The Art Supplies I Use

When I started botanical drawing I was a little hesitant to stock up on loads of materials because I wasn’t sure what would really be helpful and what would just end up sitting at the bottom of a drawer. Although I’m still learning, it’s clear that there are some things that you should buy instead of struggling with a lack of or poor materials.  Here’s what I currently have in my kit:

  • Artboard: This is something that I wasn’t convinced with when I started drawing. Why would you need a board to lean against, especially when there is a perfectly good table at hand? After only a few hours of drawing it’s clear to me that having the paper you’re working on raised at an angle is much better for preventing muscle strain. At the moment I have a portable art-board as it gives me to the flexibility to draw on the move, while still being useful at home or at a desk. If you’re in the market for a portable board I would suggest that you get one with a handle for carrying (as it’s much easier to grip onto if you’re also hanging onto pens and pencils).   More importantly, I would make sure that your board has a clip for holding onto your paper as it makes it so much easier if you don’t have to worry about your piece of paper floating away.
  • Pencils: Pencils are graded on a hard/soft scale from 6H (hard) to 6B (soft). Generally, pencils in the middle of the scale are best for botanical art as they will be less likely to make a big mess like a huge smudge on your work. Over time you’ll find what works for you (personally I’m partial to the H lead) but I like to have pencils from 2H to 2B on hand while I draw to adjust to what I’m currently drawing.  In my pencil case I have:
    • 2H, H, HB, B, 2B in Staedler and Colombia brands
  • Pacer: The pacer may not be in the most traditional kits for a botanical artist, but as someone who has grown up using them, I’ve very comfortable using them to get really fine lines on my botanical work. I don’t have anything too fancy, just a Staedtler with standard HB leads, but I find the fine detail it gives me is fantastic.
  • Drawing & Watercolour Paper: I initially started my drawing classes with a cheap cartridge paper (we’re talking about $8 AUD for 50 sheets) that I felt would cover my initial learning stage in a fairly cheap fashion. The cheap paper wasn’t a big problem when I was learning how to draw outlines, but when I started shading it was clear that the cheaper quality paper was almost repelling the graphite, which was making it next to impossible to build up enough depth in my pictures.
    • I am now trialling some new paper and will post recommendations when I’m happy that it’s working for me.
    • Tips for Looking for Paper (that I’ve found during research):
      • You want to make sure the paper is sturdy enough to withstand eraser attacks!
      • The paper still needs to be soft enough that it won’t repel graphite from the paper.
      • For starters look at paperweights in a range from (150-300 gsm)
      • Paper made from rag will last longer
      • Make sure the paper is acid-free
      • Wood-based paper will discolour over time.
    • If you have any other suggestions, please send them through the contact form and I’ll give them a go!

 

  • Eraser (Plastic): It is inevitable that you will make mistakes or will want to make changes to your work at some point during the drawing process. To undo, you’ll need a soft plastic eraser that won’t make too many smudges or tear your paper apart.
  • Putty eraser: A putty eraser is invaluable when you start shading as it allows you to remove layers of graphite without messing up your entire drawing. Personally, I have a Derwent putty eraser, which has saved my drawings on multiple occasions.
  • Watercolour Paints: I have quite an array of watercolour paints that I’ve trialled. For my classes, we’ve been instructed to use the Daniel Smith watercolour paints in tubs that can be found here. During class, I’ve enjoyed working with this
  • Blue Tac (or your other favourite tacking substance): For subjects like nuts, I find that it can be easier and more appropriate to simply stick your botanical specimens down to something else to get them in the right pose.
  • Pencil Sharpener: I have a mix of pencils and I sharpen some of them using a pencil sharpener. I like the pencil sharpeners that have the little holds for pencil shavings on them, which is handy when you’re on the go.
  • Craft knife: One thing that is recommended by many in the botanical art world is to sharpen your pencils using a craft knife as it gives you greater visibility of the work that you’re doing as there is less pencil in the way. I’m still perfecting the use of the craft knife, but it’s something that I’m getting better at as I keep practising.
  • Paper holder/ Display Folder: Having something to store your drawings in is essential otherwise you will have paper everywhere, and really that’s just painful. At the moment I’m storing my drawings in a display folder.
  • Light Source: At the moment I’m not using anything fancier than the torch setting on my phone to set up a light source.
  • Camera: A camera isn’t essential for the day-to-day work of a botanical artist, but it can be very handy for getting some quick shots of a specimen if you need to pack up for the day. Personally, I am using my phone to take happy snaps of my specimens at the moment. (Remember to charge your phone!)