Make Cathy Johnson’s Nested Water Container and Spray Bottle

Those of us who want to sketch outdoors using pen and watercolor have a basic problem.  How do you carry water without it becoming a burden.  On its face, the problem is pretty easy.  You can always use a waterbrush, but painting with these is not as nice as with actual watercolor brushes.  But lots of people carry water bottles with them, even while running, hiking, etc.  What’s the big deal?

Cathy Johnson's nested bottle set up

Cathy Johnson's nested bottle set up

And when you think about it, it’s not the water that’s the problem.  It’s that what we watercolor types want is a, in addition to water, we need a place to dip/rinse brushes and a way to spray the water we carry.

Cathy Johnson, author of Artist’s Journal Workshop came up with a great solution by nesting a small spray bottle in a slightly larger container such that the two nest for travel.

The only problem with this idea is that it’s hard to find bottles that will nest.  Even Cathy has said that she can’t find another set and many of us have been searching for just the right combination to replicate her system.

The three bottles on the left are the travel set; the right shows an art store spray bottle

The other day I was wandering through a dollar store, looking for things I could repurpose into art goodies., and I found a ‘travel’ set of bottles.  Contained within it was a small spray bottle.  The best news is that since then I’ve found other travel sets containing the same small bottle so I don’t think this was a once in a lifetime find.  And, to make a long story short, this smaller spray bottle is just enough smaller in diameter that it will nest in the bottom of the ‘standard’ size spray bottle that’s available in any art store.

Once obtained, it’s a simple matter of cutting the bottom off the larger bottle.  I then turned it upside down on some sandpaper and sanded the edge smooth.  I do wish I’d cut a bit higher on the bottle you see in the photo.  It would provide more water volume for rinsing a brush.

In the end, I have a great little travel reservoir and spray bottle and, if I like, a couple extra bottles to carry more water.  Hope this helps others who, like me, were trying to replicate Cathy’s system.

7 Responses to “Make Cathy Johnson’s Nested Water Container and Spray Bottle”

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  1. Great job, Larry! Glad you were able to find a set that worked! I’ve got a backup set I’m going to try, but didn’t think of an art store sprayer…

  2. Thanks for stopping by Cathy. For what it’s worth I found the larger sprayer in a different travel set yesterday. This reduces the price by a buck or two and this new bottle is the same blue as yours 🙂

    Cheers — Larry

  3. Johan says:

    Great idea, Larry! Thanks for re-posting it from Cathy.

    However, I do think you’re wrong when you so blithely claim: “You can always use a waterbrush, but painting with these is not as nice as with actual watercolor brushes.” What did you do to corroborate and prove that claim? Did you poll anyone at all? Did you ask anyone for their opinion?

    In the future you might consider the more ACCURATE “I, Larry Marshal, don’t think that painting with a waterbrush is as nice a with actual watercolor brushes”.

  4. Gee Johan…I always thought when you said “I” you were referring to yourself. I did say “I do think.” But, that said, many people talk about the limitations of a waterbrush. That you have a different opinion doesn’t make yours any more valid than mine…does it? As for accuracy, I wan’t aiming for any. I (there it is again) was talking about MY view, from MY blog. I make no claim that I am correct in my views but accuracy has nothing to do with it.

    Cheers — Larry

  5. Larry, thanks again, I just shared this in a comment on Urban Sketchers Midwest!

  6. Elva Paulson says:

    What a great post, Larry. I may have to retire my anchovie bottle!

  7. Glad to see that you’re back from Yellowstone, Elva. If you do make one of these little bottle gizmos, cut it a bit taller than the one in my photos. I cut that one too short and I’ve found it’s better to have a deeper cup and only fill it half way rather than filling a more shallow cup.

    I’m spending my first spring/summer ‘en plein air’ and I’m REALLY loving it. While there are some logistical challenges, it’s much easier to see/sketch from life rather than from photos…unless the subject is prone to flying away 🙂

    Cheers — Larry