Sunday, September 20, 2009

My portable art kit

Tools are wonderful things, but it’s not necessary to start with more than a few things: pencil, eraser, pencil sharpener, and paper. These may be any type of your choosing; the important thing is to start drawing! I find that an inexpensive .7 mm mechanical pencil is a great tool. They never need sharpening, they provide a fairly wide range of darks (depending on your paper), and they are easy to refill or replace.

Whatever your materials, get acquainted with them. See what they can do, what types of lines they make — what darkest or lightest marks? If you’re brushing up on drawing skills and have an assortment of tools, use those that are most comfortable, at least to start.
A larger kit might include: hard and soft drawing pencils, a sketchbook or bound journal, a permanent artist’s ink pen (such as Pitt or Micron Pigma), a white vinyl eraser and/or kneaded eraser. Portable color media can include a small set of watercolors, colored pencils, or watercolor pencils. You’ll want to have some brushes and a water source.

Here’s an example of my art kit; I tried to make it as portable as possible, and it all fits in an inexpensive tote bag. I make sure to keep my supplies limited so it also fits in my backpack if needed, but generally speaking, the tote bag is more accessible.
Currently I carry:
• Two sketchbooks, one with hot-press watercolor paper and one with an assortment of paper (these are sketchbooks I made myself).
• A pencil box with an assortment of mechanical pencils, artist drawing pencils, charcoal pencils, and pencil sharpener. Erasers: I like the white ones as they don’t leave a colored residue behind. One is a tougher vinyl eraser and one is slightly softer.
• A brush box with four Niji Aquabrushes. These are waterbrushes that have a hollow barrel in the handle that can be filled with water. Great tools for field sketching! I also keep a small ruler, and some Q-tips in there.
• A miscellaneous box. A bit of everything: emery boards for pointing pencils, toothpicks, a cut credit card for scraping, and GUM brand teeth cleaners for lifting.  Derwent Blue-gray watercolor pencil, Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils in Black, White, and Payne’s Gray, and a #11 Xacto knife (blade protected by an eraser). A Signo Uni-ball white gel pen, and a Prismacolor white colored pencil. . A white birthday candle for watercolor resist.
• Pens: Black Micron Pigmas in the .005 and .01 sizes. Faber Castell Pitt artist pens, S, F, M, and B sizes.
• Water soluble pencils. Both Derwent watercolor pencils and Derwent Inktense pencils, each 12 piece sets.
• A travel set of watercolor paints by Sennelier, they are about three years old.
• A magnifying glass, an all-purpose multi-tool, and an assortment of binder clips (good for windy days).
• Extra paper towels, zip-lock bags (different sizes), a travel spray bottle with water, and some empty Rx containers for water and small samples. NOTE: the Rx containers are not totally leak-proof, so keep them empty in your kit. As a precaution I keep anything wet or damp in a zip-lock bag.
• Depending on my needs, I still have room to throw in a digital camera, sunscreen, and/or insect repellent.
Wish list:
• Micron pens in brown and green, .005.
• Cold-press watercolor sketchbook.
• A small tin of primary watercolors, Daniel Smith Hansa Yellow, Prussian or Ultramarine Blue (or both?), and Quinacridone Red. And maybe a Burnt Sienna and Indanthrone Blue. I'm waiting for the right tin to come along.
• Should I add a larger trash bag to sit on or to serve as a rain poncho?  Probably.  I also have my eye on one of those foldable stools.  Maybe I'll need another bag!