Pencils, Pens and Brushes

I wrote this post in 2014.  I’ve added some new images and thoughts at the end.

Here is the original post:
Recently a friend suggested that I consider working on some of my illustrations in photoshop for the ease of trying out different solutions to a problem. I saw her point, but I prefer the point of a pencil, or the flow of a pen.

paschkis inko

When I am illustrating or painting I start with an idea in my head. But once I start working on it other things kick in – my hand and the materials with which I am working. A line drawn with a pencil is different than line drawn with a brush. A line drawn with my hand is different than a line drawn in my head. Although a computer can recreate the looks of various media, I want the physical experience of interacting with real materials. I want to eat paper and drink ink.

Ink leads to scratches and blots, like this gongozzler by Ben Shahn.

ben shahn ounce dice trice

Ink leads to elegant script and crosshatching as in this drawing by Saul Steinberg.

steinberg nose

…or to elegant script and scratchy lines as in this Pennsylvania Fraktur for a Sam Book (psalm book) from 1809.


Ink is tempting, as in this drawing by John Coates.

John coates

A pencil will take you to an entirely different place.

Paschkis Point

Saul Steinberg‘s pencil still life feels intimate, yet airy.

steinberg still life

Garth Williams illustration has warmth, weight and softness.


James Edward Deeds ( 1908 – 1987) was an inmate of State Hospital #3 in Nevada, Missouri. He was also known as the Electric Pencil. He left behind an amazing trove of subtle and haunting pencil drawings.



Don’t miss the upper left corner of Rebel Girl…

edward deeds rebel girl

I want to make art, but I don’t want to be the total master of the material. I want to see where the brush or pen or pencil will take me.

Paschkis brush

Paschkis word bird

P.S. Here is a pencil poem by Todd Boss which I first saw on Julie Larios’s blog, the Drift Record.

todd boss poem

New thoughts:

I still work by hand although I use the computer to send and store my work. Technology has advanced so much in the last 8 years. I often can’t tell when I look at a book if the art was created digitally or manually.

prisbrey pencils heart copy

I still prefer drawing and painting by hand because all of my senses are engaged. I might be able to recreate a dip pen line with a computer, but I like the feel of pressing on the nib. I can’t imagine this drawing (from 2015) deciding to come to me on the computer.

accordian l004

Sometimes I will use photoshop to edit out a blob, change a background, or change the scale of my sketches. But my ignorance might be keeping me from seeing the possibilities of the new tools.

I recently heard an artist explain how ProCreate allowed her to work more directly from sketches and make her work more free and intuitive. It made me want to try it.

Paschkis blue author

If you are an artist how does the medium affect your creating?
If you are a reader do you care or notice how the work was created?

Have your habits or creative processes changed as technology has developed?

I welcome your comments.

11 responses to “Pencils, Pens and Brushes

  1. Julie, this was my favorite post of yours so far, among many others that I have loved. You said everyting I feel about drawing with pen and ink and with colored pencil, and articulated it beautifully. Thank you. Pascale

  2. laurakvasnosky

    wonderful post. i love the sensory experience of paper and pen, brush and paint, too — and the smell of gouache paint. my computer can’t compete.

  3. Marvelous and inspiring as always…..

  4. Well said. I am finishing up a book in linocut and gouache that, at times, has made me truly tear my hair with the difficulties of the medium. Then I get a snort of the printing ink on weighty Arches Cover paper and the sensual pleasure outweighs the frustration. Edward Deeds was a revelation, as was the Todd Boss poem. Thank you.

  5. Love, love, love this post. Thank you for sharing (and for including the Todd Boss poem, which I must have missed on Julie’s blog).

  6. Excellent post, Julie! This post beautifully articulates why it is so exciting, powerful and magical to use traditional methods.

  7. Pingback: Once Again, In Praise of Pencils | Books Around The Table

  8. Pingback: Drink Ink | Books Around The Table

  9. That poem is stunning, as is the genie flowing from the ink bottle. I’m on your side.

  10. thank you, i very much enjoyed all the parts of this post. in answer to your question…as an artist the medium of watercolor absolutely affects my process. i have tried most other mediums and nothing works for my brain like the combination of the water and color soaking into good quality watercolor paper, the brushes used or sticks or bamboo pens also play into the experience. I have added photoshop to my “mediums” in the past few years as a very helpful tool in making small corrections for illustration jobs and as a sort of collage tool to help copy and paste parts of my image to make it fit a specific format needed.
    thanks for all you share, you are an inspiration!!

    • Julie Paschkis

      Thanks for your comment. I know what you mean about the light and life of the water/ the color/ the paper.
      And I also use photoshop as a tool and it’s seems miraculous to remove a big blotch after the fact.

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