Tuesday, January 1, 2019

What’s in your nature journal bag…

… or tote, or backpack, or portable anything?  I mean your field kit that you take outside as opposed to painting inside.  Not necessarily a plein air set-up, but your throw-over-the-shoulder, Saturday afternoon walk, backyard-chaise-lounging kind of kit.  One that whispers “just fifteen minutes for a quick sketch or half an hour of some painting play.”  
Current portable kit.  Scroll to bottom for details.
Mine changes periodically.  I have favorites and I try out new brands and toys so it’s easy to load up on a little of everything.  So, let my “ordering” of my disorder help you make your art time more enjoyable. 

First things first
Please don’t look at what I carry now and make yours the same!  You can try it out, but make yours personalized for YOU.  You have different needs, wants, skills, and intents than I do.  I seldom erase right now, but that’s because I want to see how my lines work together to tell a certain type of story.  It might change next month.  Plus, I bet I have 20 years of sketching experience up on you.

Why order?
Well, because it makes your creating time easier.  So does simplification.  French novelist Gustave Flaubert  advised “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”   Having the right tools at your fingertips allows for unhindered creativity.  Don’t spend your energy looking through too much stuff or trying to make one decision over 30 pigment choices.  I found myself doing that because I had so many things I wanted to try out.  I still want to, and will.  But at that time I will change out my to-go bag accordingly. 

Keep it simple
Simplify what you take with you.  There is something to be said about limitations for artists.  Phil Hansen tells us that “embracing limitation can actually drive creativity.”  He knows this firsthand.  Phil is the artist who overcame a physical challenge to create amazing images using unconventional methods (does embrace the shake sound familiar?). 

My suggestion to you is to limit the choices of paints, brushes, and paper you use.  Not forever, just for the one outing.  Stay with single pigment primary watercolors.  Use one good #8 or #12 round brush.  Bring one pad of paper or sketchbook.  Add a pen if you like.  A pencil.  Leave the other 10 to 20 wonderful art supplies at home for another day. 

My limitations
It may seem that an 18-well palette is NOT a limitation, but for me it is.  I love color and the many nuances and permutations of color.  Believe it or not, I also have more palettes like this at home (LOL).  I present my tried-and-true current favorites that seem to cover any painting situation, but probably only because I’ve gotten to know their quirks well.    

It’s easy to become enamored with art supplies, as many of my art friends know.   And we love to share our latest discovery.  Plus those darn manufacturers and distributors keep enticing us with cool things we want to try.  Powdered pigments!  Pump masking pens!  German primo handmade paper! *Sigh*  My want list is long and my years are short.  In the meantime, quantity is a distraction.  And artists make art.  So get to it!

What’s in the photo?
Bag = a thrift store find with outside pockets and a couple of interior pockets.  Sturdy but light, double-stitched, very portable.

Paints = 18-well palette from Mijello has Daniel Smith tube colors laid out from this previous post.  I like this palette because it has a water-tight seal.  Your wet paints may run and get messy but they won’t leak out.

Brush = #8 round synthetic brush from Myartscape.  Purchased from Amazon when I was looking for inexpensive field-painting brushes (if lost, I’d not be heart-broken).  I’m surprised to find that I love the springiness, and the nicely-tapered tip allows me to paint details.  Since I’m working fairly small to start with, this brush covers a lot of ground.  I also wanted something a bit different than my normal waterbrush.

Paper = believe it or not, I am carrying around 90# paper!  This is because my field work includes sketching.  I’ve gone back to that for now, because drawing is my first love.   So my watercolor work in this journal is mostly light or layered washes over a sketch.  I also don’t mind a bit of buckling.  The 6x9” spiral-bound sketchbook is the Aquabee Super Deluxe, actually a 93# drawing paper but also for wet media.  Relatively durable and with a light tooth, it works well for watercolor pencil and won’t break the budget.  I’ve found it to be an all-around workhorse sketchbook.  Also included are sample pads from the Legion Paper Company, about 3.5 x 2.5” of their watercolor paper.  These were a gift from a friend (thank you!), and make great artist trading cards (ATCs) or are the perfect size to work out thumbnails on value, color, or composition. 

Pens = Faber Castell Pitt Artist pens in black and dark sepia, various sizes.  I also use Micron Pigma by Sakura which are similar.  They both feature professional-quality, lightfast waterproof inks.  Note that they are waterproof when fully dry -- if wet, they will still run.  I’ve found that I cannot draw faster than raindrops!  I bring a pencil, too, but seldom use it.  A mechanical .7mm pencil with a white vinyl eraser works best for me (no stopping to sharpen).  I keep the lead retracted until I need it. 

Masking fluid = because you never know when you really want some.  This is a fine-tip masking fluid pen by Fineline.  So far so good if the tip stays unclogged.

Water containers = I have a screw-top container for painting and a collapsible cup for cleaning.  I usually carry a couple of bottles of drinking water in the outside pockets and use that for painting as well as hydrating. 

Moisture control = plastic zip bag with spare paper towels and cotton fabric for absorbing extra water from brushes, paper, and palette.  Paper towels or similar are *essential* to controlling watercolor.  Essential.  Remember: pack out what you pack in, take extra plastic bags for trash. 

Hat = something to scrunch up in your bag for when the sun shifts and you don’t want to.  Your mother was right about wearing a hat – it makes a difference!

Interested in reading more about the idea of order and limiting choices?
 “Why placing limitations on yourself is the key to creativity,” By Ashleigh Allsopp  on Digital Arts Online.

“The Psychology of Limitations: How and Why Constraints Can Make You More Creative,” by Belle Beth Cooper on Buffer Social Blog.

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