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?

Review: Back Pocket Notebooks

Back Pocket Notebooks

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been testing out the Back Pocket Notebook. Although it’s not specifically a sketchbook, I’ve been using it for some lettering and drawings to see how it compares to sketch specific books.

To summarise, if you’re looking for a good quality, robust little notebook to carry around, I would definitely recommend the Back Pocket Notebooks.

Back Pocket Notebooks Back

I have a set of 3 Kraft Plain Notebooks, each of which contain 18 sheets or 36 pages of 120gsm paper and a stapled spine.

Back Pocket Notebooks Spine

At first glance they reminded me of the A6 Eco Starter Sketchbooks from Seawhite of Brighton. The Back Pocket Notebooks are slightly smaller, measuring 9 x 14 cm. The paper isn’t quite as thick as the Seawhite cartridge paper but there are more pages than the Eco Starter and the paper has a nice smooth surface, which I really appreciated when using fine liners and markers.

Back Pocket Notebook Inside

Although it’s described as a ‘plain’ notebook, I think that refers to the cover because it’s pointed out on the band holding the 3 notebooks together that the paper inside is actually cross grid. It’s similar to dotted paper but each ‘dot’ is a tiny cross. I’d never used that kind of paper before but it was kind of handy for keeping my hand lettering straight!

Back Pocket Notebook Felt Tip

The paper in the Back Pocket Notebook is perfect for either pen or pencil. I used a few different fine liners and felt tip pens, and the only pen that bled through to the other side of the page was the Copic marker. But Copic markers seem to bleed through almost all paper in my experience so this wasn’t a surprise or a big deal. I covered some large areas with Koi brush pens and even with the darker colours the dots on the paper do show but that may or may not be a problem for you. It didn’t bother me because I wasn’t trying to create a finished piece of artwork.

Back Pocket Notebook Gouache

I was able to apply a light wash of watercolour in the Back Pocket Notebook without any problems and the paper took gouache quite well too. The paper does buckle with both watercolour and gouache but even some dedicated watercolour paper does that so, again, this wasn’t a surprise or a problem for me.

I’ve carried the Back Pocket Notebook around in my bag and it’s stood up well to that without getting damaged so far. I wonder if rounded corners might make it a bit more robust in that respect if you were carrying it around in your bag or pocket every day.

The Back Pocket Notebooks are excellent quality, and the size means that they’re really easy to carry around without adding lots of extra weight or bulk. I wouldn’t use them to replace a dedicated sketchbook but as somewhere to keep notes and ideas, make simple line drawings and practise hand lettering, the Back Pocket Notebook is an excellent option and, as the name implies, highly portable too!

Thank you to Justin at Back Pocket Notebooks who gave me this set of Kraft Notebooks to test in exchange for an honest review.

New Sketchbooks!

9 Sketchbooks

A couple of weeks ago I went online to order a new sketchbook. I wanted to try something different from what I’d been using and before I knew it I’d ordered 9 different sketchbooks! It all started because I thought a spiral bound watcercolour sketchbook might be useful for urban sketching. I’m not usually a fan of spiral bound books but last time I went on a sketch crawl it was quite windy and I thought that I spiral bound book would be easier to handle in those conditions. They fold back on themselves and if I got one with a sturdy cover it would be easy to work on on my lap.

My first thought was Seawhite of Brighton. They make some really nice, affordable sketchbooks and their watercolour paper is good quality. Unfortunately they don’t make a watercolour sketchbook in the size I really wanted (A5, or 8 x 5 inches) so I went for the A4 one.

Seawhite Watercolour Sketchbook

They have 2 options in these books – a 35 page book with paper that weighs 225gsm and a 25 page book with thicker 350gsm paper. I went for the one with thicker paper and although I haven’t started sketching in it yet I think it’s going to be really nice to use. The only down side seems to be that it’s quite heavy but I can probably live with that if I’m only carrying it around for a few hours.

I have used one spiral bound watercolour sketchbook before that was closer to the size I really wanted. It was a Daler Rowney Cachet Travel Sketchbook but they don’t seem to make them any more from what I can tell. I did find another Daler Rowney watercolour sketchbook though, which is the same size and uses the same paper as the Travel Book

Daler Rowney Sketchbook

Like the Seawhite watercolour book the Daler Rowney has lovely thick paper (300gsm) and a sturdy hard cover. It’s 7×10 inches so not as bulky or heavy as the Seawhite sketchbook, and it came with a tin containing a pencil, a few watercolour pencils and a brush. I’m looking forward to trying this one out soon.

Seawhite Sketchbooks

Going back to Seawhites, I ordered quite a few of their other sketchbooks too. These aren’t specifically for watercolour but their cartridge paper is good quality for drawing in pencil and ink, and all of their sketchbooks are excellent value for money. The ones I chose are an A5 Creative Casebound sketchbook with a green spine, an A5 spiral bound sketchbook with a black paper cover, and an A5 Eco spiral bound sketchbook and with a sturdy hard cover.

I also thought I’d stock up on sketchbooks with toned paper. I ordered 2 Seawhite sketchbooks with black paper. One is from the range of Starter sketchbooks and is A4.

Seawhites Black wirebound sketchbook

The other is an A5 hard backed, wire bound sketchbook containing thick black card, which looks like it will hold up well to pen, pencil and gouache or acrylic paint.

Hahnemuhle Grey Book

I recently used a Hahnemuhle watercolour sketchbook, which was very nice so when I spotted that they now make a grey paper sketchbook I was keen to give it a try. Grey paper sketchbooks aren’t easy to find in the UK or Europe so this one stood out for me.

Hahnemuhle Grey Paper

The paper is 120gsm so probably won’t hold up well to paint but for drawing in pencil, pen or coloured pencil it should be good.

Winsor and Newton Sketchbook

Finally, I spotted this Winsor and Newton watercolour sketchbook and I love Winsor and Newton paints so I thought I’d try this sketchbook. It’s nice and compact but the cover’s not as sturdy as the other watercolour books I bought. That does have the advantage of making it lighter to carry around though.

Winsor and Newton watercolour paper

The paper is 300gsm which is the same as the Daler Rowney book I mentioned, but for some reason the Winsor and Newton paper feels a bit thinner so it’ll be interesting to compare the two. The pages are perforated which I’m not that keen on but I can live with it. What I do like is the size. It’s 7×5 inches so it’s really easy to fit into a small bag and carry around most days.

I bought the Seawhite sketchbooks from ArtESaver. They offer free delivery on all orders over £40, and I also got a big box of ‘seconds’ for £10, which are sketchbooks that have some some damage to the covers, are the end of a range or have foil blocking on the covers but the paper is still perfectly fine for sketching.

All the other sketchbooks I mentioned came from Granthams Art Discount, which have some really good prices on a while range of art supplies and their delivery is pretty quick too.

I hope you found this useful and/or interesting. What’s your favourite sketchbook? Do you use different sketchbooks for different situations or stick to one at a time?

My Current Daily Art Kit

DailyArtkit

At the moment I’m working on the 365 Days to a Portfolio Project, which involves making 3 illustrations each week, and my 100 Days of Hand Lettering, which I do every single day. I usually combine the 2 when they overlap just to make life a bit easier, but it’s a lot of work. And because I didn’t have enough going on (!) I’m also taking the latest Sketchbook Skool klass as well, which lasts 5 weeks.

I’m sharing my work every day on social media so I thought I’d explain here a bit more about the process and the tools I’m using pretty muc every day. They’re not all pictured here. Most of them are but these are the main things I use each day.

An A4 sketchbook.

I’m using a Seawhite of Brighton Creative Casebound sketchbook, which has nice smooth drawing paper and is hard bound. I’m using that to draw out my hand lettering every day. Sometimes I use pencil first and then ink it but mostly I just use a pen (hence the spelling mistake I made in one of the quotations you can see here!).

Micron pens.

I have a selection of Pigma Micron pens, which I’m using for my lettering and they range from 005 to the Pigma Graphic 1 and they work nicely on the smooth paper in this big sketchbook.

Surface Pro tablet.

I’ve been digitising most of my hand lettering so far and to do that I scan the sketchbook and then clean things up and edit things together in Photoshop so the Surface Pro, together with my Bamboo stylus, comes in handy for that, as does my laptop.

A5 Watercolour Moleskine Sketchbook.

On days when I don’t digitise my hand lettering I use a page in my A5 Moleskine watercolour sketchbook. These are one of my favourite all-round sketchbooks to use regularly. I like the size, the landscape format and they handle watercolour paint pretty well.

Watercolour Paint.

This is my medium-sized palette from Winsor and Newton which I use most days for non-digital hand lettering and other sketches and drawings. The bright coloured blobs of paint inside the lid are gouache paint which I just mix from the tube and clean off every so often.

Paintbrushes.

I use a whole range of paintbrushes but my favourites at the moment are from Rosemary and Co. I especially like this mop brush for creating big washes of colour for backgrounds.

A5 Mixed Media Sketchbook.

This is the sketchbook I use most often. It’s a Stillman and Birn Zeta sketchbook and I really like the thick paper (although I think my favourite is their Beta sketchbook because the paper has a bit more ‘tooth’). I haven’t tried yet but it’s really smooth so I think it would handle Copic markers nicely.

These are the core of what I use to make my drawings and illustrations each day at the moment. Sometimes I also add in some coloured Uniball pens, Gelly Roll and Gelly Glaze pens, a pencil and watercolour pencils for sketching.

What are you favourite and most useful tools that you use regularly?

Urban Sketching: Magdalen College, Oxford

Magdaen_College

Last Saturday I spent a very sunny afternoon with the Oxford Urban Sketchers. I don’t get to Oxford very often – this is only the second time I’ve met with the group there – but it’s good to sketch in places that are new to me from time to time.

We met, and spent a couple of hours sketching, near the deer park at Magdalen College, which was a nice peaceful spot, considering how busy the high street was that day. I’m looking forward to my next sketching trip outside London – hopefully in the not too distant future.