My Urban Sketching Kit

Urban_Sketching_Kit

Someone asked me recently what’s in my urban sketching kit so I thought I’d share that with you today. I don’t carry all these things with me every day. I have a small sketchbook, pen, pencil and a tiny watercolour set that I sometimes keep in my bag in case I want to sketch while I’m out doing other things. This bigger kit is what I take when I go out for a full day’s sketching.

Zip Pouch

This is a black quilted zip pouch that I got from Paperchase and it’s actually an iPad case. When I bought this one I also bought one that’s about half this size, which I use to carry my smaller, day-to-day sketching kit. I’m able to fit almost everything in here – minus the stool and the big sketchbook – and it keeps everything together inside my bag so it’s easier for me to find what I need.

It also means that when I get home I can take the whole thing out of my bag easily and store it so it’s ready to go when I next need it. It’s kind of my portable studio.

Sketchbooks

I usually have one dedicated urban sketching sketchbook on the go and until recently that was the big A4 Moleskine watercolour sketchbook that’s at the bottom of this stack. I’ve just finished that one and I already have my next sketchbook lined up. It’s a spiral bound Daler Rowney sketchbook ¬†which is 7 x 10 inches and has a sturdy hard cover.

I don’t usually go for spiral bound sketchbooks because they’re difficult to scan but for urban sketching I think this could be a good choice because it’s not too cumbersome and should sit nicely on my lap.

The smaller black sketchbook on top is a Hahnemuhle sketchbook with grey paper which fits easily inside the zip pouch and is quite lightweight so I sometimes take that with me for quicker pen/pencil sketches or to use in places where paints aren’t allowed.

Seat

This is a pocket chair which folds flat and has its own storage pouch so it fits neatly in my bag. I usually take this out with me but it’s surprisingly heavy for its size so if I’m going somewhere where I know there’ll be plenty of seating I don’t always bother packing it.

Paints

This is my small Schmincke watercolour palette which contains a mixture of Schmincke, Winsor and Newton, and Daniel Smith watercolours. They’re slightly different colours from what I use when I’m drawing at home and I’ll share more information about what specific colours I use some other time.

Pencil Case

This is a Neo Kritz pencil-case which is durable, holds a lot and stands vertically on a flat surface if you need it to.

Pens, Pencils and Brushes

Pens_and_Pencils

The contents of my pencil-case vary a little bit but this is what I carry most of the time:

  • A black Uniball pen, which is waterproof and glides easily over coloured pencil
  • My Lamy Safari which is filled with waterproof carbon ink. If it runs out the Uniball is an excellent back-up
  • A fine Unipin pen which works well for basic ink sketches
  • A white Gelly Roll pen to use in my grey sketchbook
  • A while pencil to use in my grey sketchbook
  • A few watercolour pencils to use for my initial sketches. These blend in with the paints so there aren’t too many visible pencil lines.
  • A size 10 Escoda travel brush. It’s a decent size brush for washes but also has a fine point and the handle detaches and acts as a cap to protect the bristles

Extras

My current water container is a dipper for oil painting and it’s a bit on the small side but it clips onto my sketchbook which is handy. A spray bottle for reactivating my paints can be useful, clips are a necessity on windy days for holding sketchbook pages down and paper towels are always part of my sketching kit too.

So that’s my comprehensive urban sketching kit and it can be heavy so I don’t like to carry all of it around with me very often. My smaller, pared down kit is much simpler and obviously, the bare minimum I’d need is a pen or pencil and a piece of paper.

Do you ever sketch on location? What do you take with you?

Recent Urban Sketches in London

Charterhouse Sketch

Over the past week and a half I’ve been out sketching in a couple of different spots around London. The Saturday before last I went out with the London Urban Sketchers to Charterhouse and Clerkenwell. I hadn’t been well for about a week beforehand but I didn’t want to miss the whole day, so I arrived late but just in time for the lunchtime sketchbook ‘throwdown’.

St John Cloister Garden

It felt like a long time since I’d done any sketching on location so I felt a bit out of practise and wasn’t totally satisfied with my sketches. I think that’s just a sign that I need to do more urban sketching!

Order of St John Cloister Garden

I think I also needed to slow down a bit. Maybe it was because I’d arrived late, or maybe it was the hot weather but I felt like I was rushing my sketches and not really taking in what I was seeing properly.

Peter's Lane, Farringdon

At the end of the day a few of us stayed on to sketch a bit more and I felt like I was starting to get into the rhythm of sketching buildings again. What that day did encourage me to do was to re-visit some of the materials from the course I took with Liz Steel last year, and I’m also going to work through the rest of the course that I didn’t finish.

St Dunstan in the East

Then last Friday a few of us from the London Urban Sketchers group met up informally to sketch at St Dunstan in the East gardens, which I’d never visited before. It’s a really nice quiet spot and had lots of shade from the sun which was welcome too. I worked on one and a half sketches in my A4 Moleskine, which is currently my dedicated urban sketching sketchbook. I also did one sketch in my new Hahnemuhle grey book but I haven’t got around to scanning that one yet.

St Dunstan in the East

Sometimes when I don’t finish a sketch I think to myself that I’ll come back to the same spot another day and carry on with it but actually that never seems to happen. And the other thing is, that I quite like some of my sketches that are half ink, half pencil (or sometimes just pencil and no ink at all) and no paint.

This week my sketching plans are kind of different. I’ll share that work here quite soon!

Drawing When You Can’t Move

Watercolour sketch of a living room and window

This is the first drawing from my tiny Moleskine watercolour sketchbook, which I did a few weeks ago. When I sketched this I was at a friend’s house looking after her cat, who was sitting on my knee fast asleep. I didn’t like to disturb her so decided to just pick up my sketchbook and pen and make use of this enforced resting time by sketching my view of the living room table and window.

I sketched it with a black Unipin 02 and then took a photo on my phone to refer to when I painted it later on at home. I seemed to get a bit heavy handed with the shading on the blind on the right hand side but never mind. I still enjoyed myself and remember little details from this day that I might have otherwise forgotten.

Loosening Up

Sketch of window box and beyond

Every so often while I was using my A5 Leuchtturm sketchbook I would whinge about how, although the paper’s nice and thick, it wasn’t the best for watercolour paint. The paint would dry too quickly and I couldn’t play around with it too much before the surface of the paper started to come away. So, after all that, I’ve bought another!

For over a year I’ve had a pocket-sized Moleskine watercolour sketchbook sitting empty. It came to New York with me last year and it’s still empty now. I’ve also just bought a similar sized Leuchtturm sketchbook so my plan is to have 2 tiny sketchbooks on the go at the same time. The Moleskine for watercolour sketches (to stop me whingeing) and the Leuchtturm for everything else.

As I mentioned the other day, I’ve been inspired my Jodi Wiley‘s daily drawings in her tiny sketchbooks so I’ve bought a couple of markers (and have just ordered a third) to use in my new tiny Leuchtturm.

Because the pages are small and I’m trying to limit the materials I use I’m hoping it will encourage me to do quick sketches and loosen up my drawing style a little bit so I don’t get too bogged down in the details. I think sometimes if I think a drawing looks like it might take me a long time it can feel overwhelming and then I might not draw at all. So it might be interesting to see what happens if I aim to worry less about being precise and perfect, and focus more on putting pen to paper more regularly.

The drawing at the top of this post is the second one in my tiny Leuchtturm. It’s the view from one of our windows, which was a little interim assignment for Sketchbook Skool. I didn’t manage to limit myself quite as much as I’d hoped (I added watercolour pencil on top of the pen and marker) but I like that the style’s loose and I got the drawing done quite quickly without trying to be too precise.

So, so far so good. Let’s see where the two sketchbooks take me.