It's great to have Ellis Nadler (website | blog | Flickr) with us for this interview. He's a freelance illustrator who has worked for clients worldwide in the fields of advertising, publishing, editorial and design.
His illustrations have a strong editorial style and are quite delightful.
Let's look at what tools he uses to create his artworks.
Qn: Can you talk about the pens you use? What's that below the Lamy fountain pen? What ink do you use?
Lamy make tremendously good value, low cost fountain pens with superb nibs for expressive drawing. They come with disposable ink cartridges but I've replaced those with the refillable reservoir converter.
I use Noodler's waterproof fountain pen ink, which allows watercolour to be painted over when the ink has dried. This is a great breakthrough and I am forever indebted to Mattias Adolfsson for bringing Noodler to Nadler! You can see it in the next photo.
The thing below is a Pentel Aquash Water Brush that always accompanies the Lamy. I keep it filled with plain water although you can use any colour with it. You can paint washes with it or use it with pan watercolours. No need for water bottles etc.
Qn: The three watercolour box sets that you have, what's the difference between them and which do you prefer?
The middle box is a conventional set of Winsor & Newton full pan watercolours. In my humble opinion you don't need more than 12 colours for most jobs. The main items should be two reds (one tending towards blue and the other towards yellow), two blues (one tending towards red and the other towards yellow) and two yellows (one tending towards blue and the other towards red). Don't bother with black.
I frequently carry a pocket set of just 6 colours when travelling and it's perfectly adequate.
The left hand box is a set of pan gouache by Pelikan. Despite the kiddie box appearance, they are of surprisingly good quality. It's very light to carry too.
The right hand box is a strange set of Japanese watercolours ( I don't know the brand because I can't read the Japanese text ). I bought them from Cornellissen's and you can see them on Page 103 of their online catalog. I think they're designed for calligraphy or woodblock printmaking or somesuch, because they feel half way between watercolour and gouache. I love them.
Huison-McCarthy, Gouache 15cm x 14cm
Qn: What are these brushes that you're using? They look really well worn, especially the one on the right.
Yes, the one on the right is probably 20 years old but still going strong. They are Roberson Kolinsky sable travel brushes with hollow handles that unscrew to hold the tip when not in use. Utterly brilliant and useful.
Qn: What does the brush cleaner and preserver do?
The brush cleaning soap is comparatively expensive but it's a false economy not to clean your brushes thoroughly after each use. Believe me, I've learned the hard way. It seems to remove old paint of all kinds, but there is no ingredient list on the box, so I can't say if it's toxic.
Qn: The first one looks like a Wacom Bamboo stylus? What do you use that on? How do you like drawing with it?
I'm a big fan of sketching on the iPad Mini. I love it because it's light and fits in my coat pocket. I mainly work out ideas and rough sketches on it but have also produced finished artwork with it. I've tried at least six or seven styli with it, including a couple of pressure sensitive models, but I think that's a whole different interview right there.
Suffice to say I think the Wacom Bamboo is the best all-round stylus. I would say that Steve Jobs missed a trick by not building a digitiser into the iPad. Drawing with your finger is NOT an option, and Apple's refusal to stock styli is just ideology gone mad.
Qn: What's that next to the stylus? What do you use that for?
I've got lots of clutch pencils of various diameters but this is my favourite, and I've never seen another one anywhere. It appears to be made of brass, and I found it among some random accessories in the menswear department of Fiorucci in Paris around 1979. It cost a few pennies, a real bargain. It's loaded with a sanguine Conté-type refill in this photo. Lovely to draw with.
Qn: What are your favourite drawing tools? Are they the same ones that you use to create your coloured editorial-style illustrations?
My favourites are those shown above. I produce my commercial illustrations digitally on a Mac.
Qn: Do you work mainly with traditional medium or digital? Which do you prefer? What digital art tools do you use?
For my personal work I mainly use traditional media, and I would always choose those over digital. But don't get me wrong, I greatly enjoy working with the iPad and iMac. I use a Wacom Cintiq tablet to draw directly on screen. I haven't touched a mouse for ten years! I can't abide trackpads! I mainly use Photoshop and occasionally Illustrator to produce illustrations.
Qn: Another watercolour box set. This looks like the Winsor & Newton field box but the ones they are selling nowadays are made of plastic. Can you tell us more about your set? Is it heavy?
I included this for sentimental reasons. I bought this as a birthday present to myself many, many years ago. It is hand-made in brass with hinged mixing trays in enamelled metal. It was made by a craftsman in England, but unfortunately I can't recall his name. It cost a lot of money, but it's a lovely object which has acquired a nice patina with age.
Qn: What sketchbook or paper do you use?
I always carry a little pocket sketchbook, the cheaper the better. I keep odd scraps and offcuts of various paper and use a hole punch to assemble a sketchbook using the Roberson's Artists Paper Choice binder shown in the second photo.
Qn: Who else do you think we should feature next?
Check out more artworks from Ellis Nadler at