As a blogger and sketcher, I have a problem. It’s an internal problem that generates embarrassment and shame. You see, when I started sketching I remember always wanting to know what pen was used (and why), what colors were chosen, and what approach was used by every artist I came across on the internet. I remember grumbling when they didn’t tell me. So whenever someone asks “what kind of gizmo do you use Larry?” I always write long emails back to the person, BUT I never seem to get around to putting that information into blog posts.
By way of excuse, I have the feeling that I’m not qualified to speak with authority on anything artistic and that my choices are unimportant. I think that’s true. But here’s the thing. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that what materials people use aren’t very important, but for people trying to find their way, knowing such stuff matters. It still matters to me. Anyways, this post is the beginning of rectification of those omissions.
Everyone has their way to move tools and materials to a sketching location but, in my view, this is also the most important issue when it comes to materials. If you have to think about what you’re going to take and/or how you’re going to carry it, you’re not going to do it at all. And if your stuff isn’t conveniently available when you get on site, you’re going to be too distracted to be effective. In my case there is an additional caveat. I have to carry everything when I walk and those walks can be a couple hours long, at least they were before my leg problems of late.
My Sketching Bags
I started out with a single bag. I’ve had it since I started location sketching and I fear the day when it dies as I haven’t been able to find a look-alike backup. Into this bag I stuffed pens, paints and sketchbook and carried it everywhere. That worked pretty well, though I found myself leaving stuff out, adding new stuff, and there was no rhyme or reason to it. Because I carried it everywhere, I always worried about weight – micro-managing things by adding/subtracting single items.
Then came along a large bag, a bag too large to carry everywhere but the one I used when I want on an organized sketching events. This caused a shift in my approach because I was spending too much time moving stuff back and forth between the bags and worrying about whether I had everything or not.
A Modular Approach
I tried replicating everything, outfitting each bag with the same stuff. That didn’t work for me because that was expensive. More importantly, the maintenance doubled. Ensuring that two sets of pens were filled with ink, pencils sharpened, etc. was just too much for a lazy guy like me and I didn’t like the fact that I was working in different sketchbooks just because I was carrying a different bag. So, I went modular.
To facilitate this approach I put identical misc support gear into each bag. This includes:
- bulldog clips (some of these have magnets attached to them): I use these to attach palettes to sketchbooks, clip pages down when it’s windy, etc.
- kneaded eraser: I don’t erase when I draw but when I use a pencil to layout a sketch I like to remove those layout lines once the drawing is completed.
- water bottle(s): more on this later but this is the water I use with watercolors.
- tissues: each bag has a pack of tissues, used when I paint.
- tiny paint kit: each bag has a 4-6 color mini-palette “for emergencies”
- waterbrush: I don’t like waterbrushes but “for emergencies” one will suffice. I currently prefer Kuretake/Zig brushes which seem to give me better water control than others.
That’s it. Everything else is included in these three modules.
When I head out I simply choose which modules I want, stuff them in my bag, and go. In practice, most of the time the pens and watercolors are in my small bag already because it’s still my go everywhere bag, but they’re easily moved to the large bag if necessary. The important thing is that I don’t have to think about it, which matches the amount of brain power I want associated with getting out the door. Next time I’ll discuss the contents of these modules.