the above)?

Absolutely necessary. The internet is the major venue for getting your art seen, critiqued, developed and sold. Interacting and exploring new artists online is a free way to find influences and peers, and even wasting time online can lead to inspiration.

Thanks Lucy!

You can find Lucy Knisley online at her website lucyknisley.com, on Twitter (@LucyKnisley), and her comic Stop Paying Attention.

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Lapin

Posted on October 18, 2012 | Comments

Lapin is a French illustrator, artist, and urban sketcher who lives between Barcelona and Paris.

Urban sketch in Istanbul, by Lapin

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

A black ink pen is my main tool. I always start with the line, which is the most characteristic of my illustration.

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

I tried many brands and the Uni Pin 0.1mm is my favourite one! I also use some red and blue Edding 1800 ink pens, and a grey Copic Multiliner.

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

I'm used to painting with a tiny travelbox of Daler Rowney fine watercolour (18 quarter pans).

I use some waterbrushes (Pentel or Kuretake). 2 waterbrushes give enough autonomy for an intense sketchy day!

I also carry 4 waterbrushes filled with liquid watercolours: a yellow, a blue, a magenta and an orange one. Useful for night sketches. Then I sometimes add some colour pencils or some colour wax...

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 do work on very singular sketchbooks. Some vintage accounting books from the 70s or 80s which I find in flea markets, mainly landscape format (210x150mm). I also carry a small din A6 sketchbook from the Spanish brand Miquelrius. We published together a collection of travelbooks with good paper for ink drawings or quick watercolors covers designed by me. This sketchbook fits in the pocket, and is perfect to sketch on in the subway.

A sketch of Lapin's art gear

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

No, my pages are as I sketched them in the street, no tricks!

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

Participating to some workshops here and there and meeting many other artists (especially other urban sketchers) help me to find the material that fits most to my taste.

And traveling to different countries helps also. I always stop by an art store, and look for some new stuff. Japan’s stores were crazy, I brought back many new pens from there.

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

There is this kind of “bazooka” of 8 different colours of wax, a child thing I brought back from Japan. I love it!

I also have some gold watercolour, gold and silver gel pens, and multicolour pens.

A sketched self portrait, by Lapin

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 use Photoshop to make some collage of my sketches, for some specific application as wallpapers, posters, labels... but for me, it's more a way to promote my work through my blog, my website or Flickr, and to take part of some communities like Urban Sketchers.

But I try to not spend too much time looking at the many blogs of illustrators and artists in Google Reader, and don't care about spending a week sketching around without my Mac.

Thanks Lapin!

You can find Lapin online at his weblog, on Twitter (@lapinbarcelona), and on his portfolio website.

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Bill Carman

Posted on October 10, 2012 | Comments

Bill Carman is an artist, an illustrator, and an educator based in Boise, Idaho.

3 Wishes, by Bill Carman

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

Usually I like something with a fine tip so find myself shopping for pens through Japanese sites. I'll use a gel pen, cheap fountain pens, I love ballpoint pens and even my 6X0 Rotring technical pen.

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

There is very little science to which pen I choose to use in my sketchbook. Although life drawings are most often done with a ballpoint.

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

Rotring, Pentel, and some Japanese pens I get at Jet Pens. Black is my go to color but will use blue or red too.

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

Acrylic with oil thrown in occasionally for finish.

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 love Golden Fluid and Heavy Body acrylics. Fluids are so rich for glazing and their color selection is right up my alley. I prefer buying single colors to sets.

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 can work. I keeps scraps of paper and other surfaces all over my studio. I switch back and forth with sketchbooks using Moleskine, and Moleskine variants, while also trying the occasional new book as long as it fits in my little carry bag.

Bill Carman's contribution to the 2013 NPR calendar

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

I don't like working on canvas. I really enjoy wood, copper, and MDF like panels. But I work on other surfaces too like clayboard, paper-new and antique, and old book covers among other things.

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

I will color in Photoshop especially for illustrations. And digital is great for enhancing and making changes for print and online.

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 am a pen whore so I love trying new ones.

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

I guess I'm not quite sure what does and doesn't fit into ordinary. A blade here, sandpaper there, letterpress type, scratchboard tools and so forth.

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

I don't create purely digital work but if I did I would probably use Photoshop.

If you work both digitally and non-digitally, which do you find yourself doing more? Is there a reason you would prefer one of the other? Is it because of the tools available in either space?

I do traditional more just because I am familiar with it and over the years I find myself doing more gallery work than anything else.

Blue Birch Crown, by Bill Carman

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 absolutely believe that the computer can be a valuable tool for all those reasons you mention plus making new art acquaintances and colleagues all over the world. But it can also be a time danger as well as a false sense of "good". There seem to be so many places where one can go to get unsupported praise. "You're work is awesome, You rock, You're the best artist ever, etc." It's a real danger to listen to praise especially when it only leads to more praise and not to an ultimate goal like making a living.

Thanks Bill!

You can find Bill online at his Facebook page, and on his weblog: bill's studio.