My husband, illustrator Dave Malan, is probably best known for his pencil studies of faces done in a distinctive cross hatching style. His mechanical pencil portraits have a life to them unrivaled in the art world.
Dave gets asked constantly about what supplies he’s using and today I’m here to fill you in on all the details. The simplicity of his tools may surprise you, but the minimalism of his tool kit it part of what makes him successful. They are simple, and easy to carry and use anywhere or any time.
He also has a limited run of his drawings available on his website DaveMalan.com
I wrote up a few of the questions I hear people ask him most often which he kindly answered below:
Dave Malan Art Interview:
Why do you draw with a Mechanical Pencil?
There was a period of time in my life that the mechanical pencil was the most readily available drawing instrument. I drew enough that it became comfortable and my method developed around the tool in many ways. I have a clean, precise style that was complimented by a mechanical pencil so although it was accidental it was also fortuitous.
How did you find your style?
I believe that ones “style” is primarily a reflection of ones personality. While students often spend time searching for a style I think you develop your art and your unique style will bubble to the surface. Your style will find you. I see a lot of elements of my personality in my style, it is structured, precise, and focussed. My style grew as I spent large amounts of time developing as an artist, constantly drawing, copying the work of artists I admired, and experimenting with different approaches to handling a subject.
What is your sketchbook?
I really like Strathmore 60Ib. sketch paper 9″x12″ sketchbooks. I’ve got a stack of these ready, they have just the right amount of texture, a little rough but I don’t like anything too smooth. The weight is also nice.
My sketchbook is a restful place that I can relax at the end of my workday. I draw anything that grabs my attention in any way. Often I am drawing faces, trying to capture a personality that presents itself. I’m always looking for shapes that are appealing, intriguing, or challenging. A head at an odd angle, an intense expression, a compelling gaze. These reference sources come from anywhere at all, magazines, catalogs, across the internet, books. When I encounter them I try to save them so there is a stack available when I’ve got time to dig in. I’ll find an image that matches my mood at the moment.
Each drawing is worked on as long as it is interesting to me. None of the work is done with the intention of a finished product (although many turn onto nice pieces). I take on the challenge of capturing what I want to get out of the source. Sometimes it works and I have a nice drawing, other times it fails and I move on or possibly try again in the future. Typically it takes me around 6 months to fill a sketchbook. I add it to the stack and dig into the next.
What pencil and lead do you draw with?
I like .5mm 2B. I’ve been moving darker lately, I like the dark lines and the range (smudging becomes more of a problem as you go darker).
How many hours a day do you draw?
Ideally 2 hours at the end of the day. I like to put the kids to bed then draw with a movie running in the background. This is cathartic drawing, a wind down, and mostly done on autopilot. That said, drawing is an important part of any art, my day job creating art has a big element of drawing. I have a separate sketchbook for idea generation, the paper specifics aren’t that important here because it’s more like note taking. Drawing ideas for my regular work varies wildly depending on the current project.
Advice for artist starting out?
Copy, copy, copy. Copy anything and everything, I copied everything from money to graffiti especially great art by great artists. You will learn answers to questions you never knew to ask because you will have to go through the motions of the original artist. Copying a work of art is the most intense form of study you could ever do. Copy each line or stroke of the piece you are studying. Learn all the lessons that have been learned before you. Note, DO NOT present this art as your own.