Pens & Process

A friend on FB asked on behalf of her sons about the materials I've been using to doodle during the 365 challenge I've been doing these past months. Here's a quick overview of the items I most frequently leverage for most arting from 365 challenge to Inktober to bigger pieces for friends and family. Feel free to hit me with a message on Instagram if you have any follow up questions, or recommendations for things I should check out.

 Convenience of access is key for doing the sort of marker art I've been trending towards during recent months.  The big red there holds my markers loosely grouped by their positions on the colour spectrum, with grays down the centre warm on top, cool and neutral at the bottom, as I use those the most. Cool Grey 01 is my go to choice for adding volume and initial shade to any drawing that's going into at least a grayscale treatment, if not full colour. It's a safe way to play with how light will work through the piece that's light enough to leave room for error, no biggie if there's a mistake or change of mind along the way. I also have a butcher roll like what painters use for brushes, or chefs for their knives, for really travelling light, though that's been out of rotation recently.  The sack is my travel kit, and would contain the bare minimum for pens, pencils, shading gray markers, a couple colours - typically a sky blue and a couple pastels like light green and light purple. Maybe a red for accents or heavy fills.  The idea of a setup like this is to both make speedy arting easier, especially when you get the bug and a banging big bass bruiser is bellowing in your ear goggles. Convenience is key if you want to stay in the zone. Like a garden, though, I'm constantly assessing, pruning, and adjusting the stock to ensure I'm getting the sorts of outcomes I'd hoped for. I personally have a very layered approach, tending towards playful rather than deliberate. That's resulted in my inventory of pens shifting to lighter shades and hues that I can layer up, similar to how water colours work in commercial illustration, rather than trying to hammer in dark hues right off the bat and getting stuck with no options.

Convenience of access is key for doing the sort of marker art I've been trending towards during recent months.

The big red there holds my markers loosely grouped by their positions on the colour spectrum, with grays down the centre warm on top, cool and neutral at the bottom, as I use those the most. Cool Grey 01 is my go to choice for adding volume and initial shade to any drawing that's going into at least a grayscale treatment, if not full colour. It's a safe way to play with how light will work through the piece that's light enough to leave room for error, no biggie if there's a mistake or change of mind along the way. I also have a butcher roll like what painters use for brushes, or chefs for their knives, for really travelling light, though that's been out of rotation recently.

The sack is my travel kit, and would contain the bare minimum for pens, pencils, shading gray markers, a couple colours - typically a sky blue and a couple pastels like light green and light purple. Maybe a red for accents or heavy fills.

The idea of a setup like this is to both make speedy arting easier, especially when you get the bug and a banging big bass bruiser is bellowing in your ear goggles. Convenience is key if you want to stay in the zone. Like a garden, though, I'm constantly assessing, pruning, and adjusting the stock to ensure I'm getting the sorts of outcomes I'd hoped for. I personally have a very layered approach, tending towards playful rather than deliberate. That's resulted in my inventory of pens shifting to lighter shades and hues that I can layer up, similar to how water colours work in commercial illustration, rather than trying to hammer in dark hues right off the bat and getting stuck with no options.

 Back up supplies, and hues I'm less inclined to typically use. You can see my back stock of Micron pigment liners, and generally where my brand loyalties are. That metal flat bit is a run of dark graphite pencils. I probably have 6 more from various brands stashed around the office. You never know when you need an 8B to get your chiaroscuro on, or an H4 to etch the ghost of an idea onto a page before digging in and committing to lines. 

Back up supplies, and hues I'm less inclined to typically use. You can see my back stock of Micron pigment liners, and generally where my brand loyalties are. That metal flat bit is a run of dark graphite pencils. I probably have 6 more from various brands stashed around the office. You never know when you need an 8B to get your chiaroscuro on, or an H4 to etch the ghost of an idea onto a page before digging in and committing to lines. 

 Tub of acrylics for when the mood strikes to get some real painting going. Though I could stand to get more into gouache as that's akin to water colours with heftier pigmentation, acrylics can do some great things.  I'm embarrassed how late on I learned about Multi-Purpose Acrylic Polymer, effectively a thinning agent when used sparingly with thick acrylics that can let you begin to layer up more like gouache or water colours, a lot like using  linseed oil  as a thinning agent for oil paints to extend coverage and add transparency for layering.   Also, most of what I know about really getting the most out of acrylics came from classes with this brilliant local painter,  Thomas Anfield. Check him out!

Tub of acrylics for when the mood strikes to get some real painting going. Though I could stand to get more into gouache as that's akin to water colours with heftier pigmentation, acrylics can do some great things.

I'm embarrassed how late on I learned about Multi-Purpose Acrylic Polymer, effectively a thinning agent when used sparingly with thick acrylics that can let you begin to layer up more like gouache or water colours, a lot like using linseed oil as a thinning agent for oil paints to extend coverage and add transparency for layering. 

Also, most of what I know about really getting the most out of acrylics came from classes with this brilliant local painter, Thomas Anfield. Check him out!

 Speaking of water colours, here's my brush and paint pallet station. My office is fortunate enough to have a sink in it, one of the previous owners was a landscape & flower painter. You can see the stacks of water colours in the top left there. i don't think any of them were expensive, and I've been happy with the results so far.  I use a wide array of brushes, flat for fills to precision points for adding highlights or fine detail. The toothbrush is for cheesy platter and grit stippling. And nothing says painting process like a bunch of liberated plastic cups. I know, real painters prefer glass containers for fear if plastics affecting the pigmentation somehow. I'm not remotely that precious, or coordinated, to have a bunch of glass jars around.

Speaking of water colours, here's my brush and paint pallet station. My office is fortunate enough to have a sink in it, one of the previous owners was a landscape & flower painter. You can see the stacks of water colours in the top left there. i don't think any of them were expensive, and I've been happy with the results so far.

I use a wide array of brushes, flat for fills to precision points for adding highlights or fine detail. The toothbrush is for cheesy platter and grit stippling. And nothing says painting process like a bunch of liberated plastic cups. I know, real painters prefer glass containers for fear if plastics affecting the pigmentation somehow. I'm not remotely that precious, or coordinated, to have a bunch of glass jars around.

 Stationary and Portable drawing surfaces. Light weight, sturdy portable boards are great for larger pieces. I recommend getting a roll of painters tape, you can see a bit of it there on the corner of the bigger board. Also, pro tip, put a sheet or two of paper beneath the piece you're drawing on. Helps prevent the grit or grain of the board from affecting your lines, unless that's the look you're going for. Also, the paper beneath works as a blotter to prevent bleed through for heavier inks. Portable boards also make it easier to work in whatever seating situation is most comfortable to you, or standing, just lean the board up and go.  I've been arting on that hefty table since I inherited it from a house full of artistic and musically inclined folks had it holding up a still. In architecture studio we used retired doors from the university dormitories. The lesson here is that if you can afford the space, get a rough and ready project table where you can work on a project and walk away from it for a spell without worry of the work getting in anyone's way. Some pieces can take days, and if nothing else, you need a safe parking lot to be able to both store work, but also to be able to just step back from what you're working on, breathe, and soak it in. Some of the best revisions and / or choices I've made have arisen from having space to reflect and somewhat objectively consider. 

Stationary and Portable drawing surfaces.
Light weight, sturdy portable boards are great for larger pieces. I recommend getting a roll of painters tape, you can see a bit of it there on the corner of the bigger board. Also, pro tip, put a sheet or two of paper beneath the piece you're drawing on. Helps prevent the grit or grain of the board from affecting your lines, unless that's the look you're going for. Also, the paper beneath works as a blotter to prevent bleed through for heavier inks. Portable boards also make it easier to work in whatever seating situation is most comfortable to you, or standing, just lean the board up and go.

I've been arting on that hefty table since I inherited it from a house full of artistic and musically inclined folks had it holding up a still. In architecture studio we used retired doors from the university dormitories. The lesson here is that if you can afford the space, get a rough and ready project table where you can work on a project and walk away from it for a spell without worry of the work getting in anyone's way. Some pieces can take days, and if nothing else, you need a safe parking lot to be able to both store work, but also to be able to just step back from what you're working on, breathe, and soak it in. Some of the best revisions and / or choices I've made have arisen from having space to reflect and somewhat objectively consider. 

 Speaking of keeping yourself inspired, and maintaining some perspective on what you'd like to art up, have a sketch wall if you can. i toss anything I or my offspring have doodled up on these cupboards to keep myself thinking. There's at least four major drawing concepts up there I'm still thinking about what to do with. Also a mismatch of artifacts that make me smile and / or feel inspired. Note that I use a lot of painters tape, stuff that won't hurt the art, and won't strip the walls when you take it down. Also just like the aesthetic of the blocky, easy tear tape.

Speaking of keeping yourself inspired, and maintaining some perspective on what you'd like to art up, have a sketch wall if you can. i toss anything I or my offspring have doodled up on these cupboards to keep myself thinking. There's at least four major drawing concepts up there I'm still thinking about what to do with. Also a mismatch of artifacts that make me smile and / or feel inspired. Note that I use a lot of painters tape, stuff that won't hurt the art, and won't strip the walls when you take it down. Also just like the aesthetic of the blocky, easy tear tape.

 These are examples of the typical papers I tend to go to, though paper is personal preference, for sure. For me, the Strathmore Bristol is great for heavier projects, and can take a beating. The vellum version helps keep ink crisp - though test your pens, as some may take longer to set / dry on vellum coated as nothing is soaking into the page. You can see here that I'm using the "smooth surface" and that's been great for me for stuff like Inktober. The Canson mixed media is an example of a heartier paper, also sturdy, but has a hint of tooth, and can take water colours and heavy markers like a champ. The Canson Sketch notebooks are more lead and ink favouring, though can get chewed up through a lot of erasing or revision. Still, great books, as you can tell with my ordering packs of them in bulk. Not pictured here are another great paper, intended for Manga and north American style comic artists, pre-sized and border edged pages called Blue Line that tend to run about $16 per 20 pages. If you're going for more finished page art, they're wonderful, and can take a beating. For a ramshackle doodler like me, they're a bit overkill, but I do have packs in different formats for when I do happen to want to do sequential pages. 

These are examples of the typical papers I tend to go to, though paper is personal preference, for sure. For me, the Strathmore Bristol is great for heavier projects, and can take a beating. The vellum version helps keep ink crisp - though test your pens, as some may take longer to set / dry on vellum coated as nothing is soaking into the page. You can see here that I'm using the "smooth surface" and that's been great for me for stuff like Inktober. The Canson mixed media is an example of a heartier paper, also sturdy, but has a hint of tooth, and can take water colours and heavy markers like a champ. The Canson Sketch notebooks are more lead and ink favouring, though can get chewed up through a lot of erasing or revision. Still, great books, as you can tell with my ordering packs of them in bulk. Not pictured here are another great paper, intended for Manga and north American style comic artists, pre-sized and border edged pages called Blue Line that tend to run about $16 per 20 pages. If you're going for more finished page art, they're wonderful, and can take a beating. For a ramshackle doodler like me, they're a bit overkill, but I do have packs in different formats for when I do happen to want to do sequential pages. 

 For my line art, these are my standards. More delicate artists will use finer calibers of pen, like 0.01 and 0.05 to get those engineering blueprint fine kinds of detail, however I find I end up destroying the nibs on pens that skinny at a costly rate, so I tend to stick with bigger, heartier fare.   I prefer Staedtler for general, HB (dead even between light and dark) pencil, though lately I've shifted away from graphite to using animation pencils for my initial sketching. I swear by the Col-Erase brand, esp. blue red, and purple, and I must not be alone as the one's I like are typically the low or no stock at the local art shops.   I use Staedtler Pigment liners when I'm being more sketchy and playful when I ink, likely due to a less defined initial sketch. For more deliberate, delicate, or precision inking, I prefer the Pigma Microns, the have less flexibility in their tip, but deliver a smooth, consistent, beautiful black like that leaves little room for surprise that this is the pen European and Japanese artists default to for fine line inking.

For my line art, these are my standards. More delicate artists will use finer calibers of pen, like 0.01 and 0.05 to get those engineering blueprint fine kinds of detail, however I find I end up destroying the nibs on pens that skinny at a costly rate, so I tend to stick with bigger, heartier fare. 

I prefer Staedtler for general, HB (dead even between light and dark) pencil, though lately I've shifted away from graphite to using animation pencils for my initial sketching. I swear by the Col-Erase brand, esp. blue red, and purple, and I must not be alone as the one's I like are typically the low or no stock at the local art shops. 

I use Staedtler Pigment liners when I'm being more sketchy and playful when I ink, likely due to a less defined initial sketch. For more deliberate, delicate, or precision inking, I prefer the Pigma Microns, the have less flexibility in their tip, but deliver a smooth, consistent, beautiful black like that leaves little room for surprise that this is the pen European and Japanese artists default to for fine line inking.

 These are my go to grays. The Windser & Newton Brush Markers are awesome, with consistent tones pen to pen, and excellent, flexible brush nibs for getting good, controlled thick to thin shading and volume into a drawing. Downside, they're not cheap, or refillable, and as I use the cool gray 01 and 02 the most, my burn rate is about a pen every couple weeks. A LOT of artists prefer Copic markers, and if you have the budget or work for a company that'll cover your costs, Copic is definitely the industry standard, at least on the west coast and in Japan. I find them over priced and have little desire to refill anything, so my loss, i guess. A lot of folks also like Prisma-Color, and I have a heap of those for certain colour ranges. For cool gray, though, these have me happy.  The other two are an example of alcohol based markers, which smell more and deliver a deeper, often richer tone. These two are from Artist Loft, so a bit cheaper from Michaels, though similar to Copic inks, they won't bleed or discolour if I add water colours over top of them. i tend to use these and a few alcohol based colours - like my Chartpak AD Marker "Brick Red" tat's been my go to for a base rust tone for years - when I want to add some darker tone that compliments the gray scale range with a bit of bolder umph. 

These are my go to grays. The Windser & Newton Brush Markers are awesome, with consistent tones pen to pen, and excellent, flexible brush nibs for getting good, controlled thick to thin shading and volume into a drawing. Downside, they're not cheap, or refillable, and as I use the cool gray 01 and 02 the most, my burn rate is about a pen every couple weeks. A LOT of artists prefer Copic markers, and if you have the budget or work for a company that'll cover your costs, Copic is definitely the industry standard, at least on the west coast and in Japan. I find them over priced and have little desire to refill anything, so my loss, i guess. A lot of folks also like Prisma-Color, and I have a heap of those for certain colour ranges. For cool gray, though, these have me happy.

The other two are an example of alcohol based markers, which smell more and deliver a deeper, often richer tone. These two are from Artist Loft, so a bit cheaper from Michaels, though similar to Copic inks, they won't bleed or discolour if I add water colours over top of them. i tend to use these and a few alcohol based colours - like my Chartpak AD Marker "Brick Red" tat's been my go to for a base rust tone for years - when I want to add some darker tone that compliments the gray scale range with a bit of bolder umph. 

 Different markers have different tips, and it's important to know what effect you're trying to get before you hand your cash across the counter. Most art markers have two ends, with one end being a chisel tip for faster colour application, and with some practice, you can actually pull off a heap of thick to thin colour work with just that tip.   On the far left is a pen nib. I use this the least, and find these fail or get clogged up most often. Given the choice, I very seldom get these. Second from left is a more forgiving, still fixed nib. This type behaves more like a controlled Sharpie marker, and works for finer detailing, but for me I tend not to use this as much, preferring my shading and colour detailing to have some thick to thin shapes, like brush strokes.  On the far right is a brush pen by the Zebra brand out of Japan. These are generally pretty inexpensive if you have access to any Japanese dollar stores. If you don't hav access to such a thing, Faber Castell makes a good one, worth a try anyway. If, like me, you're too lazy to use a brush and India ink as many fine comic artists like  Mike Allred  and  Paul Pope  do (and I should), then these pens make a decent substitute, and are definitely more portable than an inkwell and brushes. Well, a little bit, anyway. Kudos to my pal  Steve Rolston  all those years ago for introducing me to them, totally a game changer for how I put ink to paper, and I've never looked back.

Different markers have different tips, and it's important to know what effect you're trying to get before you hand your cash across the counter. Most art markers have two ends, with one end being a chisel tip for faster colour application, and with some practice, you can actually pull off a heap of thick to thin colour work with just that tip. 

On the far left is a pen nib. I use this the least, and find these fail or get clogged up most often. Given the choice, I very seldom get these. Second from left is a more forgiving, still fixed nib. This type behaves more like a controlled Sharpie marker, and works for finer detailing, but for me I tend not to use this as much, preferring my shading and colour detailing to have some thick to thin shapes, like brush strokes.

On the far right is a brush pen by the Zebra brand out of Japan. These are generally pretty inexpensive if you have access to any Japanese dollar stores. If you don't hav access to such a thing, Faber Castell makes a good one, worth a try anyway. If, like me, you're too lazy to use a brush and India ink as many fine comic artists like Mike Allred and Paul Pope do (and I should), then these pens make a decent substitute, and are definitely more portable than an inkwell and brushes. Well, a little bit, anyway. Kudos to my pal Steve Rolston all those years ago for introducing me to them, totally a game changer for how I put ink to paper, and I've never looked back.

 A big part of doodling is adding highlights after the fact, or putting a thin white line around something to help it separate from the background. Upon a time I used to use a White Out pen, however those proved difficult to control, and could easily drop a big glop when all I wanted was a squiggle.  Now, I use either a thin, precision brush with my handy little tube of Windsor & Newton Designer's Gouache for jobs with a lot of painterly bits to work through. Adding a bit of water can thin the white for a more transparent, wash type of effect, or you can just pull some dabs from the cap of the paint tube for bolder, crisper white pops, like the accents on eyes or where your light in the drawing is hitting objects in the drawing the most, especially anything plastic, metallic, wet, or crustacean.   For more general, edge and thin line type accents, I use Uni-ball Signo Pigment Ink White, either the broad or the UM153 from Mitsubishi in Japan, or in my case, via Amazon by the lot. Kudos to my pal  Adam Cable  for introducing me to these, another game changer.

A big part of doodling is adding highlights after the fact, or putting a thin white line around something to help it separate from the background. Upon a time I used to use a White Out pen, however those proved difficult to control, and could easily drop a big glop when all I wanted was a squiggle.

Now, I use either a thin, precision brush with my handy little tube of Windsor & Newton Designer's Gouache for jobs with a lot of painterly bits to work through. Adding a bit of water can thin the white for a more transparent, wash type of effect, or you can just pull some dabs from the cap of the paint tube for bolder, crisper white pops, like the accents on eyes or where your light in the drawing is hitting objects in the drawing the most, especially anything plastic, metallic, wet, or crustacean. 

For more general, edge and thin line type accents, I use Uni-ball Signo Pigment Ink White, either the broad or the UM153 from Mitsubishi in Japan, or in my case, via Amazon by the lot. Kudos to my pal Adam Cable for introducing me to these, another game changer.

 Last, I want to call out the benefits of big ass paper. Fun for the whole family, my son and I collaborate on this paper fairly regularly, and proudly display the subsequent content in the house, hung from clothespins on a string anchored by push pins down the length of wall.   Additionally, I collect his drawings and occasionally redraw them, letting him consult and art direct along the way. Some of my strongest drawings in the last couple years arose from his ideas, doodles, and advice. Likewise, recently finished a piece for my wonderful wife letting her art direct, and despite the pressure to please or lose out on enjoying her amazing cooking, I think the piece turned out well and looks smashing hanging on the wall in the kitchen now.  Hope that helps, and again,  and questions or suggestions,  hit me over on Instagram . Your turn now, what're you going to put on the page?

Last, I want to call out the benefits of big ass paper. Fun for the whole family, my son and I collaborate on this paper fairly regularly, and proudly display the subsequent content in the house, hung from clothespins on a string anchored by push pins down the length of wall. 

Additionally, I collect his drawings and occasionally redraw them, letting him consult and art direct along the way. Some of my strongest drawings in the last couple years arose from his ideas, doodles, and advice. Likewise, recently finished a piece for my wonderful wife letting her art direct, and despite the pressure to please or lose out on enjoying her amazing cooking, I think the piece turned out well and looks smashing hanging on the wall in the kitchen now.

Hope that helps, and again,  and questions or suggestions, hit me over on Instagram. Your turn now, what're you going to put on the page?