Archive for the ‘Art Supply Fetish’ Category

ten things about using pastels

Wednesday, July 12th, 2006

1. Wallis paper is the best thing ever.

2. If you use Wallis paper, *do not* blend with your bare fingers. You can sand your fingertip off; trust me on this.

3. Get magical impasto effects by pushing pigment around using a brush dipped in water (do this only on paper that can support water, like Wallis; water will destroy vegetable fiber papers).

4. Get beautiful layered glazing and watercolor effects by mixing pastel dust in acrylic liquid matte medium and applying with a brush.

5. Clean up and sharpen dirty old stomps in an old electric pencil sharpener.

6. Get subtle color effects in white by rubbing your (clean) fingers or stomp on the pastels to pick up pigment, then place color on your surface by lightly tapping your fingertips on it.

7. Prevent your hands from cracking and drying out: hand lotion + a shop towel makes cheap wipes for quick cleanup.

8. Don’t blow pastel dust off your drawing unless you want to give yourself and everyone else lung cancer. To clear the dust, tap the side of your drawing against a hard surface (like the edge of a trash can).

9. Micaceous iron oxide as a ground (acrylic binder, painted on whatever surface you want) is the other best thing ever.

10. Latex gloves are nice to keep your hands clean. You can get them at the hardware store for around $4. The bad-ass shop gloves construction worker-themed box costs $1 more than the creepy medical supply-themed box, and may be worth it for when your friends come over and quietly yet suspiciously eye your pastels supplies.

new favorite thing

Sunday, July 2nd, 2006

$11.98 = $5.99 x 2 GRUNDTAL magnetic knife rack
$ 8.98 = $4.99 x 2 GRUNDTAL magnetic container

$20.96 = Never lose your screwdriver or scissors again.

* Also works for palette knives, thumbtacks, erasers and pencils.

Which came first, the chicken or the dinosaur?

Friday, April 7th, 2006

From, a startling new expose on the decline of classic drawing skills due to the prevalence of design software.


So the basic idea is that design students can’t draw anymore, and it’s all the fault of those gdurned newfangled computers, see?


Starting somewhere around 1997, this amazing thing happened. Webpages started getting designed in Photoshop, instead of Pico (remember Pico?). Technology embraced design, enabled design, and finally, technology required design.

It’s always been a given that draftsmen and designers must have a solid understanding of their tools. Once, that meant you needed to know how to use pen and ink, how to use a Linotype, how to measure points-inches-picas for pasteup, how to get last minute stains out of a layout that was ready to go to film. Even before that, if you were an artist, you blended your own pigment. You stretched your own canvas. Throughout time, if you were a designer, you worked with materials, in the physical world, and necessarily you were a master of chemistry, of typography, of the hundred odd types of physical interactions between ink and substrate.

It’s not so different today. We have new technology – the mastery of tools has expanded. Some things are simpler. Lots of things aren’t. These days, you need to be a master of information technology, subtractive and additive color, color calibration, digital photography, of the hundred odd types of virtual interactions between different file formats and compression and what each one does to your work. And that’s long before you ever get to the ink and substrate.

You have to deal with saving things, Windows networking, running out of disk space, and backing up your work. You must be a master at machines and technology, and if you’re not, well, you’re at an extreme disadvantage. The truth underlying the article above is not that technology destroys drawing ability, but rather that technology still requires that designers focus their ability on becoming proficient in technology, not design.

To me, the worst thing about designing in Photoshop is it’s missing the tactile satisfaction of tearing off a used sheet of paper, something that didn’t work out, something you’ve been frustrated by, crumpling it up, making a lot of noise and thrashing all around, only to find a pristine, perfect fresh as a snowstorm brand new page underneath. All sins forgiven. Born again design. In Photoshop, all you get is CTRL+A, DELETE. There’s no ceremony. I’m not entirely sure the tradeoff was worth it, not even for unlimited undo.

So the world’s not as physical anymore. Communication is instant and virtual, digital photography is everywhere, and mastery of physical objects is less important to success. Moreover, the skill that allows someone to be a designer today is singularly this: the ability to successfully cope with technology – it’s a subset of patience with machines, an inclination towards engineering, a fearlessness and a willingness to forever put up with relearning tools. You want to get into design, you must sign a contract that says you will keep your brain plastic, you will keep relearning keyboard shortcuts with every new UI designer Photoshop goes through.

(Is it a coincidence that this same generation that’s grown up during daily exponential advances in technology is now confusing the previous understanding of what it means for a generation to grow up? What it even means to be a generation? From here on out, we have plastic generations, and that’s really wonderful. We were born into a time that requires we keep learning, that we keep open to change. We might be in our 30s, but still we expose ourselves to new experiences, new music, new styles, right alongside the 20-somethings.)

Anyway. Back to the point. I’ve been drawing ever since I could first hold a crayon. I’ve been working in software since before it was cool to work in software. I’ve been messing around with modems since the first time Reagan was in the Oval Office, so technically I should be a dinosaur. But: I was born to the Generation of Plasticity. I am addicted to the intersection of the material world and the virtual world. This year, I’ve been doing all the digital things that theoretically destroy drawing ability, and never before have I enjoyed so much crossover between the physical world of paint and charcoal dust, and the shadow-world of packets and pixels.

The truth is that I’ve learned more about good design from smushing burned-up grapevines around on mashed-up, dried-out wood pulp from one single figure drawing class with a really good teacher than I have learned in all the classes about form, function and how to lay things out. Photoshop doesn’t destroy drawing skills any more than having drawing skill destroys Photoshop ability.

I’ve learned so much design from old fashioned drawing, but it goes both ways – in Photoshop, I catch myself doing the same things I do while drawing, only subconsciously – add a slight gradient to dull an otherwise sharp point leading the eye off the page, manipulate contrast to suggest other shapes and forms. While drawing, I am confident in line and composition because of the hours I’ve spent playing in Photoshop. And the most important crossover point is to iterate, iterate, iterate – before you settle on that final layout, throw out at least 20 thumbnail sketches. Extra points if you do them on paper, crumple them up and play rough draft basketball with your trashcan. You sit on a computer at a desk all day, you need the excercise anyway!

40% off sale

Thursday, December 1st, 2005

This Saturday, December 3, Graphaids’ West LA Store will be holding a 40% off (everything in the store!) sale from 9AM to 5PM. It’s worth a stop for holiday shopping too – they’ve got a lot of excellent stuff beyond art supplies, including toys, photo albums, frames, and a great selection of frouffy pens, if that’s your thing.

Happiness is…

Tuesday, October 11th, 2005

a nice weekend up in San Francisco, lots of old friends and some new ones too, big loud and benevolent f-18 hornets zooming overhead (photos!). Four new boxes of letraset markers. in pantone colors! color calibrated markers! chemistry is beautiful.

Lots of rumors, lots of rumors. I like the nanopods, and while video is awesome and everything, I’m really hoping Apple will be announcing their brand new ipod line will also be coming in pantone colors.

yup yup. that would be too good for words.