Art Tools of Suhita Shirodkar

Today we have Suhita Shirodkar with us. I can't remember exactly where I've seen her artworks but it's probably either on her blog or Flickr page.

I love her fluid lines and use of colours that make her drawings really lively and fresh. She usually sketches on location and occasionally post on the Urban Sketchers blog.

So let's have her tell us more about herself.

Qn: Can you give our readers an introduction of yourself?

I'm Suhita Shirodkar. An urban sketcher, watercolor artist and graphic designer. I grew up in India and now live in San Jose, California.

I love vivid color and pattern, and I particularly like drawing urban landscapes full of people and activity. I attribute my love for crowds and for color to growing up in urban India, where everyday life is a mad whirl of colour, commotion and people.

Qn: How did you pick up watercolours?

I started out using colored pencil. But I was quickly drawn to the vibrant nature of watercolor, and the ability to mix so many hues with a limited color palette.

I love the wild, untameable nature of the medium. I'm mostly self-taught, but I look at the work of many, many artists all the time, and that might be the best education I have had.

Qn: What are your favourite drawing tools?

My main drawing tool is an Extra Fine Point Sharpie (US | UK).

I always have 4 or 5 of these in my sketch bag all the time. I never want to run short of them! 4-5 sharpies is a lot. But i am not super-organized so pens go "missing" in the depths of my sketch bag. Also, I often have my kids ( I have 2, a 6 and an 8 year old) with me when I am out sketching, and they tend to want to use the same supplies as me, so I always have extras.

They're an unusual pen for a sketcher to use but I love that they are waterproof, and also that the ink flows out of them very fast: this makes me sketch quickly to prevent big blots. Actually, I like that they create little dots of ink every time I pause on the page: The little blots mark the pauses they mark the passage of my hand across a sketch.

Qn: What watercolour brushes do you use? I noticed that many travel sketchers like to use waterbrushes. Have you tried them before?

I might be the rare urban Sketcher that doesn't like the waterbrush. I can't seem to get the hang of squeezing down for waterflow and free movement for my strokes: they don't work together for me.

So I stick with traditional brushes : a #4 , #6 and a round #10 or #12.

Most watercolor artists use Kolinsky sable brushes (US | UK), but I find I prefer hardier Cotman watercolor brushes (US | UK). They stand up to a lot rougher treatment than do sable brushes, and I am not gentle on my brushes when I paint!

Qn: Your sketches are always so colourful. What are some of your favourite colours?

Strangely, my must-have colors are not my brights: they are Payne's Grey, Raw Sienna and Burnt Umber, which help quieten down my super-bright colour palette and add depths and tones.

My brights I change out often: I'll experiment with different reds, yellows and blues, but my neutrals are what grounds my work.

Qn: What are the pens do you use with your sketches? The ink from your watercolour sketches certainly look waterproof.

Yes, it is waterproof. My trusted Extra Fine Sharpie is my most common pen to use, but I'll switch it out every once in a while for a Lamy Safari pen with a medium nib.

Most of the time I'm using Noodler's bulletproof ink in it, but I've been experimenting with more organic line with non-waterproof inks and with using India ink and a bamboo pen.

Qn: I see a normal pencil. What's that used for? How does that compare to the more convenient technical pencil?

I always use a normal pencil, an HB or 2B sharpened with an exacto knife (US | UK, not a regular sharpener )

I like the point I can make like this better than a more mechanical, even point from a sharpener or a technical pencil.

If I use a technical pencil, I find my lines are more angular looking, not flowing. With an exacto-sharpened pencil, I can go from using the point of my pencil to using it almost horizontal to the page for a softer, looser line, all in one stroke.

Qn: What sketchbooks do you use? The watercolour seems to work well on them.

I've experimented with lots of books over time.

My early books were Bee Paper Company's spiral bound books, a watercolor sketchbook called Cachet (by Daler Rowney) (US | UK) and Moleskine sketchbooks (US | UK.

The Cachet books are great value for money, but I can't seem to find them anymore. I love the paper quality on a Moleskine, but don't always like the warm-colored paper: it works well in the summer when most scenes are bathed in a warm light. But in the winter, I feel I have to fight the paper to achieve a cooler, crisper light.

My current favorite is the Stillman & Birn Beta series (US | UK) of books which have bright white paper and hold up fabulously to my heavy use of pigments and water. They're quite heavily sized, so the pigment takes longer to dry, but it works for me because I work wet in wet. And, I always have a second sketchbook around so I can let one sketch dry while I start on another.

Qn: I was looking at your sketches from way back and noticed that your sketchbooks are mostly spiral bound. Do you have a preference towards spiral bound sketchbooks? Why? I mean sometimes it's difficult to draw across the gutter where the spiral is, especially when you want to complete a wide scene.

Yes, it is hard to compose and draw across the gutter, but I rarely do that. What I gain with a spiral bound book is convenience: I can fold the books over easily when I sketch. I am often drawing standing, and I have been moving to larger and larger sizes(I use my 9x12 inch Stillman & Birn sketchbook quite a lot lately) so spiral bound books really work for me.

Qn: Do you use loose sheet watercolour paper?

Not often. Unless I am working on commercial illustration work, and then I use Fabriano watercolor paper (US | UK) in larger sizes.

Qn: What's the carrying bag that you're using? Is it good for carrying drawing materials? Is it heavy? Do you have a stool to sit on?

My bag is a Timbuk2 messenger bag (US | UK). I really like how comfortable it is to wear and that it's waterproof, so if I were to get rained on, my books are relatively safe. I've used a backpack at other times, but I prefer wide-format bag to a tall one, as it makes it easier to reach for things.

I own a Walkstool (US | UK), but don't end up using it much. Usually the best vantage points for me to draw from are places where I have to stand to draw. Or, I am happy to squat on a pavement and sketch most of the time.

Qn: Who's the next artist do you think we should feature?

That's a hard one, I can think of so many.

I'd love to peek in the sketch kit of Inma Serrano. She is a genius with color.

Or, of an artist I follow on flickr known as mango Frooty.

Or Shari who has a way with light and watercolors that is poetic.

You can check out more artworks from Suhita Shirodkar on her blog, Flickr page and Etsy store:


If you have any questions or comments for her, send them here:

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