My sketching kit

Update for spring 2016:

20160103_145553I needed to refill my palette, so I decided to take stock of  what I really needed. I was completely out of yellow, red, and burned sienna, but had plenty of blue and some green left. I had bought some english red before Christmas, to cheer me up, but now I was wondering how useful that was really going to be. So I started experimenting.

20160103_145628Really, making these colour charts has their limitations for someone like me. I am not really capable of looking at a painting and go “oh, some ultramarine there, I see”. Actually, I am particularly insensitive to blues. Give me any blue that is reasonably blue and I´ll paint a happy sky. I am a bit more sensitive about green, but let me mix for a bit and I´ll come up with something useful.

I get a bit more finicky with red, but how hard is it to mix a decent cottage red? I tried some triads and realized that kadmium red is popular for a reason, but I just have Rose Madder on tube, so I decided to try that, too. I matched it with Preussian blue and Gamboge yellow and was happy with the result. I tried if I could do a passable skin tone with it and something that looks like sand (the little dot in the right hand corner is real yellow ochre, for reference – I think I got pretty close) I think I´m going to stay with just that for a while, and see if there is anything else I really need.

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Update for the winter of 15/16:

Sketching outdoors (which is what I like to do) is impossible using watercolour or ink anything in sub-zero temperatures. I have therefore decided to go all graphite this winter, though I am allowing myself the opportunity to do supplementary work on the drawing indoors, which is why I´m adding a small watercolour palette and a waterbrush. The world is generally lacking in colour this time of year, but some fir-green, some house-red, and some blue snow-tones can make all the difference.

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I also made myself a new pocket size sketchbook, with drawing paper rather than watercolour paper. If I´m taking the schoolbag, I usually bring an A4 size sketchbook along, nowadays. The paper in these takes a bit of a wash pretty well, as long as one doesn´t go overboard. The small spraybottle is filled with a non-smelly hairspray, which is the only kind of fixative I have ever used. It creates an even mist and seems to hold enough spray for at least 8-10 drawings.

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I realize that a page about the kit is more or less mandatory on a sketchblog, but the odd post aside, I haven’t collected my thoughts on this until now. Also, I have experimented much and until now I have not been very happy with any of my solutions, discovering unexpected problems with almost every kit I tried so far. Much money has been spent on expensive watercolour paint, brushes, pens and whatnot, which has been necessary; without trying it for oneself, it is impossible to discover which tools allow one to get close to the result one envisions.

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What I use now is an old eyeshadow box which I cleaned out and sanded the lid on to get the text off. I then put a piece of duct tape over the top of the lid to get a white mixing surface inside the lid. The wells are shallow but wide; with the small sketchbooks I use, it holds enough paint to last for weeks, and it is easy to pick paint up even with a large brush.

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I filled the box with some of the cheapest tube paints (and the only ones availabe locally) from Daler-Rowney, the Aquafine series. Turns out, it is the best paint I ever used – perhaps because I was careful to choose only transparent colours, which do not obscure the line and remain very bright and pretty even when mixed. The colours are lemon yellow, phthalo blue, indigo, rose madder, burned sienna, and sap green. I realized that if I was to have any green at all, it should be a yellowish one that can be mixed with blue or sienna, rather than a bluer one that needs mixing with yellow. So far, I am genuinely chuffed with this palette, although I confess that a transparent English red (does not exist, to my knowledge) would be pretty high on my wishlist and something I would chuck out the green for.

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At the moment the Faber-Castell multimark S and M is my favourite linemaker (the Promarker is great, but such a huge pen to carry), but I also carry a mechanical pencil 2B, a black Ballograf ballpoint pen, and an ivory black Derwent colour pencil, which I rarely use, perhaps because the sharpener keeps getting lost…

I have a Derwent spritzer which I use both to spray the paint with and as a water container in the field. (In the first photo I am painting at home and using a more generous source of water.) I have finally figured out how to use a regular brush outdoors, and as a result, I have more control over the dilution of pigment, but I have hardly given up the waterbrush for good. I have two travelbrushes, a no 3 and a no 12, and I could really use something in the middle, like a no 6. Maybe for Christmas, if I am frugal. Or perhaps I’ll devise a safe way to carry a regular brush. 

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I make my own sketchbooks, being very careful with anything bound with glue. I use coptic stitch, which I learned on youtube, where tutorials in anything abound. My favourite paper so far is a Fabriano 210g paper that comes in 100cmx70cm sheets, which are perfectly sized to make one sketchbook. At 45 SEK a sheet, plus the minimal cost of yarn, scrap cardboard, and a few pieces of duct tape, it is a very economical alternative to a Moleskine watercolour sketchbook for 159 SEK (the cheapest option I could find right now).

All this stuff goes into a pen case I found in a school-starting-sale aimed at children. Even the sketchbook has room (or it does now, after I adjusted the size of it). I thought I might have little time to sketch with school and all, but I am pleased to see that sketching has become such an ingrained habit with me that I always have the kit at arm’s lenght, and can easily get a sketch down, even with just a few minutes at my disposal; most days, at least.

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