For those who wish to draw more

D minus 17: Drawing Tools October 13, 2006

Filed under: .India — India @ 11:08 pm
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If you’re planning to participate in DrawMo! and are not doing so because you’ve already got a ton of paper and art supplies that you never use, now is the time to start gathering some tools.

Or not. It would be perfectly cool to draw with ballpoint pens on napkins for the entire month—or on business cards, as Hugh MacLeod does.

But in case you do want to splurge on some art supplies, I thought perhaps we could ease the anticipatory tension a bit by talking about what kind of materials we like to use.

Me, I’ve always loved Caran d’Ache water-soluble colored pencils. You can use them dry, on dry paper, just like normal pencils, or you can draw on wet paper, or you can use a wet pencil on dry paper, or a wet pencil on wet paper, or you can draw dry and then brush all or part of the drawing with water, or . . . you get the idea.

The tin of pencils I just bought even came with a little multilingual booklet explaining the many ways you might want to use them. These pencils are not cheap, of course—a tin of twelve cost me about $23 at Dick Blick. But they also had another brand—Winsor Newton, maybe? Derwent—for way less. So shop around. Has anybody used a different brand?

Another medium I like is, perhaps not surprisingly, India ink. I used this a lot during the Pleistocene era (i.e., in college), with a brush and water. I really liked that it’s permanent—though this can be a hazard if you’re the clumsy type—and that if you mix it with a tiny bit of soap, you can paint just about any surface, no matter how slick. So you might want to play with that.

As for paper, I’ll be using a thus-far-mostly-empty Moleskine, because I have it already, and because I would like it to stop emitting mutation-causing Guilt Rays. But in olden days I used to like spiral-bound pads of watercolor paper.

Ye who already actually draw, what do you like to use? Elizabeth, I know, has a very interesting post on this: a few notes on my materials… . . .


10 Responses to “D minus 17: Drawing Tools”

  1. Margaret Says:

    My materials vary as much as my drawing output.

    Paper: Like India, I’ll probablly be doing at least some of my drawing in a Moleskine; I’ve just used one up (1 yr+) so will have to buy another. As I mentioned on India, Ink., I use my MS for everything from layout sketching to typography notes to names of imaginary novels I could design for (how do you pass the time?), not just drawing. So don’t hate me, people who have old Moleskines they’re planning to break in now. I’m happy to throw some love to graph paper and PostIt-sized scraps in various pastels too. Sometimes mixing up what I’m drawing on helps me relax. Othertimes, nope. I regularly got in trouble in elementary school for drawing on worksheets and homework. Now I’m free—free I tell you!

    Pencils and Pens: Papermate American Natural pencils are just regular #2’s without the yellow coating; they sharpen and feel very nice. Sharpening pencils restores order in my world; I imagine it’s the same feeling other people get after taking Communion. Pens can be anything, usually free blue pens from the bank. Though I do covet my Pilot Precise V5 Extra fine Rolling Ball in black: very smooth line and even smoother on Moleskine paper. The liquid ink lets you vary the line width/inkiness with different amounts of pressure. It’s not brush and ink, but it’s as close as I’ve gotten recently. I used to have a total Uniball Extra Fine fetish too. They’re the drugstore equivalent of the super skinny pens architects use.

    “Artsy” Stuff: is anything I can’t get at a drugstore. Moleskines could be here too, I suppose, but they’re as ubiquitous as the bookstores you can buy them at (even B&N) in large cities. Artsy things worth the trip/expense for me are Kneadable erasers: Grey. Become softer as you knead, up to an almost liquidy taffy consistency. Great for any textured paper, charcoal, or erasing very small bits (because they’re shape-able). Doubles as a stress reliever. Prismacolor double-ended markers: These are pricey-ish, but ecstasy to use for drawing. On one end they have a very fine point, suitable for writing or delicate lines. On the other is a broad flat tip for filling in shades or thick strokes. I have six or so, all in various shades of grey, plus one black, even though they come in a huge range of color (see “Color” below). Sounds boring, but keep in mind, these are awesome markers. You can darken them slowly by going back over shaded areas multiple times (like watercolor paints), and they blend well. On Moleskine paper you can actually use Prismacolor markers to attract ball lightning, rainbows, and unicorns. Now to find mine . . . Woodless pencils: come in a scale of hardnesses. One of the less scary art items, because it’s exactly what it sounds like and easy to experiment with.

    Color: This is something I really want to work on for DrawMo! Color makes me nervous when I draw. I don’t know why. The best colored pencils I’ve used are, again, Prismacolor colored pencils. I guess they have good marketing. In high school we had a very war-torn set of what we called “Doc Marten’s ink” but are really Dr. Ph. Martin’s inks. Very pretty and bright ink you can dilute and use like watercolor, which is good, because I’m scared of watercolors. Also, chalk pastels and I aren’t on speaking terms. Mind you, I like other people’s stuff done in these materials, its just that when I use them it usually ends in tears, or lots of colored stains all over my face. Free blue ball-point pens from the bank and I are almost ready to set a date though. :-)

  2. India Amos Says:

    Ooh, I forgot about erasers. Because I never make mistakes! No, but my favorite is the white Mars eraser, in the blue cardboard sleeve. I’m sure I have one of those kneadables around . . . I don’t think I ever used it, though—it was just part of the materials kit for a class.

    I’ve also got a lot of Faber-Castell’s Pitt artist pens, most with brush tips, unfortunately. I would prefer the fine pen tips, but the Blick on Bond Street never stocks those, the Sam Flax on 19th doesn’t have Pitts at all, and I’m too lazy to go down to Pearl Paint to look. I got them because Irtroit uses them, and I looooooves me some Irtroit.

    I’ve always hated using pastels, charcoal, and anything else that gets all over the damn place—though if you brush water over charcoal, it sets and becomes pretty stable.

  3. Margaret Says:

    I have very aromatic memories of students “setting” charcoal drawings with hairspray when Spray Fix wasn’t around. Aromatic because this was usually done in a stairwell. Brushing water sounds smarter.

    Introit’s stuff is hot. And her link to Tiny Showcase reminded me of my deep love of Gordon Wiebe. (1, 2, 3) Gordon uses color in a really cool way so I’ll keep him in mind as I try to use color myself. I guess it’s true-to-life coloring that scares me when drawing. Not when painting though (when I used to paint). No idea why.

    Oh, and Collage might be fun to try to work into drawings. Remember decorating notebook, binder, and book covers in junior high? How awesome was that!!!

    I’ve never used those artist pens you mentioned but I love that they have a dusky red called sanguine and a smalt blue. I wish there was more reason to use words like smalt and potash in everyday conversation. India, have you ever tried to buy art supplies online? I don’t know if that’d be cheaper than meatspace stores, but you seem pretty savvy about that kind of thing. I only remember Dick Blick ’cause, you know, it rhymes. And dude, I can totally brave the Canal Street station next time I’m there to check for F-C’s Pitt Artist Pens at Pearl.

  4. Margaret Says:

    Oh, and does anyone listen to music when they draw at home (like, on the weekend, or at work if you have time and your workplace is cool like that)? Some days (for me) music feels just as necessary as pencil and paper and new music can jumpstart a tired brain . . . so . . . I’d be happy to swap DrawMo! mix CDs with anyone interested. Just sayin’.

  5. India Amos Says:

    The music thing is kind of like the art supplies thing for me: I keep buying music, but at some point I stopped listening to it very often. Yet I still have an unfounded notion of myself not only as a Person Who Draws but also as a Person Who Listens to Music. And let’s not even talk about the book-buying habit. And the cooking.

    My life sounds pretty bleak, doesn’t it?

    I suppose the zen thing to do would be to embrace who I really am these days, which is a Person Who Sleeps Late, Then Works Late, and Who Listens to Audiobooks About Sailors and Has a Very Messy Apartment. But that’s not very embraceable, is it?

    I’m sorry—was I talking out loud?

    Yeah, so, anyway, the not drawing and the not listening to music may very well be related. Maybe I’ll make a point of listening to music while I’m drawing, during DrawMo!

  6. margaretei Says:

    The DrawMo! mix CD is just because I’m a whore for mix CDs, and making them is a happy thing for me. Plus, I don’t have an iPod, so I listen to music a lot at home. This is a call out to folks who already listen to music when they draw, definitely not an indictment of those who don’t. Actually, when I’m designing I’ve started to do what you do India, which is work in Radio Silence (no music) and it helps me focus. I play it fast and loose when drawing and sketching though.

    And careful there tiger. I can edit stuff now. Don’t make me use my powers for good and add a page to this blog called LoveIndiaMo!: a blog page for those who want India to embrace herself (past, present and future) everyday, whether through thoughts or actions, even if it makes said people sound like Dr. Phil. Ew.

  7. India Amos Says:

    Okay, well, since you can edit stuff now, could you please check to see whether you are able to moderate your own comments? The WordPress docs are somewhat shifty on this subject, but I think it’s something you can do, being an Editor and all. I can’t figure out why, but every single one of your comments has been held for moderation; they don’t go live until I manually approve them.

    So the next time you post something and it doesn’t appear, check the Dashboard to see if it got held. Also, it’s entirely possible for a blog-owner’s comment to end up in the spam bin; we’ve had nothing but false positives so far. And yesterday I realized that a post I wrote for India, Ink., on Friday had gone into Drafts instead of being published. So, in general, if you post any kind of anything, always check to see that it’s actually appeared on the site. And if it hasn’t, go check the Dashboard for moderated comments or new spam.

    I like WordPress.com a lot, but it’s got some quirky behavior sometimes.

  8. margaretei Says:

    Sorry about that, I wasn’t logged into WordPress this afternoon. I had to change some browser password settings, blah blah. Now I’m logged in, as evidenced by my super pretty picture icon avatar thing. At some point during DrawMo! I’ll have to change that to one of my drawings, I guess. Anyways, I done figgered it out! For lo, I have approved Cynthia’s first post. Hi Cynthia!

  9. Susan Says:

    Hello I am here! I love NoteSketch books (for the writing and the drawing at the same time) and Pigma Micron pens, but hope to break in a Moleskine (for oh, yes, I have an assortment of those waiting hopefully on the corner of my desk) and maybe, maybe use up some of the ~4 x 4 inch paper samples I got from Daniel Smith oh, ten years ago?

    But I’ll have to use some graphite pencils for the sake of sharpening!

  10. India Amos Says:

    Yeah, I like those Pigma pens, too. Got a couple.

    (Hmm . . . I wonder who’s been adding links to the del.icio.us account? Incidentally, I think we should send Lynda Barry a present for her birthday, which is January 2.)

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