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A picture of Danielle Baskin

Danielle Baskin

Art director, bike helmet painter (Inkwell Helmets)

in artist, biker, fashion, illustrator, mac

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Danielle Baskin and I'm the founder of Inkwell Helmets, a hand-painted bicycle helmet company. I specialize in designing custom, cool helmets for cyclists in hopes of making safety more fashionable. I'm also a freelance art director. I create props for plays, scenic paint, design sets, illustrate books - and do a spectrum of things visual.

What hardware do you use?

My computer is a 21.5" iMac, which lives in my studio on a cramped, paint-covered desk. Its portable companion, the iPhone 5S, is like a laptop to me, and lives a busy life in an OtterBox. Both devices communicate with my all-powerful, but not all-in-one, HP LaserJet Pro 200, which excels at both mundane and elaborate tasks - like printing shipping labels really fast or printing UV-protected color images on vinyl.

My paints are Golden Open Acrylics, which are an amazing simulation of oil paint. This stuff is really practical for detailed painting in tiny, unventilated spaces. I pretty much mix all colors from Mars (black), Burnt Umber (brown), Phthalo (blue), Alizarin (crimson), Hanza (yellow), Titanium (white), and thin the paint with water. My brushes and graded pencils are mostly Reeves brand, but I use .5 mm Bic mechanical pencils more often for drawing and writing. Super fine lines appeal to me both aesthetically (I like thin fonts too, like Helvetica Ultra-Light) and functionally (better for details and looks precise without precision), so I typically use drawing tools like .2 mm Micron pens and extra-fine tip DecoColor paint pens. I seem to destroy their tips easily, however... I can still use pens in a broken-down state. They're useful for making scratchy or grainy lines, like creating fake wooden surfaces or drawing phrenology charts.

I've had a Wacom Graphire 2 tablet since 8th grade that I still use occasionally for drawing in Photoshop. I prefer to draw on paper than on a computer. My sketchbooks aren't really sketch-books, but are actually just sheets of loose printer paper arranged in folders. That way, they're easier to photograph because they can lay flat (I don't have a scanner), I can sort them easily, and I can view them together as a collection.

Some great chemicals and tools for sculpting/fabricating that I use: Acetone (for creating laser-printed image transfers), Barge (a cement-like adhesive), Zap-A-Gap (an insanely strong instant adhesive that binds metal to metal), Deep Creep (a spray that can make rust disappear), a Vapor 22400 heat gun (for melting plastic and vinyl or loosening adhesive), and random parts from broken and discarded hardware. Something I'm looking forward to getting soon is a 3Doodler, which is a pen that lets you draw in three-dimensions. I'm very excited to pull this out at meetings to draw physical, moveable objects!

For transportation, I ride an old Columbia Tourist IV, illuminated with Bike Brightz, and the 'z' in the logo is hopefully the only uncool thing about this gadget that makes my bike appear to float in a blue orb of light. I also have a Citi Bike membership, which is my one-way trip bike, bike-to-train bike, rainy day bike, lend-a-friend-a-bike bike, and backup bike. I also have a second-hand Worksman Front Load tricycle (which is so damn useful!). I use it to deliver helmets, move supplies, and occasionally to set up a mobile shop. This thing is awesome and I highly suggest using it for your next move instead of a truck. I'm hoping there's a tricycle lane one day.

And what software?

The CS6 versions of Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign is what I use for all illustration and graphic work. Even if I create something by hand, I'm probably finalizing it in the Adobe Suite. My browser of choice is Chrome. I organize all my Internet findings on Evernote. I read blogs and comics through Feedspot, which is like the new Google Reader. Artsy is a good tool for discovering artists. Google Cultural Institute is an incredible site for looking at magnified artwork. Spinlister is a great way to rent a bike while traveling, though I don't really leave New York that often. I process words in Google Docs or Bean. Play games in Steam. Download fonts from DaFont. Run my company website through Shopify. Create promotions with scroll kit. Code some things in Sublime Text 2. Look at how JavaScript works in JSFiddle. Send marketing campaigns through Mailchimp. Send emails at 8:17 AM with Boomerang (now you know, 8:17 AM Danielle is a cyborg).

I use Instagram, Frametastic, Twitter, and Tumblr, mostly for my company. When I sell helmets in the street, I accept payments with Square. I find out Citi Bike docks' availability with NYC Bikes. I listen to Podcasts and audiobooks on Audible while painting. Communicate through Gmail. And remember things, draft things, and make lists with Notes - lots of 'em.

What would be your dream setup?

Visualization tools! This doesn't exist, but I'm thinking of a device that could project sharp images (or solid colors) onto irregular or non-flat objects at short distances. It would kind of be like a Pico Projector meets Google Glass meets Maya's UV mapper. It would detect an object's edge, then project distorted pictures onto its surface with an aperture that mimics its contour. This would facilitate painting on objects by showing a template to trace images or text. It would also be a tool to show other people prototypes for different aesthetic variations on objects, without actually creating it. While I love intricately hand-made objects, I'm getting increasingly less stubborn about doing the entire process by hand and eye... because, speeding up the process yields more ideas.

Other things that don't exist (yet).

  • A robot that reads physical books.
  • A same-day delivery service for art supplies, lumber, and hardware that delivers anywhere in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
  • A working .5mm paint pen that I can pour my own paint into.

Things that do exist that I don't really need:

Machinery found in a warehouse that would be impractical for one person to own, like ULine's Instant Bubble Machine or McMaster-Carr's ventilation systems. I could probably be breathing cleaner air in my studio... and, I could be a more efficient shipper and packager. Sometimes when I'm ordering corrugated boxes online, I end up clicking on some industrial objects on sale like metal shelving racks and imagine ways I can fit it into my studio for storage (maybe it can fold into the ceiling?); however, my studio is 6' x 7' and is almost filled to capacity.

Other things and technology: a circle saw, a jigsaw, a router, a wide-format Piezo inkjet printer, an iPad, a Windows gaming laptop, a PS3, Light & Motion bike lights, a desk wider than 4', a nice camera, a DiWire metal-bending-robot, Spike - a laser-based measurement tool for smartphones, and a company cat.

I used to operate my business out of a 3' x 5' crawl space above my closet. Then I moved my company to a walk-in storage locker. But I JUST moved into my first-ever office at the co-working space, Coworkrs. Although I can't really work on large projects here (it's a 6' x 7' room), I can run my entire helmet operation, and I'm surrounded by tech companies and startups with great energy. And luckily, it's a 10-minute bike ride from where I live - so this is totally a dream situation!