Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the optimal urban sketching set-up. The best way to improve my art skills is lots of practice, and the best way to get practice is to keep sketching supplies and draw whenever I have a spare moment – in coffee shops, when I’m waiting for the bus, out my window at work.
As always, I started planning by gawking at other artists kits on the internet. I drooled over teeny-tiny watercolour palettes and massive studios-in-a-bag. In the end, I realized that neither was quite right for me – the teeny tiny credit card sized palette is silly if you’re going to have to carry water and brushes and a sketchbook to paint on anyway, and I wouldn’t have the energy to haul the contents of my studio everywhere. So, I set about building a perfect-for-me carry-everywhere sketching kit.
The drawing above was done at Cafe Pyrus in downtown Kitchener on Friday, using my brand new “carry everywhere” kit. I drew the cool couple studying across from me, while drinking a Superhero (bulletproof) coffee.
In planning my ideal urban sketching kit, I’ve come up with a few key “wants”:
As an adult, I don’t need to carry a large backpack everywhere – I want a fairly compact kit that can travel everywhere with me.
I’d like to play with colour more in my sketches, experiment with different styles and train myself to draw bigger scenes, so a teeny-tiny sketchpad and a mechanical pencil isn’t ideal either.
These days, I mostly get around by bike. I would like my daily bag to be easy to carry around by bike, either in a basket or clipped in such as a pannier or frame bag.
I can be very messy. I work best with a simple, clear organizational system. A sturdy, hardcover sketchbook and a small collection of easily accessible tools is ideal. Loose papers, spillable ink, anything that is finicky to set up and put away (requires clips/tape/specialized pouches) is likely to get ruined.
With these wants in mind, I set out towards assembling my kit. It is far from perfect, but I’m very pleased with what I’ve got so far.
First, I bought a simple, sturdy leather purse (thrifted at Thrift on Kent, the local mennonite thrift store). It is just large enough to fit a smallish sketchbook, a wallet, and a few extra supplies into. This is what I carry around every day.
Next, I started narrowing down what art supplies I want to carry around with me. Here are the current contents of my everyday bag:
- Cottonwood Arts Mixed Medianotebook – found at Aboveground Art Supplies in TO, this landscape oriented sketchbook juust fits into my purse. 60 pages of smooth, heavyweight paper.
- (The ubiquitous)W&N Cotman Sketcher’s Pocket Box containing 12 half-pans of watercolour. I’ve owned this box for nearly 10 years. Most of my colours are not original to this box.
- Sakura Micron pens in a variety of sizes.
- Nib pen, currently the disposable Copic F01.
- Mechanical Pencil and Lead – I use a size 0.03 Staedler Mars
- Teeny-tiny spray bottle, sadly recently discontinued at Sally Beauty Supply
- Brushes/brush cleaner/water bottle- I am currently using a waterbrush, but I find it lacks control, and have ordered a couple of nice sable travel brushes to replace it.
The purse also has just enough space to fit my wallet, keys, phone, lip gloss and some snacks along with my art supplies. Here’s what the inside looks like, all packed up.
I will be perfecting this set-up over the next few months, but I’m very pleased with it so far. Stay tuned for news about tweeks, and pictures of my sketchpurse attached to my bike