18 May, 2020.
Last week I began a series of watercolor postcards by first making super quick line drawings with my pen, then spritzing the paper to work wet-in-wet with the paint. Along with scans of the sketches, I also shared an “in progress” photograph of a sketch taped to a board (above) and suddenly got a huge influx of enquiries about the kit I’m using.
To be very clear, the majority of my sketches are made with a pen (see below) and a sketchbook. That’s all.
Color on location requires a few other tools, but with a little planning an artist on the move can keep the color kit pretty minimal, light, and easy to carry. Here are the items in the photograph above:
Palette. I use the travel palette from the Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolour Compact Set. Having tried a variety of different palettes over the years, I’ve found this one is pretty much perfect for my purposes. Folded, it will fit in my hip pocket in a pinch; unfolded there is enough mixing space for lots and lots of different color combinations. It holds all the colors I use, plus a couple I really don’t.
Pen (not pictured). Occasionally I will carry my fude nib fountain pen, but to be honest I prefer that for sitting in an armchair or at my drawing table. In the field I sketch with a Uni-Ball Vision, either the Micro or the Fine, depending entirely on which one I happen to grab as I head outdoors. I like the lines, that the ink dries almost immediately, that it is permanent and won’t smear or reactivate with water.
Brushes. One of the best purchases I’ve made over the past few years was a #12 Escoda Versátil travel brush. Perfect point, holds water well, and I love the protective handle when it is broken down for travel. I also carry a #4 Faux Squirrel 1827 Rigger by Dynasty. Cheap and very functional, mine has lasted years. I don’t use it often, but it sure is handy when I need it for a few thin lines or to add a touch of white gouache.
Paper. I have a couple of 4 x 6 inch 300 gsm Cotman Water Color Postcard pads that have been hanging about forever. One side is printed with postcard details, the other is for painting. I can’t seem to find them online at the moment, so it’s possible once I finish the pads I’ll need to source something else.
Support board. I’m using a lightweight 8 x 10 Woodward and Father mini sketch board, with a bulldog clip to hold the travel palette in place. It’s small enough I don’t need a tripod, and there is a water holder and holes of various sizes to place pens or brushes that aren’t being used.
I also use blue painters tape to hold down the sketch and to create a clean white border. Just tape some of that to the board and then pull off as needed. Water comes from my water bottle, and a cheap travel size spritz bottle stays in my pocket until it’s called into action to wet the paint and the paper.
And this is the finished 4 x 6 inch pen and watercolor sketch.