Before I start this post, I want to preface with some news I meant to post last week but got side-tracked on:

There’s a book out there that has scammed a bunch of my fellow illustrator friends, compiling their work and interviews without permission in book AND cd form (like clipart). This is bad news folks, and you need to spread the word and hopefully something can be done about it to get it taken off the shelves and the illustrators compensated. This is bad for the industry and bad for so many people.

More details here and here. I can’t put it as eloquently as my friends have but it sincerely makes me angry.

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Back to the main premise of this post: art supply shopping. Art stores are stocked with temptation for me; but oftentimes I will buy something I swear I’ll love (I’m looking at you, Chartpak markers) and they wind up sitting and taking up space, because I just can’t/don’t use them well, or they don’t feel comfortable. Still, I blow money on art supplies because it’s fun in its own way. It’s rare that I walk away from a store (or receive a package) 100% thrilled with what I get. But this weekend I did, so I wanted to share and review what I found.

Art store: Jerry’s Artarama, Tempe, AZ

Jerry’s is where I typically get my art supplies. I’ll admit sometimes the store frustrates me, as they don’t always have what I need, and I expect store prices to be similar to their website, but I have to sacrifice price for convenience sometimes. And I rarely ever buy brushes there, because they are not really kept well, but oh well. On Saturday I wrote up a little list and went in search of white ink. The Moby Dick of the illustrator world, white ink is SUCH a pain to find and be satisfied with. Either it’s too thick and gloppy, or it’s not opaque enough, or it lies funny on the surface and can get dirty. Ideally you want something opaque but thin enough to be used with a brush and a dip pen.  I was seeking out FW Acrylic because some friends were getting good results with it, but when I got there, the selection was picked over. Desperately I started scrambling for some other ink, and looking at the bottom of one rack I saw this:

Item #1: Dr. Ph Martin’s PEN-WHITE! I wasn’t sold at first, after dipping my finger into the vial I couldn’t tell how opaque it was over ink, but I bought it anyway. The kid at the register said he liked it better than FW anyway, and since I generally like the brand I scooped it up. Consensus? I love it. It is great for my dip pen and brush alike (though not 100% opaque with the latter, with clean-up in Photoshop, it’s not noticeable. See below), and my only complaint is that in the desert here, it seems to dry a teeny bit faster than I would prefer. Still, a touch of water doesn’t affect the opacity and helps that out.

Before, on my warm-white sketchbook.Sometimes it got a little less opaque because I didn’t refill as often as I shoulda.

After clean-up in Photoshop… Most everything cleans up nice!

So I highly recommend/love this ink. Only trouble– how hard is it to find? I’ve never seen it before.  Next on my list was to look for some pen nibs. Unfortunately, no art store around here seems to have the awesome nib supply I used to get in CT, so everything’s mostly prepackaged and in sets. But, I did notice while checking the manga section, a nib that is totally awesome and my new favorite:

Item #2: The Tachikawa G-nib. ( with nice green lacquered pen holder, and my old inkwell). This sucker is awesome. In the drawing above, 90% of the whites were all done with it, and the chipmunk was all pen, while the girl was brushpen.  Some minor differences, but overall I can emulate brushstrokes with it and get fine detail AND get curves to work better. I know part of it is lack of practice, so I hope to get better and further use it for lovely mark-making. And even in the below picture, I did the bottom half of a monster with brushpen and the top half with the nib and the results are really close. So it looks like I will be using the nib predominantly (and supplement with the brush) from now on!

(Above, everything is nibbed, except for the bottom half of that monster.)

From there I found my oddest and possibly neatest discovery:

Item #3: Liquid Pencil! As you can see, it’s from Australia and it says rewettable (next to that little splotch of white ink). Which means that you can take water to it and lift up areas and shade. Basically, the inside is like a puddinglike consistency, and you can wash and use a brush to sketch. Kind of like sumi-ink, but graphite. They also have a permanent version and you can get six different tones–two greys, sepia, green, red, and blue. I just went with the basic for now.

I haven’t used it a lot yet, but here’s a little sample of some fooling around. It’s pretty cool and I will use it a lot in the future methinks!

Anything that looks like it was brushy/washy was with it. Reminds me of the results of drawing with crayon on a litho stone, which is super-awesome!

Well, this got a little long but I hope you guys appreciate some cool supplies to take a peek at. I always find playing like this rejuvenates me and keeps me creative during quiet freelance periods. Feel free to recommend me your favorite new art discoveries!

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Been slowly working my way around on getting a feeling for what I’m doing– sometimes I gotta admit I feel like someone replaced my hands with clumsy dog feet and blindfolded me and said “OK, now make some fun drawings!” On the other hand I do think far too much about what I’m doing right and wrong in this business. It’s one of those things I have to work on– not that thinking is that bad, but too much of anything is a good thing! Emailing my illustrator friends and asking their opinions has been a nice experience though– part of me is like ‘Wow! They’re going through what I’m going through!” and the other part is like “Wow! I’m totally jealous!” But still, I’m getting a better idea of where I feel more comfortable and where I could see myself. Ultimately though I just have to have fun– and stop thinking so hard!

I’m curious though– are any of you working in the children’s books field? Several pals of mine keep telling me they’d love to see me tackle that field, and I’m definitely interested. So if anyone has any suggestions/resources/contacts/advice on how to get into it, or know someone who I should talk to about this, that’d be great! Anyone willing to let me pick their brain? My sister and I have a book idea also, though it’s currently in the wrong format (comics) and we’ll need to rework it.

I’m all for the give and take of information obviously. I’ll answer what little I know in return!  I’ll try and write a more advice-worthy post sometime in the near-future, too. Bear with me!

Anyway, it’s time for this lady to stop thinking so hard and start putting the pen to paper. It’s been a while. How are you guys doing?