by Alan Li
Every artist that ventures into the field needs to assemble a sketching kit that’ll achieve results, but not be a burden to carry. I am always fascinated to see what other artists carry with them on sketching excursions, so I thought I’d share what’s in my own bag.
Here’s a detailed look at what I bring when I’m out exploring and have no particular subject in mind.
1 / 2. Faber-Castell PITT pens in fine and extra fine widths. The ink is waterproof and the lines won’t bleed if I decide to add a few splashes of watercolour afterwards. Sakura Micron pens are also good for outdoor ink drawing.
3. Pentel Hybrid Technica (comes in several widths). This looks like an ordinary ballpoint, but it’s an exceptionally smooth rollerball that doesn’t leave ink blobs behind. The ink is fade proof, but unlike the PITT pens, it’s not waterproof. The benefit is that you can take a damp brush to the lines and dissolve the ink into subtle gray washes.
4. Pentel Pocket Brush. There are many brush pens available, so you need to test them out in person at the art store because they all feel different. This Pentel brush has a soft tip that comes to a very fine point. These pens are great for making expressive lines that flow from thick to thin. The ink is permanent and I like that the pen is refillable. If you’re going to add watercolour on top of the brush lines, I suggest letting the ink dry for at least 20 minutes. It’s not an instant drying ink like the PITT pens.
5. Eraser. I like this type of clip on eraser because it’s easy to attach to my bag and won’t get lost.
6. HB pencil for roughing out the basics. I’ll head out with 4 - 5 sharp pencils and won’t bother with a sharpener. A mechanical pencil also works.
7. Waterbrush with self-contained reservoir. These are very convenient for sketching on location and are popular with Plein air painters for good reason.
All this fits nicely into a small canvas bag I bought 20 years ago from an army surplus store. I recently checked and these bags are still available and cost $12 in Canada. I really like the stretchy fabric loops which hold your pencils in place. On the inside there’s a large divided pocket which fits a 6 x 9 inch sketchbook with room to spare.
While this is my basic kit bag, I’ll modify what I carry if I have a specific subject in mind. For example, I’ll bring along my scope and tripod if I’m sketching wading birds down by the marsh. If the theme is plants, I’ll pack a small set of colour pencils with me.
Good luck with building your own sketching bag. You’ll arrive at this through trial and error, but as I get older, I find myself carrying less and less. A pair of comfortable shoes and a wide brimmed hat also help.