Lili Arnold

Name: Lili Arnold

Pencil Hand: Left

Craft: Artist, Graphic/Textile Designer, Illustrator

Brand: Lili Arnold Studios

Location: Santa Cruz, CA


“I also love the sound and feel of the graphite on textured paper; it’s soothing and actually very stress relieving for me, especially if I’ve been working on a computer beforehand.”

Lili Arnold
Lili Arnold
Lili Arnold


What do you do?

Though I am a graphic designer & illustrator by day, my true artistic passions are fulfilled by way of art & printmaking. I fell in love with printmaking during my years in the UCSC art department. In my small home studio, I focus mostly on block printing because I love the tactile process of carving, inking and printing by hand. I also work with an ongoing array of freelance clients, mostly focusing my work on hand lettering, icon & logo development, poster design, and general illustration.

What does your work space look like? Where do you like to create?

To be honest, my work space is my bedroom, more specifically a long pine work table I made with my dad. I’m lucky to have great light and just enough space to set up and store my materials so that they are ready to go whenever I am feeling creative. I have a small printing press and storage cabinet for my supplies; I try to keep everything as organized as possible because I share this space with my musician fiancé who has a lot of equipment of his own. I love to just put on a record and get right to work; it’s actually pretty easy for me to stay focused when I work at home because I am relaxed and feel like I have everything I need.

What role does the pencil play in your process?

The pencil is where it all begins. I have to brainstorm as a first step to every project, and whether or not my sketches turn into anything usable, the act of putting pencil to paper gets the ideas rolling. I also love the sound and feel of the graphite on textured paper; it’s soothing and actually very stress relieving for me, especially if I’ve been working on a computer beforehand. What’s also interesting to me is that this process of putting pigment to a surface is one of the most primitive ways we know of humans expressing their thoughts, and we still do it today.

Why do you choose to work with pencils and, specifically, Blackwings?

A couple years ago I was given a set of Blackwings as a birthday gift from my parents, who are both artists. My father is an oil painter who has been sketching with Blackwings for a long time. He’s used just about everything in the book, but only sticks with the best quality products on the market. My mother is an illustrator and textile artist, and her work often starts with a series of Blackwing sketches as well. When I was gifted my first set of Blackwings, I honestly couldn’t believe I had been missing out for so long. The quality and feel of drawing with a Blackwing was significantly more enjoyable and satisfying than any other pencil I had used before. I’m also completely hooked on the Blackwing sharpener because the sharpness lasts, and the precision is unmatched.

What other tools are essential to your process?

Other tools I use almost on a daily basis are my Speedball cutting tools, my set of Xacto Knifes, Soft-Kut printing blocks, Tombow, Micron, & Sharpie pens, and Blick block printing inks. I also recently invested in an HP printer/scanner/copier which has upped my productivity game hugely. A high quality scan is essential for digitizing my work and saving time in the editing process.

How do you overcome ______ block? Writer’s block, artist’s block, etc.

I overcome my artist’s block by switching my attention to a different project. I usually have multiple projects going on simultaneously, so it’s nice to have the easy option of setting a frustrating moment aside and have a fresh perspective. If I am completely stumped and not feeling creative at all, I give myself permission to take a break and go outside. Going for a walk along the beach, a good rock climbing session at the gym, or a hike in the redwoods is almost guaranteed to restart my creative juices. It’s really hard to force creativity so it’s always good to have some backup activities I can fall back on if I need to refresh my mind.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Good things take time. This can apply to so many instances in life; in terms of art and creativity, it’s important to be patient and not expect perfection right off the bat. I’ve been stuck so many times with various projects over the years, but reminding myself that it takes time to work through the kinks is the best way for me to move forward and not give up.