I have a chronic illness that affects my joints and makes me have chronic pain and fatigue among other. As art became more and more important in my daily life, I developped strategies to make art more accessible. I want to share with you today how I have been doing it thanks to art supply choices.
This past year and a half, I have been experimenting with a few art supplies and I finally figured out what suited my practice the best. For years before that, I only drew with my good old color pencils, more accurately Faber-Castell’s Polychromos color pencils. I swore only by them. I still do, but now I erase the “only”.
In this article, I will present my favorite art supplies that makes art, both traditional and digital, more accessible for me. They would not work for everyone, as it totally depends on your own body and health, but if sharing my though process behind those choices helps people, I would be very happy.
Being disabled might also make it more difficult for me to find supplies that suits me. I need pencils and pens that allow me to hold them correctly easily, and I need paper with a texture that I like and enjoy but that is a little slippery. I tend to prefer round pencils than pencils with angles: it is more comfortable to use for me.
Basically, I tend to prefer when I do not have to put a lot of pression on the pencil/paper because it is better for my wrist and finger joints – as I have hyperflexible fingers that already hyper extend all the time.
The paper of my sketchbook is a little textured, which I love for color pencils. Yet it is smooth, allowing me to keep my wrist and fingers relaxed while drawing, including with my fountain pen.
On the other hand, the watercolor paper I own is very textured. I find it great for watercolor, but as I draw a lot with color pencils above the paint I do not enjoy drawing on it as much as on my sketchbook.
You unfortunately cannot see the texture of the paper of my sketchbook on the picture I took, but I think the comparision with the watercolor paper texture-wise is still visible.
I am not very strict concerning graphite pencil since I usually only use it to sketch before using ink. I bought a set of basic HB pencils years ago and I am still using it. Days it does not feel comfortable, I just use a pencil lengthener. I own the Derwent one and I am pretty pleased with it; it is comfortable to use.
For inkart I am using my good old Faber-Castell fountain pen. According to what I have seen online, most artists use fine liners and/or dip pens. I have tried fine liners and even if I had good times drawing with it, I still prefer drawing with my fountain pen. The shape of the grip is perfect for my hand and the feeling of drawing with it really is amazing: it feels very fluid and natural. It was pricey but in my opinion it is totally worth it. I also used it to take notes in university and I still use it daily to write things down. I refill the cartridge with the black Parker ink. It is not waterproof, so I might try a different, waterproof ink once my current bottle is empty.
Regarding digital art, I chose a wacom tablet because this brand has a good reputation and because the pencil seemed pretty ergonomic (it is!).
I use a simple printer paper above it because I find it more comfortable and in the same time it protects my tablet from marks. I think you can choose the texture of your tablet and can replace the “screen” part, which sounds very practical. At some point I will definitively try different textured “screens”.
After a few months of using the tablet, I noticed that the angle of my wrist when drawing with it made it trigger my chronic pain. I purchased then a stand. I choose an xp-pen one because I wanted to make sure that the edge would not bother my wrist as I noticed that some laptop stands have bigger edges.
I have been using it for both digital and traditional art in my sketchbook for a year and a half now, and it is still very sturdy and practical.
To make sure of my posture, I also lift my laptop on a wooden box and a big hard cover book so that the screen is at eye level.
Software wise, I started on Autodesk Sketchbook Pro for a year and switched to Clip Studio Paint Pro in summer 2021. I think that Sketchbook was great to begin with, but I do prefer CSP. Sketchbook is more straightforward, I would say, while CSP is, in my opinion, more complete for illustrating.
However, no matter which software you use, I really recommend you to check the pressure parameters of your tablet to make sure you do not have to put to much pressure all the time. I set mine in order to never have to put a lot of pressure: hence I do not have a lot of pressure differences when drawing and not a hudge line variability – but I make up for it by playing on the opacity and other brush paramaters.
I hope you enjoyed reading my insights about art supplies and accessibility, and that you found it helpful. Let me know if you have any questions, I would be glad to answer them!