A Sketcher’s Traveling Kit

I left for a short (4 day) trip to India 2 weeks ago and got back last Friday.

As usual, it wasn’t easy deciding what to take with me. The correct number of shirts, pairs of pants, socks, toothbrush and co. were obviously not the issue. The real pain points were of course: which art supplies shall I take with me?

It will probably not come as a surprise to anyone reading this that I packed too much. Yes, too much, as most of us probably do. But I think some art friends will be surprised in a moment how little I took and still see me planning to reduce it on future trips.

I’ll start out with what I took along, I’ll add a photo of it later. Then I’ll let you know what I’ll take along in future.

  • Lamy Safari fountain pen (F nib) prefilled with De Atramentis black ink
  • empty Lamy Safari (M-nib), with one unopened purple ink cartridge
  • Tombow Calligraphy pen (hard nib)
  • a Kolinsky paintbrush, size 8
  • two containers for water
  • a nib and nib holder
  • a pot of India ink
  • reduced set of 6 coloured pencils (Polychromos)
  • one unused(!) water colour sketchbook (heavy paper)
  • one Moleskine A5 diary (half full)
  • pencil, kneadable eraser, pencil sharpener, pen knife
  • Schmincke watercolour tin for 12 pans (filled with 10)
  • a small Koi waterbrush
  • a sleeve ripped off an old t-shirt
  • a book with reference photos of figures, to practice drawing at night


So, what will I take along in future, based on what I used of the above?

  • a Moleskine diary
  • the magical Tombow Calligraphy pen (hard)
  • the small Koi waterbrush
  • ripped off sleeve of a t-shirt (wraps wonderfully around thumb and wrist)
  • tin of 10-12 watercolours
  • pencil (optional), kneadable eraser (doubly optional)

Wow, that’s pretty simple. That’s basically nothing.
But those were the tools I pulled out all the time.

  • while waiting for the planes arrival at departure
  • while on the flight to India
  • while waiting in the hotel’s lobby
  • while at the breakfast table
  • while watching my colleagues play cricket
  • while practicing poses in the hotel room
  • while practicing drawing lines when the colleagues were bowling


And what did I sketch while I was on my trip?

Ok, there’s one in there with coloured pencils, perhaps I’ll slip the reduced coloured pencils set in too. The pencil case is soooo sweet 🙂 But that’s it! … I promise … I feel myself wanting to add a real paintbrush and a container for water. But if I want to whip the tools out in seconds, and also pack them away as quickly as possible … then they can’t come on the trip with me.

Lanzarote, February 2016

Or, “How much can you sketch in 1 week?”

I was on Lanzarote in Costa Teguise for 9 days and took along 4 sketch books.
I used 3.

  • 1 Hahnemühle DINA5 sketch book soft and rough paper (good for biros and colour pencils) 40 pages (10 sheets), I think it cost 1.99€
  • 1 Moleskine pocket size watercolour sketch book, 60 pages (12.99€)
  • 1 Moleskine DINA6 journal (cahier pocket), 96 pages (three for 6.90€)

I had a travelers’ pack of watercolours (12), a mixed hair paint brush, waterbrush, colour pencils, biro, Derwent Graphik Line Maker 0.1.

And I drew and drew and drew.

Urban Sketching in Lithuania

Just back from a 10 day holiday in good old Lithuania.

Visiting relatives, taking in the sites and even a short trip to the Baltic seaside.

Here are the few sketches I managed to get done while there.


1: from out of a Lithuanian Kepyklele (a bakery)
2: in a small restaurant in the “Republic of Uzupis”
3: an exhibition case in Medininkai
4: view from our hotel room in Vilnius
5: at the Beer Library (Alaus Biblioteka)
6: from the veranda of our hotel in Palanga

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Em Höttche, USk part II

Urban Sketching (USk), part 2.

Back from an afternoon in the fading sun on the top steps of Bonn’s historical Rathaus (town hall).

Looking down upon “Em Höttche” (a “typical” German tavern) and a few bistro, cafes. It was getting cold as the sun finally decided to leave us at 8 pm and the sketching process of my first picture (45 minutes with 2B pencil, kept sharp with a sand paper board) accelerated more and more. In the end, I used the accelerated technique to sketch the view onto the market place in Bonn from the flight of stairs, where JFK, CDG and QE2 have all stood before me (10 minutes, “F” pencil).


June 7th, a Sunday drawing

Spent the morning just drawing what I could see from the couch.

20150607-1Then in the afternoon a few sketches at the Italian restaurant, in my scrap book with a crappy roller-ball-pen. Also used a bit of spit for the rose, just rubbing over with my finger to smudge the ink. Perhaps I should have tried the Aperol Spritz for that.

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In the evening, another 30+ minutes with 1 minute gesture drawings. Nothing to show really, but the daily exercise helps in the long term. 1 minute gestures can begin to get really stressy if I attempt drawing bigger sketches than just thumbnails.

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Plein air drawing

Well, here’s what comes from sitting on a bench for 1 1/2 hours while joggers pant past me every 10 minutes. One jogger even stopped to sit by me. It turned out he was my figure drawing class instructor asking when he’d be seeing me again at classes.


When sitting down for this (A4, 100gr, 2B pencil), I just sketched most of the objects first and then began work from left to right (I can’t keep my hand from smudging the sketch otherwise). Always returning to the left to darken parts which looked pale after using much darker tones to the right. I must admit, I thought I had taken on too much here, it took 90 minutes and I’m glad I only sketched the tree branches in the foreground. My main focus was actually the tree line on the border to the background.

Poppies, daisies and corn-flowers to my feet and bumble bees flying around like crazy.

How did it come to this?

I’d picked up the book “Pen and Pencil Drawing Techniques” by Harry Borgman and had spent a day with it, doing some of the early exercises a few weeks back.

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I would normally have just built up monotone tonal values, but Mr. Borgman has already introduced me to tonal values built up with different stroke techniques.

Also, I now have a German urban sketching journal “Ein Jahr Urban Sketching” by Jens Hübner. And he recommended a book called “Watercolour Tips” by Ian King. I’ve been trying a bit of watercolour out the last couple of days and here is my first miniature “Norwich School” painting I did just before leaving the house for the “plein air drawing” sketch above.