Do you know what my favorite tool is for drawing cartoons? It’s not the Series 7 Kolinsky Sable brush. Nor is it the Hunt 107 pen nib.
Heck, I have a diverse collection of fountain pens, brushes, nibs and quality inks. I also have an iPad Pro with the Procreate app, which makes it super easy to draw and color digital cartoons.
But every time, the tool that brings me the most pleasure is the lowly ballpoint pen. I’m not even particular about the brand, but lean toward a Bic, in black ink.
Keeping things simple
A while back, I got all caught up with tools. I figured you had to have the best tools to create the best art. For both my fine art painting and cartooning, I experimented with the best stuff I could find.
There’s no question that quality tools can help. For example, student grade paints have a lower pigment load than professional grade paints. A cheap paint box or easel will probably fall apart after a few outdoor painting trips.
However, what I discovered was that “keeping things simple” pays huge dividends. Here’s how I arrived at this discovery.
Around the time I was buying all these expensive art products and tools, I was reading a lot about minimalism and simplicity. Books like Marie Kondo’s, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.”
I was reading a lot of minimalism blogs and realized that I craved a simpler approach to my life and art.
As I began selling and donating a lot of my stuff, I noticed that my artwork was changing. I spent less time fretting over the perfect tools and rediscovered the joy of creating.
A kind of serenity
I began carrying around a simple leather satchel, with a sketch book and a few ball point pens. Talk about “low tech.” I rediscovered the joy I felt as a kid in school, doodling in my spiral notebooks.
I reacquainted myself with the control and fine lines that I could achieve with a ball point pen. I began fleshing out my cartoons more, and adding more crosshatching and detail. Talk about fun!
The cartoons had more weight than the typical, digital cartoons you see on websites and in magazines.
I moved to a limited palette with my oil painting, and found that color harmonies were easier to achieve.
I also found a kind of serenity in a muted palette and tonalist approach. The work was quieter, more reserved. Less garish, gaudy and loud than paintings with saturated color.
I embraced greater simplicity in my design approach. I revamped my websites to reflect a minimalist look. Simpler, cleaner, less busy.
The tyranny of endless decisions
When we simplify our lives, we eliminate the stuff we don’t need. Less stuff creates room for greater, creative expression. We spare ourselves the tyranny of endless decisions. We focus more on who we want to be and what we want to achieve.
There’s a kind of freedom in limitation. Less decisions have to be made. You begin to focus inward more, on that organic creativity within. And that’s where the good stuff is.
I’ve written more expansively about the power of limitations in the below article.
Whatever your creative discipline or passion, consider adopting a simpler, more minimalistic approach.
Less really is more, and you’ll be stunned by the deeper, more authentic, creative work you’ll begin producing.
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(Originally published here)