The Tools Artists Use

Andrew Kolb

Posted on September 26, 2012 | Comments

Andrew Kolb is an artist and illustrator from Kitchener, Ontario.

Geri's Pet Store (for The Pixar Times), by Andrew Kolb

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

Well most of my work is done digitally so a drawing tablet for sure. I use a Wacom Intuos 4 (I'm not sponsored by them, I just really like it as a machine....oh and if Wacom is reading this then just because I'm not already sponsored doesn't mean I wouldn't consider it). Goodness I'm one question in and I've already gone on a tangent.

So aside from the tablet, of which I use for all of my finished work, the process stuff relies entirely on pencils and paper and erasers. The classics. Without those the tablet would be pretty well useless in that my ideas develop best in the sketching and doodling stage.

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

As most of my work is digital, a "wide collection" applies less to paints versus markers as it does the options of software, brushes, tools, and the like! So with that in mind I tend to first choose the computer program that makes the most sense for what I need to do. If I'm in an early stage working with simple forms then I'll go to Illustrator. If the work is more gestural, or I'm at a stage where more texture comes into play, then it's Photoshop all the way. Once in either of these it's rather hard to pin down what I'll use on any given day.

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

This isn't specific to art, but I looooooooooove love the pens you get in hotels. I don't travel too often but when I do, I take all the pens. ALL of them.

Travel poster for fictitious location from the Metroid video game series, by Andrew Kolb

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

I like my colour limited. Whether digital or traditional, I rather enjoy working within the constraints of a selective palette. It can be as extreme as black + white + third swatch or simply creating a palette before beginning and only using those 8, 10, maybe 20 colours.

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 and hate paint. I mean I love it from afar and respect anyone who can master it. But dang I can't handle wet media.

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

Scraps all the way. I'm huge on recycling so I keep a stack of any sort of paper with a blank (or nearly blank) surface. I do my best to put my work into sketchbooks once the initial doodle takes shape, but those kernels of inspiration usually find their way onto the back of junk mail or sticky notes.

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

No capes. No paint. But actually capes are fine.

Poster for the TV show The Walking Dead, by Andrew Kolb

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

I don't know how out of the ordinary this is, but I rather enjoy taking pictures of food and using them as texture in my artwork. Bread and toast are actually super great. Does that count?

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

Oh hey this is why I shouldn't ramble so much! So the Adobe Creative Suite (again, no sponsorship but I extend the same invitation as I do to the kind folks at Wacom) is my jam. As for frequency of use, I almost always finish my work in Photoshop. Occasionally I'll skip Illustrator and go straight to the big blue PS, and because of that it gets a bit more wear and tear. But it's software so it doesn't actually get worn down.

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)?

Man this is a big question! Okay. I definitely agree that the computer is useful as an art making tool. I haven't really had anyone consider the work I create NOT art because it was created digitally. With that said, I do run into a few people who request commissions and are put off by the fact that the finished piece would be digital. Maybe it's that the professional art buyers accept digital artwork but the personal market is still catching up? Maybe?

Illustration for Random House's magazine, Hazlitt, by Andrew Kolb

Inspiration and research on the internet is second nature. There is simply so much available at once. However I try to keep it balanced. In the same way that I draw by hand first and then refine it digitally, I try to research and acquire resources traditionally as well. Oh yeah we were talking about toast textures! Exactly what I'm talking about. There are heaps of texture resources online and when I can't find something myself then the internet is super handy. However I have a ton of old books beside me that I might as well scan the blank pages in for my own textures. Variety is the spice of life, my friends.

Uuuuuuh, what else with the internet? Right. So for self promotion I couldn't imagine any other way. I mean I can IMAGINE a world without the internet as a tool for self-promotion, but it's not one I'd like to live in. I think I've met maybe 5% of my clients in person? Maybe close to 10%. For me I rely heavily on my web presence as a draw for work. Even in the real world I'll direct people I've met to my website only for us to meet again to discuss the project.

So in short, is the computer...
Necessary: For me, yes.
Helpful: 80% of the time
Distraction: the other 20%

Thanks Andrew!

You can find Andrew online on his portfolio site, Kolbisneat, his weblog The Kolblog, on Twitter (@kolbisneat), and on Flickr. You can buy some prints of his work in his shop, The Neat Shop.

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Lisa Hanawalt

Posted on September 12, 2012 | Comments

Lisa Hanawalt is an illustrator and an award-winning comics artist living in Brooklyn, New York.

Cover of the book Lisa Hanawalt illustrated, Benny's Brigade

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

I mostly use pens and watercolor, but I like all of the above!

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

Ideally I try to match the medium I'm using with the mood I'm going for in the artwork, but sometimes I just use whatever seems like the most fun at the moment. If I’ve been working digitally for awhile, I definitely feel more inspired to go back to traditional media and vice-versa. Switching back and forth keeps me from getting into a rut.

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

Microns have been working best for me for the last few years, and sometimes I use a Pentel Pocket brush (although lately I prefer a real brush + ink).

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

With the exception of oil, I enjoy using pretty much any medium for coloring. Of all of those, I think I'm strongest at watercolor... but I've been messing around more with gouache and colored ink.

Poster design for the 2011 Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival, by Lisa Hanawalt

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 travel watercolor set made by Royal Talens, Holbein gouache, and Dr. Ph. Martin's Radiant Concentrated inks.

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

Rives BFK is my favorite paper right now, but I also use a lot of Bristol Vellum. I like Arches when I need something more toothy.

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

I've always hated painting on canvas for some reason, I hate those little bumps! I always use paper and paint in thin washes to prevent it from buckling - I'll take warping over canvas bumps any day.

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

I clean things up a little in Photoshop, and I'm getting braver about coloring with it and even correcting line art by drawing on my Wacom tablet. But generally I prefer doing things the old-fashioned way.

Visions of Thanksgiving (for the New York Times), by Lisa Hanawalt

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

I'll try anything new if it's physically handed to me, or I might seek something out if one of my favorite artists recommends a particular tool in an interview.

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

Not really, but I like sculpting with clay or papier mache whenever I'm not busy with other projects.

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

Photoshop! I hate Illustrator. I've heard good things about Manga Studio, so I might try that at some point.

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 work because it's just more fun and I'm innately a get-the-hands-dirty kind of artist. That makes it sound like I make paintings out of mud, but well, basically yes. Working digitally can be totally enjoyable but it always feels like working.

Street construction drawing, by Lisa Hanawalt

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)?

The internet is indispensable when it comes to self-promotion, research, and community. I use it for connecting with fans of my work, looking up reference photos, and forming relationships with other artists I admire - it's great!

However, it's also a distraction and sometimes I think looking at endless illustrations on Tumblr can leave you feeling like an uncreative husk. And while social networking is helpful for many reasons, it still can't compete with the power of face-to-face meetings.

Thanks Lisa!

You can find Lisa online at her website lisahanawalt.com and on Twitter (@lisadraws). The book Lisa illustrated, Benny's Brigade, is available now from McSweeney's (the book's publisher) or Amazon.com.

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Patrick Vale

Posted on September 05, 2012 | Comments

Patrick Vale is an artist and illustrator living in London.

London skyline, by Patrick Vale

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

All of the above, my favourite is a pen which allows a fluid line, like a brush dip pen or a technical pen. It really depends on the brief and the size really. Don't use pencil so much, but should! Love a drawing tablet, but only use to colour really. Just ordered iPad 3 and Wacom stylus, so watch this space.

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

It depends on the brief. The architectural illustration I do needs to usually have a fine line and no heavier marks, so I will use a technical pen. For other stuff I do, that's just for me, I like to use anything really.

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

Posca, Rotring art pen, Pilot drawing pens, and Winsor & Newton ink.

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

Ink, watercolour, gouache, markers, and the computer.

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?

Just good quality paints, I mix my own colours.

Shelving and bikes, by Patrick Vale

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

No real preference. A large Moleskine is nice as a sketchbook and they do a watercolour paper one now as well which is great.

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

Don't really paint at the moment, but canvas is a nice surface to work on.

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

Yup. I use Photoshop to colour depending on the brief.

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

No, I like to try things out myself.

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

No.

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

I never do this. I draw always freehand on paper, and will colour sometimes in Photoshop.

Florence, Italy, by Patrick Vale

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?

Totally job dependant, I like both. Only use Photoshop if I want a computer-coloured "look." If I want the work to look loose and inky, I will actually do it on paper. I don't trick this digitally.

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)?

Th computer is amazing, but it is just a tool. If you don't have the basic skills and a good eye you get found out.

Thanks Patrick!

You can find Patrick online on Twitter (@patrickavale) and his portfolio website. More of his art and contact information can be found through his agent, début art. And if you're one of the few that has yet to see the timelapse video of Patrick sketching the New York skyline, go watch it now!

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Mikkel Sommer

Posted on August 29, 2012 | Comments

Mikkel Sommer is an illustrator and comic book artist living in Berlin, Germany.

A page from the comic titled The Meaning of Life, by Mikkel Sommer

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

Tools that I can draw fast and dynamically with, and that doesn't require much pressure, since my wrist is on the weak side at times. So pencils, H2 or Prismacolor Col-Erase for sketching, and B2 or B4 for clean up, usually with a mechanical pencil, cos it gives you more accuracy. I also really like those cheap bic pen, those you have to click, they got a nice soft feel to them, but they run out of ink pretty fast. I might also uses brushes sometimes, right now it's a synthetic DaVinci, and thick ink. Microns really cripple my lines, so those don't work for me at all, but I've always liked the look of nib pens, but it's something I really need patience for, since you can't draw with them as freely and as wildly as pencils and brushes. And towards the end I pretty much use a Wacom tablet and Photoshop.

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

It's always hard to decide these things for me. I know that some tools are faster for me, but that some other tools might need less after-work and digital fiddling about, so I guess it's up to the work I have to do.

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

I would love to do more analog work, especially paint, watercolors and pastels. I don't really have the patience yet, for mixing the colors and all that, but I do hope to start experimenting more with those soon. Right now, doing comics, it's all about efficiency, producing pages fast that I'm still for the most part satisfied with.

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 always get nervous in front of a piece of good quality paper, I don't what it is, some pressure I put on myself. I've never used a sketchbook either, I never know how to start them, and I'm such a perfectionist that I wanna rip out pages that doesn't work with the rest, which is a silly thing to do with a book that's supposed to be for experimentation and trial and error. I sketch on paper that I've used before, on the back, and I draw on cheap recycled 80g photocopy paper.

Illustration for The New York Times, by Mikkel Sommer

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

That's what I do, yeah. I do my lines on paper, and my colors in Photoshop, it's quick and it's what I'm used to.

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'm always trying to avoid the overly digital look when I work in Photoshop, with customized brushes and textures. Also, doing most of your values and textures in the drawing process, gives you less to do in Photoshop. I'm trying to avoid fiddling about too much, it's difficult, you can keep on going, pulling things around and making new layers. For me the key is restraint, and I still feel like I have a long way to go.

Homage to artist Jean Giraud (Moebius), by Mikkel Sommer

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 it's crucial! All the illustration, animation and comic book gigs I've gotten since I started freelancing, are all thanks to my blog and my email. I wouldn't have gotten anyway without those, at least not the places I am now and the people I'm working with. I'm not saying it's impossible to make it in comics and illustration nowadays without a computer, but it's very very difficult. I think clients like to write you, and expect a quick reply. And yes, then there's all the distractions. That's the curse of the internet, and something most of us fight with I guess, boredom, procrastination and escapism.

Thanks Mikkel!

You can find Mikkel online at his weblog, Satan Said Draw.

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Tommy Kane

Posted on August 15, 2012 | Comments

Tommy Kane is a squirrel who lives in Brooklyn. When not on the streets of the world drawing he is a Creative Director for an advertising agency.

Jogeysa Buddha, by Tommy Kane

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

I always use one pen. The Uni-Ball Vision fine pen. Then I have a Winsor & Newton watercolor set and Prismacolor pencils. I keep my tools very basic.

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

I don't have a wide collection on purpose. This way I have no decisions to make. I just start drawing. My only decision is what am I going to draw.

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

Uni-Ball pens are my friends. I like the point size of the pen and I like how smoothly it flows. They are waterproof and can take a beating.

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

I'm a watercolor and colored pencil kind of guy. Because I draw on the street I keep my materials very small. I have a tiny watercolor set with few choices of color. I have to mix like crazy to get other shades. I would love to have more choices but I just can only lug so much around with me.

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?

Like I said I am a travel set kind of guy. I don't do my drawings at home. I could take photos and try to do it all in a nice little studio with lots of choices of materials. I draw everything on the street so I keep it small. Winsor & Newton or Schmincke watercolor sets.

Pike Place Market, by Tommy Kane

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

I use quite a few. Sometimes I like to work large and sometimes in notebooks. I'm a fan of Stillman & Birn drawing books. Of course, Moleskine. I also love Canson cold press watercolor blocks, 11 X 14 inches.

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

In the past I have done a bunch of paintings. I do them with acrylic paint on cardboard. I gesso it a bit first and then paint right onto the cardboard. They came out great.

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

I always adjust the color in Photoshop. I make my drawings look richer. But I don't do any real part of the artwork with Photoshop. I do all the coloring and drawing by hand.

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

Not really.

Mixed-media painting on cardboard, by Tommy Kane

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 have found the computer to be a great tool for artists. I find tons of inspiration and I have made connections with some of the best artists in the world. I have been able to successfully promote my work to people all over the world. It's like I can publish my own Tommy Kane magazine each week for all to see. I love it and will continue to use till the day I die.

Thanks Tommy!

Tommy Kane can be found online at his weblog, his illustration website, on his advertising portfolio, and on Twitter (@tommmykane). Some prints of Tommy's work can be found for sale on his Etsy store. And you can watch a wonderful video of Tommy Kane at work.