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These Five Tools I Use Every Day

Denise has been studying and teaching art and painting for 40+ years. She has won numerous prestigious awards for her art and design.

My niece Carrie in collage.

My niece Carrie in collage.

My Tools

The artist uses a variety of tools and each of us has our favorites. Some prefer to use oil paint and long-handle brushes. Some prefer to use watercolor and real sable-hair brushes. Others prefer digital media and drawing with a Wacom tablet and digital pen. Still, others prefer using just basic pencil and paper. Whatever your favorite media to create, you will have a few tools that are used more than any other.

My house is filled with most of the tools of the trade. I have a computer (of course) and a Wacom Intuos Pro tablet with a digital pen, a makeshift art table and tablets of paper, tripods for filming and recording my work, sketchbooks in assorted sizes, assorted pencils, assorted markers, assorted charcoal pencils, assorted soft pastels, assorted acrylic paints, assorted oil paints and a wooden box the size of a coffee table, paintbrushes in cups, in tin cans, in plastic containers, in closets, under beds, and all around me. I even have an assortment of 2 dozen scissors that each make different decorative edging cuts. I have three wooden manikins, glue guns, staple guns, rolls of clear tape, rolls of masking tape, and rolls of paper gum tape. There is a gallon of Elmer’s glue under the sink, a quart of rubber cement under my desk, glue pens, glue sticks, and fabric glue in the closet.

I am always creating something. If I don’t work on a collage, I’m working on a children’s book, a book cover on commission, a watercolor for fun, or putting together footage of the latest collage for a YouTube video. Not a day goes by that I don’t sketch in a sketchbook or draw for fun, work on an existing collage or watercolor piece, or plan one by Photoshopping (I call it Frankensteining) different photos together to make a photo reference to do the next piece with.

My workspace; messy but functional.  Just the way I like it.

My workspace; messy but functional. Just the way I like it.

Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt. Poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.

— Leonardo da Vinci

Computer

Because I love to create my own compositions using photo references, my computer, and in particular, my Adobe Photoshop program is one of my most used tools. I open it every day and go through the reference photos I have prepared for the next collage or watercolor piece. Even when I don’t mash up a new Frankensteined photo, I call up my current reference to have on the screen while I work on the art table next to the computer table. Photoshop allows me to add touches to the photos; I can change the colors using filters. I can increase or decrease the intensity of the light on one spot or the whole photo. Sometimes this one thing changes the whole mood of the reference. I can take photos from a free photo site like Pixabay or Morgue Files and combine it with a reference I have taken myself, changing the background or adding elements like cars or couches that I don’t own. I also do some digital drawing and painting but not as often as creating photo references for watercolor and collage work.

There is a learning curve with Photoshop. When I first got my hands on this program, I couldn’t make it do anything. I thought all I had to do was click onto a paintbrush tool and start drawing. I didn’t realize I first had to open a file or a page, so I had something to draw onto. Then I had to choose a color to draw with or the tool would do nothing. There are hundreds of beginner’s tutorials on YouTube so I won’t go into the basics here. All I need to say is that Photoshop is a valuable tool to have in your toolbox.

In my hand is a digital pen and below a Wacom Intuos tablet.

In my hand is a digital pen and below a Wacom Intuos tablet.

Wacom Tablets

If you have a Photoshop or digital drawing tool on your computer, you still need to have a better way to draw with it than just a mouse. The Wacom tablets come in a small beginner model (6”x9”) called the Bamboo, a medium model (9”x15”) called Intuos, and a large model the size of your screen that you draw directly onto called Cintiq. I dream about the Cintiq, but it is so far out of my price range that I have given up thinking about it. I’m happy with my Intuos and digital pen. Because I use it every day and to relieve the pressure in my wrist I have it sitting on a tilt instead of flat on the desktop in front of my computer screen.

There is also a learning curve with a Wacom tablet. Unless you have a Cintiq, you must get used to drawing at one spot but seeing it develop on the computer screen above you. It took a little while, but I soon got used to not looking at my hands but looking at my screen instead.

Progress of collage with rubber cement bottle and scissors

Progress of collage with rubber cement bottle and scissors

I really believe that everyone has a talent, ability, or skill that he can mine to support himself and to succeed in life.

— Dean Koontz

Rubber Cement

The third most used artistic tool I have is my rubber cement. Because I most often create collages and paper is my paint, I need a good glue. I use rubber cement because it won’t make my paper buckle and wrinkle as it dries. I glue little pieces of paper onto paper, and I need the final project to be flat, not wrinkled because of glue. I go through a quart of rubber cement almost every month. Each collage takes quite a bit of it.

I have thought about searching for other glues that would not wrinkle my paper but the ones I have researched so far are not as affordable as rubber cement, so for not I’m sticking with it.

Scissors

Have you ever had a favorite pair of scissors that you use more than any other? The house may be full of scissors, but you spend an hour or two searching for your favorite pair. That’s how I feel about my little sharp 2” bladed scissors. They are small enough to fit comfortably in the hand and cut little pieces of paper for some of the fine details of my collages. I do have a dozen scissors of various sizes, but these little ones are my favorite. I’ve used them for a decade and hope to use them for a decade more. If they finally lose their sharpness or get broken, I do hope to find a replacement pair that are just like them.

My tweezers and favorite scissors

My tweezers and favorite scissors

Creativity is not a mood. Creativity is not a gift. It’s the very Nature of God inside of you.

— Dan McCollam

Tweezers

The tweezers are a surprise to me too. Regular tweezers just won’t do it. They are too small for my purposes. I needed something to pick up small pieces of paper and place them in just the right spot with gooey glue on one side. I was just using my fingers and fighting with the paper for years before I remembered one day that I had a pair of tweezers specifically made for stamp collectors. It came in a kit I had purchased years ago when my children were teenagers and interested in stamp collecting. When I unearthed these tweezers and began using them for collage work it was a revolution. It made all the difference and made the work go faster and smoother especially for the smaller pieces. Not a day goes by that I don’t pick up these tweezers and place a piece or two onto a collage with them.

My latest collage of my father and baby brother in the 1960s.

My latest collage of my father and baby brother in the 1960s.

Final Thoughts

What do you think of my favorite and most used artistic tools? Do you have favorite tools that you use more than any other? A favorite pen? A particular program? I’d love to read about it in the comments below.

Comments

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 16, 2021:

I M Kristen,

Oh, please feel free to borrow that word. My husband thinks it's gruesome but I think it describes what I do with photos so well. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 16, 2021:

BRENDA ARLEDGE,

I'm glad you like the quotes. I keep a whole file of interesting art quotes I can use because I write on art so often. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 16, 2021:

Chitrangada Sharan,

You are sweet to be so kind about my messy space. If only I had a room of my own but I don't. This happens in a corner of our living room. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 16, 2021:

John Hansen,

I often wish I had a craft room I could close off to the world so I could remain as messy as I like but we have no room for that now. I have taken over a corner of our "living room" because there is no other place for me. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

I M Kristen on July 16, 2021:

Frankensteining.

I love that word. Do you mind if I borrow it? Hahahaha

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on July 15, 2021:

Denise

That sounds like quite alot of work, but I can sense your enjoyment.

I can't imagine having to look up at the screen instead of where you are drawing.

You are very talented.

I love your quotes..especially the kne from leonardo da Vinci

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on July 15, 2021:

Hello Denise!

Thank you for sharing the pictures of your creative art room. It’s interesting to see how you give shape to your magnificent creative pieces. I enjoyed the descriptions and the details of each of your artistic tools. I always admire your creativity.

Thank you for sharing.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on July 15, 2021:

Denise, I loved reading about your most used tools. My wife is an avid crafter and textile artist so she has a craft room and favourite tools for each different craft. My artistic skills are limited to various pens, notebooks, sketch blocks, pencils, coloured pencils, my laptop, and tablet. I have no idea how to even use photoshop. Thank you for sharing your processes.

(oh, I wrote as pen from your suggestion or a silly children’s poem aka. Shel Silverstein in my latest poems from the porch. In case you missed it.)

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 15, 2021:

Rosina S Khan,

I use Grammarly too. I find it very helpful. My writing would be a real disaster without it. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 15, 2021:

Pamela Oglesby,

Thanks. Plus I shared my messy creative space. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Rosina S Khan on July 14, 2021:

I appreciate the five tools you use daily to create your artwork. Your studio may be messy but I kind of liked it and found it intriguing.

As for me, I usually write short stories here on HubPages and Grammarly is my favorite software tool to check grammar and sentence structures for a final touch to my work.

Thank you, Denise, for this wonderful hub. I enjoyed it very much.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 14, 2021:

I appreciate you sharing the tools you use every day to create your art projects, Denise. Thank you.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 14, 2021:

Devika Primić,

Thank you for always checking my art process out. I really enjoy sharing it and my work with this community. Thanks for commenting too.

Blessings,

Denise

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on July 14, 2021:

Hi Denise Tools for art work is interesting to know of and you certainly know how to use it. You are talented you have shared so much of your work to us here, I learned lots from your hub about these tools.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 14, 2021:

Dora Weithers,

Yes, we develop favorites very easily, don't we? It's the way they feel in the hand or fit between the fingers that makes all the difference. They are like extensions of our arm if they fit right and just cumbersome clubs if they don't. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 14, 2021:

Bill Holland,

Isn't my "studio" corner an absolute mess? I hesitated using that photo but it is the real me so there it is. I have moved a few things around but it's still as messy as ever. I just can't help it. I like having everything at arm's reach and it looks a mess but has order to me. People often ask if they can come over to my "studio" but I don't usually let them as they may go screaming into the night if they saw it all. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 14, 2021:

Peggy Woods,

Thanks. I have a new one on my artboard right now. It is my Dad and baby brother in the winter in the mountains. Dad sure doted on that boy. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 14, 2021:

Dbro,

Oh, a masking fluid pen. I have to get that. You should write something on your arsenal as well! Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 14, 2021:

Niks,

I'm so happy you think this was helpful. Thanks so much for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Dora Weithers on July 14, 2021:

I do have a favorite pen which to wire in my journal. I also have a favorite kitchen knife.

Thanks for the insight into your world of painting and the tools you use. Quite an art lesson!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 14, 2021:

Very cool to see inside the artistic process; just a glimpse, but interesting. Thanks for taking us inside your studio and educating us. Very interesting!

Blessings always

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 14, 2021:

That collage of your father and baby brother in the 1960s is beautiful. Thanks for sharing some of your tools of the trade.

Dbro from Texas, USA on July 14, 2021:

Denise! I love your collages! They are gorgeous and so much fun! I am a watercolor painter, and I have three brushes that I've used for years. I call them "the arsenal." I'd have to say they are my favorite tools, but like you, I have TONS of tools. I'm a sucker for a new bit of art supply. My most recent acquisition is a masking fluid pen that allows me to mask very small, delicate areas - fabulous!

I enjoyed this article very much - well done!

Niks from India on July 14, 2021:

Those are great tools for producing outstanding artwork. Would like to give them a try someday. Interesting and creative hub. Enjoyed Reading it.

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