Feb 1, 2013

Tools of the Trade

Ever wonder what I work with?
I am always curious to see other artists' studios, the tools they use, even down to how they brush the paint on. It fascinates me.


I'm working on a project right now that has forced me to look closer at what I work with and why I work with it.

You can find commentaries on blogs, forums, and Facebook about how one artist will voice their favorite pencil, while another artist in the same field will swear by another brand. Call it the sport of art if you like (I'm sure there's an artist out there with a rabbit's foot).

Most of my tools have a story or memory attached to them. 

The oldest tool I've used every day in the studio is my kneaded eraser.

My dad is an art teacher most of my life, so I grew up with this wonderful tool laying around his art studio coiled up or made into small pyramids. Something to do while thinking or working. I was introduced to it very young.

The next tool oldest to me is a retractable Tuff Stuff! The moment I discovered this eraser years ago I fell in love and haven't gone back. It gets into the little spots and is always a clean erase. I don't go anywhere without it!

My pencils are newer to me. I have worked with mechanical pencils for at least 15 years now, but the one I used as a teenager...well....was great for a teenager.

Two years ago I did some research and tried Pentel GraphGear 500 on a whim. Love them! Great body weight, good lead selection, amazingly priced! The green Pentel is their most standard. Pentel P205...still a great drawing pencil!

Sketchbooks are personal, in every sense, like a diary. I have always favored the large Strathmore or Canson spiralbounds, 9x12 inch. I have several moleskines too that are smaller....and I adore them, but I like space for my hand when I draw, this allows it.

Color Theory wasn't around in the beginning for me, so I just picked colors that worked to my eye. This did not help in finding the best palette for me, or how to lay it out even.

All of my palettes up to several years ago were rectangle and felt rough to me. Nothing progressed fluidly for me, only manageable.

There was a teacher of watercolor where I work (The Des Moines Art Center) who had a round palette out during one of her classes, and I was introduced to the Stephen Quiller Palette. A circle! Imagine color on a wheel!

I took her class, several times, and have since learned how to better use my palette effectively.

The paints I use are a blend of  Daniel Smith and Winsor Newton.  I always have a messy palette, it's cleaned maybe once every two months. I also paint on primarily Arches Hot Press and Cold Press 140lbs. It's a comfortable inbetween weight and their brand is one of the oldest. I'm open to other papers, but I'm a snob about Arches. The brushes? Cotman series 666.

If you know my work you'll notice my use of white. This started in the phase of trying to keep the white of the paper and failing. I taught myself watercolor, so I turned to problem-solving (an illustrator's best trait).

First it was FW liquid acrylic. I would brush it on, but it cakes easily. Nowadays I usually water it down.

The other partner in crime is the white gel pen. Discovered this while watching watercolor videos on YouTube. Genius! I don't think I use the best one, your basic Gelly Roll, but will be ordering a UniBall gel pen and I'm looking forward to seeing how it works!

Last but not least, the infamous indigo colored pencil. 

I started using this prominently last year while working on Tangerine. I was first introduced to Verithin Colored Pencils by Prismacolor a couple of years back. They're fantastic because of the harder lead with less wax. Because I'm not a colored pencil artist, this worked great for sketching!

The indigo was an accident. I was sketching with it, and as I added color (without thinking of the muddiness it could create) I noticed how it's more dulled tone worked. After Tangerine I continued to sketch with it. The hue is attractive to me, mixed with graphite or color. It helps to provide me my shadows.

Although indigo can create mud very quickly (it's not for the inexperienced), it does create a more earthy visual of color hues in the painting. I trust it so much I paint with indigo as well.

I try to sharpen always with a blade so that I don't go through the pencil as fast (taught by my dad), and the electric eraser was a gift to me. Never knew I would have a need of it until I discovered it erases the indigo colored pencil wonderfully!

Do you have a favorite pen or material that you use a bit religiously?

7 comments:

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lissa said...

you've listed so many great tools though I don't know most of them. for me, I like mechanical pencils, water soluble colored pencils and my laptop. but I think the best tool is really yourself and your hands.

thanks for sharing this, have a great day.

Tammie Lee said...

you are so right, i love seeing and hearing about what artists like to use. I loved reading your post.

i enjoy most the things you have mentioned. Go through spurts with different materials. For a long time it was Derwent Inktense pencils or prismacolor pencils. Now i am learning a bit about watercolors.

Laura Parkhurst said...

Thank you for being so candid about what you use. I often look at art work and wonder what they have used to create it. Sometimes I can guess. Sometimes I am clueless! I love your work and your sense of color. I know I want my art work (which is mostly colored pencil) to be more vibrant and your post has really convinced me that I need a color theory class and a watercolor class would be nice.

Sara Burrier said...

Thank you everyone for such wonderful comments. I am beaming with joy knowing that I shared something new and something helpful!

Lissa, I couldn't agree more, that you yourself is the best tool. Thank you for sharing that, because I teach it so often in my classrooms.

Tammie Lee, I think exploring or switching out your mediums from time to time is such a healthy thing! I got so wrapped up in being a watercolor purest I forgot that I was an illustrator! And in essence almost lost what kind of artist I am internally. I have some Derwent watercolor pencils that I haven't really dived into. Waiting for that special day when I'm up for that challenge!! ;) Watercolors are fun if you keep them fun, hope you enjoy all that you learn!

Laura, thank you for your comment about being candid. We're told so often in business to be professional in how we speak, I'm the opposite. How I talk here is how I teach and talk with my clients. I really hope you do take some color theory and watercolor classes! Dig around and find some, or ask community schools if they know of any private tutors. Totally worth a few workshops!

becky kelly studio said...

Sara, Thanks for the great tips. What fun! I feel like I've taken a tour inside your studio. I love rapidographs, for softer looks and colors I use a soft brown ink and for the softest looks, I use a number 2 pencil. (funny, isn't it- it is so simple) I love watercolor paper with a cotton feel and slight texture. Sometimes it looks dirty when reproduced. I try to compensate for that in photoshop when it is scanned. My dad was a watercolor artist and used to rip the paper to add clear clean white sparkles. Thanks for sharing, you have amazing talent. bk

Flavia de Luce said...

Thank you for sharing this! I'm not so good at drawing and I don't know much about tools that are good to use( accually I'm 13 and I'm still learning:)) Thank you for recomending these, that made my life easier!!! :)
You draw FANTASTIC I love your art!!!
Please keep drawing like this!
Have a fantastic day :)