Watercolor Sketch Kit

April 11, 2019

Watercolor Sketch Kit

I had an unintentional hiatus from sketching outside this winter.  In February, I picked up a new pocket sized sketch book and brought along my neglected watercolor sketch kit on my road trip to Big Sky, Montana.  I was reminded of how much I enjoy having my sketch kit with me to do quick messy sketches of inspiring views, interesting trees, or whatever else catches my eye. I nearly filled up my new sketchbook.  Reinvigorated to sketch, I made an effort to sketch every day on my trip to the Swiss Alps and Barcelona, Spain.   

I have not always enjoyed watercolor sketching out in the world.  I used to only paint with watercolors at my drafting table, or occasionally at my kitchen table or patio table.  Venturing out of the studio to paint would usually involve three trips.  The first trip I would bring all my stuff down, and instantly realize I didn't bring any of my water jars down, so had to grab those. A third trip was usually necessary when I realized I forgot my favorite brush, or a pencil, or some other essential item.  I didn't really think of watercolor painting as an easily portable medium.  

Last year, I participated in the 100 day project, and set my project as 100 days of art outside. This project forced me to do art out of my comfort zone in some unusual places - on a chairlift, on the top of mountains mid-hike, from a kayak, or huddled under an overhang hiding from the rain.  During this time I developed a small 'on the go' sketch kit, allowing me to carry my supplies with me anywhere I go. If I always have my sketch kit with me, I am much more likely to use it!

I keep my kit in a small, durable zipper pouch made by Topo Designs, which I picked up at Bespoke.  Having all my sketch items in this pouch makes it easy to grab on my way out the door.  It is small enough to throw in a backpack, purse, or large jacket pocket.  In my kit I keep a small sketch book, a travel size watercolor palette, a waterbrush, a pencil, eraser, and a couple permanent pens in different sizes.

A tiny sketchbook is key for making your kit truly portable enough to bring anywhere with you.  I love the tiny size and high quality of Moleskine's  3.5"x5.5" Watercolor Sketch Pad.  I bought the Pentalic Dream Catcher Accordion Fold Artist Journal in a 4"x6" size for my Big Sky trip. I thought the accordion style was perfect for a trip specific sketchbook, as I could do larger sketches over several pages, as well as small single page sketches

Winsor & Newton Cotman Water Colour Sketchers Pocket Box is a great portable paint palette with a reasonable price point, good quality paints, and a perfect small size.  The half pans of paint can be replaced as needed.  I also keep Wildthorne Ocean Sediment palette in my kit.  I bought this palette in blue & green hues from Atelier as a special treat after obsession over them for ages!  Wildthorne is a small company located in Santa Cruz, CA, who hand craft watercolors from minerals.  Each color has its own unique texture from the minerals which make them up.  This palette is tiny, so I generally put this one in my pocket when I'm snowboarding to keep my kit from getting too bulky.  

A Pentel Aquash Brush Pen eliminates the need to bring along a water dish, as you can fill the pen's body with water.  I found that I had to play with this pen to figure out the pressure needed to release the right amount of water, but once I got the hang of it, I found them easy to use.  I squeeze out water to clean the tip of the brush when changing colors.  The water on the brush tip froze when I used it while snowboarding at Big Sky....but the temperature was well below freezing, I have not had this problem before.  

I like to keep a couple waterproof pens in my kit as well.  I generally have a couple different size pens for thick and thin lines - usually an 01, 03, and 05 liner, and a brush pen.  I like the ShinHan Touch or Sakura Pigma Micron - both these pens are waterproof, which means I can sketch with the pen, and then once the ink is dry, add a watercolor wash.  The Touch pens are a bit pricier than the Microns, but I think they are a smoother pen for sketching. 

I picked up almost all these items from Atelier, our wonderful local art shop in Truckee.  I would encourage you to also shop at your local art store, it is fun to browse and you might find something that you DIDN'T KNOW YOU COULDN'T LIVE WITHOUT!  

My watercolor sketch kit has helped me explore painting in a whole new way.  I hope you are also inspired to try some things out of your comfort zone!  A new 100 Day Project started on April 2nd, if you need some motivation & accountability for a new creative adventure.  Late as always, I am 6 days into my new project - 100 days of art inspired by nature.   


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