August 7th, 2004
I have had so many people write me with questions about how I create my drawings I thought I would put together a section about it. To begin I will say that I have never placed very much importance on “tools”, after all they are just that. In my opinion being an artist is about being present and doing the work. I have seen brilliant work done with a 10 cent bic pen on a piece of found cardboard. It also feels a bit limiting to me to be tied down to one specific medium, I like to be experiementing all the time with new products and techniques. That being said, there are some that I am drawn to more than others. So I will list those here. I like using things that are not too expensive (read: precious), so I don’t have to worry about making mistakes. But using these items will not necessarily make you draw like me. For that you would need my eyes and my life experiences. Use your own eyes. They will see in ways that are unique and beautiful to you. Use your life. It is the source of a great work. Try these things if you are drawn to them.
pens – For my daily journal excerpts I use a simple pen with a watercolour wash. For years I used a pentel pen (with the technical like tip) but recently switched to one that was waterproof so I can use them with the watercolour. My favourite pen is now the Rotring Art Pen but I discovered that it leaks badly while travelling on planes. So I have been using a uniball Vision Elite, which is specially designed for air travel, guaranteed not to explode or leak. *the journal drawings are an exercise in being present, contemplating one thing for a time. they are not about making great art, but about enjoying the moment. They give me little hints at the daily events of my life. When I look back at them I can remember where I was and who I was sitting with. I seem to be drawn to a lot of packaging these days.
brush and ink – For my comic work I like a thicker line so I use a store brand brush #3 #4 and #5. The tips must be good, so often I will wet them in my mouth while in the store to check. (If you see a girl sucking on brush tips in the art store it might be me.) By far my favourite ink is Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star waterproof india ink, both matte and ‘hicarb’ versions. I believe it is the most opaque ink you can get commercially. I regularly joke about buying stock in the company I use so much of it.
watercolour and gouache – I have always found the expensive professional tube watercolours to be a little on the drab side, not to mention expensive. I also find the tube thing tedious and messy. There is nothing like the old box style watercolours you had when you were a kid. The ulitmate in portability, you can throw them in your bag with a waterbottle and you are ready to paint anywhere! So my current pick is a box of Liebetruth Student Transparent Watercolors (24). It’s the brightest set of paints I could find with large squares and comes in a tidy black box. cheap and cheerful. When I want really punchy, bright, opaque colours that seem to jump off the page I use Windsor & Newton Designers Gouache. You can make every colour you need with just the process primary colours (cyan, magenta, yellow) and black and white.
computer – Often I will take a black line drawing, scan it into Photoshop and do the color on a separate layer using a Wacom tablet. With commercial work it makes it easier to make changes (resize, change colours, etc.) There are times when I find it best to work with a vector image, (vectors can be easily resized, and you can work with true pantone colours), in which case I will use Illustrator. The black and white drawing is scanned into Adobe Streamline (which converts it to a vector image), then brought into illustrator. Then I will do the colour on a separate layer.
paper – when I do all my sketching and inking for a large project I work on a bright white layout translucent visual bond. This allows me to erase, trace, rework anything I need to. It is also affordable, since sometimes I can go through 100 pages (1 pad) in a week.
a word on sketchbooks – a sketchbook must open flat, it must take watercolours, and it cannot be too heavy. I love the moleskines, they are by far my preference, but I find the sketchbook version (with the thick pages) has some kind of sizing on it that does not take watercolours easily (even though they advertise it to be for water based mediums). You have to ‘push’ the brush into the page repeatedly or the water will sit on the top. So I tend to stick with the thin page version (which bleeds a bit). i really like the smell of the moleskines too.