Monday, August 06, 2012

frequently asked questions- sketching supplies and process


I get all kinds of email and asked TONS of questions about all sorts of creative things and in the weeks and months ahead I will be answering many of the frequently asked questions here on my blog!

I can't tell you how many questions I get about the supplies and the process that I use in my sketchbook pages and while I teach them in many of my online classes I thought it would be helpful for my blog readers (and those of you who haven't taken my classes) to provide a simple overview of the most asked questions.

In my opinion you don't need much for the sketching process- a pencil or a pen and a sketchbook will be sufficient but there really are all kinds of fun supplies that will elevate your sketchbook pages. Many of the supplies that I use are simple and economic- I save splurging on expensive and higher quality supplies for art that I sell or show, art that gets published or art that will be hung on the wall. My sketchbook is a place to work through ideas, inspiration and a place to warm up my creativity so I am not too concerned about the latest and greatest tool or supply. In my opinion it is important to feel comfortable with your sketching tools and supplies- what works for me might not work for someone else. That is why it I always like to recommend taking a little time to figure out what you may want to use in your own sketching process.

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When it comes to sketchbooks I will use just about anything! From drawing paper to watercolor tablets to tiny little pads of paper to index cards I always find a way to put a variety of paper to use. My favorite sketchbook to use is a an all purpose sketchbook (any brand- size 5.5 x 8.5 - typically 65lb sheets of paper). They are affordable and work great for me. While the paper is not made for lots of wet media (like watercolors or even acryclic paint) I still use it with anything and everything.

The answer is yes and to be honest I don't care too much! Once again, I am using my sketchbook to work through ideas, to practice and to "hone" my drawing and sketching skills so I am not that concerned about what my paper is doing. While I am painting I always use a rag to soak up excess water on my surface and when my page dries I end up smoothing out my paper by ironing the pages on a low setting.

If I know that I will be working with LOTS of layers of lots of wet media I will use watercolor paper. Watercolor paper is thicker paper made for watercolor painting and comes in a variety of different surfaces and weights-
Rough paper- has a textured surface
Hot pressed paper- smooth surface and paint dries quickly
Cold pressed paper- slightly textured surface

Honestly I am not too picky about which type of paper to use. I will use any of them- but the cold pressed paper seems to be my favorite option for a variety of projects. I know there are TONS of wonderful sketchbooks, moleskine journals and tablets out there and I think that it's best to select a sketchbook that YOU are interested in using but try not to don't get too hung up on name brands or something being perfect. Remember sketching is more about the process than it is about having the perfect tools and supplies.

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You will probably be surprised to learn that I really could care less about the brand or even the quality of my pens and sketching supplies! Once again, I just want something simple and accessible to use when I sketch and work through ideas or practice techniques. Much of the time I find myself using a ball point pen but I do have a handful of favorite pens and supplies that I seem to use most often.

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Water resistant pens are great to use if you are working with wet media- like watercolors- because they don't bleed when you paint over them.
1. micron pens 2. sharpie pens 3. ball point pens
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1. water brush 2. pentel and pilot pens 3. ball point pens
Water based pens are great to use by themselves or with a little bit of water and a brush. Instantly you can transform a drawing into a watercolor by brushing water onto your pen sketches. You can take a look at how to use a water soluble pen in this post here

Never underestimate the power of lines in a sketch or a doodle! There are a numerous ways to use all those pens and drawing tools to draw lines that will change the look and feel of your sketching- they can be bold, fine, flowing, dotted, blended and the list goes on!

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1. pencil 2. water added to pilot pen 3. pilot pen 4. water added to grey marker 5. micron pen 6. fine tip micron pen 7. sharpie
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1. vary the width of lines 2.crosshatching 3.repeat lines 4. stippling 5. use a brush to create lines

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My favorite supply to use when I am sketching is watercolors. There are a variety of different brands, they either come in pans or in tubes. I prefer the pans because I typically take my watercolors on the go with me and the pans (or the sets) are easier. If you haven't worked with watercolors I would recommend starting with a cheaper set- like a kids Crayola set just so you can get a feel for how they work and then move up to something higher quality.
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1. I love my Koi Travel Set for on the go sketching. 2. I also enjoying using a Prang set 3. I have lots of Crayola sets all around the house and my studio- they are economic and great quality!

I almost always use a water brush when I am working in my sketchbook- a water brush has a brush tip that attaches to a handle and gets filled with water. This means that you don't have to worry about having a water vessel on hand, you simply fill the handle with water and squeeze to release water as you paint.


For me the next best thing to add color is anything water soluble- like watercolor pencils, crayons or even water based markers.

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I tend to work in a variety of different ways- Sometimes I start by drawing or doodling in pen. I then go back into my drawings and fill things in with color- kind of like a coloring book. This is where the magic happens! Color brings everything to life. In my opinion this process lends itself to doodles and drawing things that have more details.



Sometimes I like to start with a background of messy watercolor and then draw over the top in black pen. This process really lends itself to working more expressive. I work this way when I don't have lots of time but I want to complete a few fast sketchbook pages.


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And then many times I will start with a loose watercolor painting and then add the details with pen to the top. This is another process that I use when I am working more expressive.


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I try to sketch everyday! In my opinion the only way you are going to get good at something or even make it a habit is by doing it consistently and this is the way that I treat my sketching process. While there was a time when it wasn't much fun and it felt like work- these days sketching is a JOY and it feels like a "creative workout" and a time for me to get warmed up and ready to dive into my creative projects.

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With a baby and a business to run I am a little more challenged when it comes to time but I just try and set aside a little bit of time each day for sketching. Back when Lucy was little I would sketch while I was nursing or if she was napping in my arms. Now that she is on the go, I sketch while she is playing. Sometimes a page may take me 1 week of 10 minutes each day to complete, while other days I knock out 5 pages of sketches in an hour. And of course there are days when I am not able to fit sketching in but because I enjoy this process I find myself making time for it no matter what I have going on.

This should answer the basic sketchbook questions that I seem to receive over and over again! For more details and the complete run down of techniques- check out my online classes- Sketchbook Delight and Sketchbook Delight Part 2 and Watercolor Bliss they all cover most of the process and techniques that I use in my sketching.


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