• Tony Santo

Avoid Perfection, Encourage Experiments: Realize Your Art

I hope everyone is enjoying this “Inktober.” It’s always fun to see the community of artists respond to social media challenges like this.

When approaching such a challenge, I try to use each media in a way I may not have used it previously. What can I do that might be unusual? What can I do that is unique to my sensibilities? With much of what inspires us, we develop and expand upon each concept, exploring ways to make such ideas individual and colorful - to make them ours.

Rapidograph Pens from Koh-I-Noor come in handy while rendering my Spaceship designs.

Allow yourself a space to experiment. Some of my fondest memories making art was spreading books and art supplies on the floor, sitting over rolls of paper and making a literal mess. Ink covering my fingers. Brushes, nibs, sticks and even crayons dipped in ink, creating character studies, thumbnails and designs based on classics of literature like “The Once and Future King” and “Treasure Island” (two of my favorites). One idea leads to another, each sketch leads to a different solution. Experiment with your tools and your methods, playing with the possibilities. If you do this often, you will become addicted to a feeling of fulfillment that is hard to match.

When you immerse yourself in hard work,

it becomes a passion.


Consider this part of your training. It’s what keeps you drawing and returning night after night to your desk while permitting your imagination to run wild.

Ask yourself thoughtful questions. Would such an idea be best served as an oil painting on masonite? Or would it be better as a dry brush ink drawing on cold press watercolor paper? Can you envision your concept as a series of ceramic tiles cemented along a pathway, or painted as body art for an adventurous soul? Whatever it is, give yourself permission to see where it takes you. If it becomes a book illustration, then so be it. If it becomes a series of skateboard decals, a line of t-shirts, art prints, bronze sculptures or etchings - what a great way to have found it!


This Inktober, I started working in Rapidograph, a tool I haven’t used in years. I prefer a messier development tool, like a crowquill or brush dipped in India Ink, sometimes introducing dyes or watercolor paint. With Rapidograph pens, what subject would best be explored with them, especially after years of embracing messier media?

I designed quite a bit of spaceships the past few years, so I collected them all in one place, ripping them out of my different sketchbooks (I have never kept organized sketchbooks). I decided to work them up using the technical quality associated with Rapidographs.


Even with Rapidograph pens, I can't resist the urge to draw in loose freehand. Colors are digital.

A Radiograph forces me to slow down, think carefully of my design, and render each stroke with purpose. I resist the urge to scribble into the drawings, but one step at at time I am resolved to do what makes sense for each illustration.


Looking at the amazing comic book illustration of Moebius, I notice his controlled line quality characterized by the Radiograph pen. I am forced to think about design, deliberately placing my negative and positive shapes, line weights, and convey image planes and distances.


When it comes to far-out science fiction worldscapes, Moebius is perfect for my spaceships right now.


What is a perfect technique for you to explore today?


We always have time to be curious. If you find yourself asking “Why?” don’t stop there.


Go the extra mile and ask “How?” You may unleash an experiment that proves the best solution and gives you lasting fulfillment as an Artist.