Behind the Tablet with Quincy Vadan: Take Your Art to the Highest Level with the Right Tools and References

By Shireen Faridniya |
September 16, 2020

Back in 2005 when I started school at the Academy of Art University San Francisco, I got the chance to learn from some of the greatest living traditional artists. I was in awe of them. I took copious mental notes whenever they dropped art knowledge. They were so generous that I’ve been able to fill neurological cabinets full of advice gems. I’m sharing two with you now.

Legendary illustrator Matt Faulkner taught me to “invest as much as possible in your tools. These are your weapons. Art is part journey and part competition. Champions source the best materials so they compete at their highest level. Never short yourself on quality art materials.” This advice rings true for me now more than ever. As my skills grow, I see how my brushes, paints, hardware, and software help me to create at a level that fits my skills and ambition. Without these quality tools, my ability to bring fantastical ideas into 3D reality would fall far short of what I could imagine.

Faulkner’s advice was echoed by master painter Craig Nelson, who said “an artist is only as good as her references. Gathering references is just as important as executing.” Nelson backed up his statement with a thick album full of photos that he had photographed over several decades. He showed us how he continued to use his reference album to create the skillful paintings that we saw him complete during class.

Faulkner and Nelson inspired me to amass my own collection of tools and references that could help me execute art at my highest level. In this edition of Behind the Tablet, I want to take you on a mini-tour of my traditional media tools and image references that I’ve curated over the past 7 years.

My Traditional Media Tools

I am primarily a digital artist. I still start everything out on paper. That’s why I make sure that I have the best sketch materials that allow me to quickly paper my ideas and then translate them into 3D. I’ve taken time to find pens that are exactly the right circumference for my hand, have the best tips for the images I want to create (whether it be felt tip, ballpoint, brush, or fountain nib), and can be repaired so I can rely on the same drawing instrument for years. I’ve also chosen different types of paper that are the right weight and right grain for the many different marking tools I own, from graphite, heavy inks, to Copic markers. It’s such a relief to have all of these tools right at home. I never lack the exact tool I need to make the kind of mark that I desire. For example, if I need to make rhythmic fine line drawings, I use my vintage Sailor fountain desk pen with extra-long tines. If I want to make sloppy thumbnails, I use my Pentel Tradio felt-tip calligraphy pen. Having the right tools gives me the freedom to create anything I desire (at my current skill level) instead of worrying about how to create what I desire (at my current skill level).

reference 1 scaled

reference 2

My Image References

I own and use many different image-filled books on a wide range of subjects, from indigenous jewelry design, to historical clothing throughout the world, to Baroque-style architecture, to weapons, to furniture design. My collection also includes numerous art books that showcase what I believe to be some of the best designs ever created. Along with the books, I have accumulated a modest collection of figures, toys, and animal remnants. Combined, all of these references form my personal reference library that I rely on for research before ever putting pen to paper or tablet to start a new fantasy piece. Turning to my reference library means I don’t have to rely on Google image searches. It saves me time during the creation process, reducing time spent in art blocks. I also believe it makes my work more original because I’m not sourcing from the same reference pool as everyone else.

reference 3

reference 4

reference 5

reference 6

Some of my favorite reference books include the Final Fantasy XIV artbooks, The Hobbit Design Chronicles, anything by Yasushi Nirasawa, anything by Takayuki Takeya, and anything by Wayne Barlowe.

I’ve carried Faulkner’s and Nelson’s advice with me throughout the years. Champion-level materials support art champions. When I’m not at my desk, I’m spending time curating my personal art store and reference library, keeping my eye out for new tools, technologies, and materials that make the creation process easier. I’m hopeful that as I level my materials up -bit by bit, day by day- my art skills improve as well. I hope this workspace mini-tour inspires you to build upon your own tool and reference library. Reach out to me on instagram @champagne_corpse if you have any questions.


Quincy Vadan is an artist living in Los Angeles. Quincy began his art career studying fine art and illustration for 6.5 years at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. He was then awarded a merit scholarship to attend Parsons School of Design in New York City. Quincy declined to pursue self-study of 3D art and cultivate his aesthetic palette. He spent the next 5 years incubating: training in the latest digital art techniques, advancing traditional art skills, combining the two, and applying them to designs that are in his signature style. From fashion fits to digital characters to jewelry, his designs, which are often described as “beautifully original,” “a compelling blend of masculine/feminine, practical/fantastical, simple/ornate,” and “of the future and yet eternal,” are the result of a decade of journeying to uncover mastery, beauty, and meaning.

Follow Quincy:



Related posts:

Shop the Wacom eStore*

When you shop on the Wacom eStore you get access to discounts, financing, extended warranties, and our industry-leading customer support team.

Connect with Wacom on Social

With a mix of illustration and 3D, @kentushi shares with us his #WacomWorkspace, and even recreates how he was making it! ✨✍️⁣
Zoom in to see all the fun details! 🐕✏️⁣
#MadewithWacom #digitalart #art #deskspace #wfh #officegoals
715 3
When our inner critic arises, it’s difficult not hear it 😭

Sometimes our internal voice criticizes, judges and makes us doubt of our work telling us that we are not good enough. It happens to all of us!

But it’s all in our heads, trust the progress you’ve made so far and don’t give up!

Have you ever felt this way? 👇

#Artistslife #Innercritic #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth
357 4
Who's your favorite Pokémon? 💦🍃🔥⚡⁣
Some nostalgic friends for #FridayFanart with amazing art by @philipsue_art. If beautiful landscapes, process videos, and art tips are your thing, Philip's page is the place to visit!⁣
#MadewithWacom #digitalart #animation #art #artprocess #fanart #pokemon #pikachu
6257 26
Digital kitchen time! 
Here's the last of @patrick_4d's digital burger tip series. We hope you tried making your own burger or at least went out and got one for sustenance 🍔🍔🍔
Thank you Patrick for making us the most delicious digital burger we could have wished for. 
587 16
This is a reminder for you to embrace your geek side! 🚀

For those who spend hours designing a new skin for their character, creating 3D models of their favourite video game or programming special effects for movies.
Your art makes us proud!

How are you going to celebrate? 👇

#GeekPrideDay #Geek #ArtistsLife
851 5
Tag your other half. ✨💕⁣
We had to share the love with @yuyo.psd's heartwarming illustration. 🫶⁣
If you like the flow and colors of Yuyo's design, make sure you check out their page for more colorful artwork! 💜⁣
#MadewithWacom #digitalart #illustration #art #graphicdesign
696 8
From concept to reality, @pixebo’s home office is brought to life to create a cozy place to sit down with their Wacom Cintiq and get to work! ✨✍️

#WacomWorkspace #digitalart #homeoffice #deskgoals #wfh
1722 13
Discover the technology behind #CintiqPro24 🚀⁣
The #WacomProPen2 provides state-of-the-art creative pen technology, meaning every stroke, every move of your hand is followed with unerring accuracy. 💫⁣
Want to discover how it feels to draw with it? Check the link in bio!⁣
#Cintiqpro24 #CreativeProfessionals #CintiqPro
710 14
Colorful creative portrait by artist @valerie.loves.colors to start off your week. 🌈☀️🍃⁣
Valerie finds that people and colors give her the most inspiration. She points out that everyone is unique and vibrant in their own way, much like the color spectrum! 🎨⁣
#MadewithWacom #abstractart #digitalart #art #portrait #illustration
473 6
The importance of taking breaks ❤️

We’ve seen absolutely identified with the words of @ms.shortyj 💫 Taking care of yourself will help you grow as an artist.

Stopping is not quitting, is just taking a pause of the path to get another perspective 😉

What other things help you when you feel this way? Share it in the comments!

#Artistslife #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth
1285 18
If you could design your dream workspace, how would it look like? 🚀⁣
Tell us in the comments what are your must-haves! 👇⁣
#WacomWorkspace #ArtistWorkspace
635 14