The Tools I Use

The Tools I Use · Jeffrey Phillips, Illustrator

When the idea of featuring an illustrator was first floated for this column, I must admit, I was a little skeptical. How many tools could they really have? The answer? A lot!

Jeffrey Phillips‘ work includes everything from drawing editorial cartoons, storyboards, maps and live drawing (not to be confused with ‘life drawing‘) – and he’s even spent some time as a court sketch artist!  Today, we snoop inside his pencil case, and nerd out about waterproof fountain pen ink, 14 karat gold pen nibs and his absolute favourite sketchpad.

Sally Tabart

Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Styling – Ashley Simonetto.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Styling – Ashley Simonetto.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Styling – Ashley Simonetto.

Jeffrey Phillips (aka Jeff the Peff) in his Collingwood studio. Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Styling – Ashley Simonetto.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Styling – Ashley Simonetto.

Sally Tabart
10th of September 2018

Jeffrey Phillips (aka Jeff the Peff) entered the professional illustration game in his mid-20s, although he’s been drawing ever since his family relocated from India to Australia when he was a young teenager. Back then, he drew to observe the new sites he found himself surrounded by.

It was only in his 20s that Jeff enrolled in a Design and Multimedia course. Now a full-time freelancer, Jeff’s clients include organisations like Aesop, Facebook Australia, Ernst & Young, MYOB Australia, Studio Round and yes, even The Design Files. We asked Jeff to take us through his go-to tools.

The tools i use · Jeffrey Phillips

1. Noodler’s Bulletproof Black Fountain Pen Ink

This is a handcrafted black ink that is archival, fade resistant and water resistant when dry. It is pretty rare to have a waterproof fountain pen ink, so these are quite highly prized and can occasionally become sold out. I keep a bit of a stash to last me through dry times.

I think it’s good to be consistent with the type of ink, especially when you are combining different pens. Different inks fade in different ways. Some fade to a bluish black, others go a bit brown. So if you aren’t consistent, the drawings can start to look a bit funky as they age.

Find it here

2. Pentel Water Brush

There are loads of brands and styles out there, with different sized tips and so on. Both of mine are filled with water, but the grey one also has a few drops of black fountain pen ink for a nice grey wash.

Find it here

3. Daler-Rowney Ivory Sketchbooks

These tick every box for me. The hard-cover is great for support, the pages are perforated for easy removal, they have a lovely ivory colour and work really well with my pens and inks. I often try other sketchbooks but these are my mainstay. Unfortunately completely unavailable in Australia, but you can find them on eBay.

Find it here

4. Namiki Fountain Pen

This one has a 14k gold nib (fancy!) which has a nice amount of flex for creating variable line widths. Gold nibs are great. They give your lines a wonderful wobbly character! Also means you can swap five pens of different widths for a single one.

The Namiki Falcon is a very delicate pen and so probably not recommended for beginners or if you don’t use fountain pens regularly. An ill-timed bump or wrong move will probably permanently ruin the tip. So it can be stressful to use but the lines are AMAZING and worth it. Here it is in action.

Find it here

5. Lamy Fountain Pen with an EF Nib

This is my main drawing pen. It’s a no bullshit, reliable and versatile pen that has given me years of great drawings. It’s much easier and safer to use than the Namiki Falcon. A great beginner pen actually. I originally meant to get the yellow one and accidentally bought the neon-yellow – but what are you gonna do? I had a second one as a backup but lost it on the NYC Subway. I wonder what it’s up to now. It’s funny when you lose the backup and not the thing you wanted to back up. Here it is in action.

Find it here

6. Pentel Pocket Brush Pen

This pen must be one of the worlds most popular black ink brush pens. Every illustrator I see on Instagram seems to have one. Even though the black ink cartridges it comes with are great, I have replaced the ink in them with my standard Noodler’s black for consistency. Here it is in action.

Find it here

7. iPad

I have the 12.9inch iPad Pro second gen. The second-gen version has a slightly higher screen refresh rate than the first gen. If that makes a difference to you. I don’t know if I can tell! It also has 256gb of Memory – I heard that the higher memory allows you to run larger files without impacting performance.

I use it with the Apple Pencil which is great – except the lightning port you charge it from is the same one that the iPad also uses. So god help you if both are flat.

Find it here

Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Styling – Ashley Simonetto.

Jeff’s TOP shops, Apps and Tips

Favourite apps related to your practice?

AstroPad Studio – an app that effectively turns your iPad Pro into a Wacom-Style Cintiq tablet, allowing you to draw in Adobe Photoshop on the iPad. At $117AUD per year, it’s not the cheapest app but in terms of the time it saves me it’s worth it.

Best place to shop for gear?

Jetpens for pens and inks. They have almost anything pen-related you can imagine, including great reviews and handy guides.

Most visited websites?

Dropbox, because good backups are life. About a year ago I decided to sync all my working files and folders with Dropbox. It took a couple of weeks to finish uploading but it’s been the best thing I ever did – it syncs everything across multiple locations and keeps previous versions of all files, too. I can generate a link to any file at any time from any device. I also have an external HDD backup just in case.

Xero has changed my life. Having an easy and intuitive accounting system has freed me up to focus on the fun stuff. If I wasn’t using something like Xero, I’d be mentioning Microsoft Excel instead and not in a positive way.

Reddit – fun to browse, but the worst when you have deadlines.

Ozbargain Forums, where people find and share bargains basically – pricing errors, specials, voucher codes etc. and they get voted up/down depending on whether it’s a good deal. It’s really handy to check when you’re shopping around for something. And when you are procrastinating…

Inspiring reference books?

The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman is hands down the best book I have read about running any kind of practice. It’s very agnostic in terms of what ‘business’ means to the reader, so you bring your own agenda to it and come away with loads of good stuff.

What do you listen to when you work?

Spotify is always on. Otherwise I’m listening to podcasts. I enjoy streaming WNYC, Radio Melbourne, The Economist, or Design Matters with Debbie Millman.

What’s something you wish you’d known before you learnt it the hard way?

Your environment shapes your behaviour in mysterious yet significant ways. Having known the 9-5 grind before starting out as an illustrator, I thought working from home would be the Shang-ri-la of working lifestyles… Hell no!

Even though I had a separate room set up as my work space, I would find myself keeping extremely odd hours, seemingly always in PJ’s, not leaving the house for days, and always feeling guilty that I wasn’t doing enough work.

Now I have a hired a studio space, so I’m required to get up, get dressed and leave the house. It means I get physical activity, social interaction and a dedicated space for work. When I leave that space, it’s play time!

I think this delineation is very important for people who do something for work that they also find fun or pleasurable. The conventional boundaries are blurred, so you need to work out where the line is. Inevitably, it will be different for each person and situation.

Catch Jeff on Instagram, and check out his personal and professional illustration work via his website