Reviewing my sketching kit, my most important consideration is to keep my kit as simple, compact and lightweight as possible. All the items below, except for the sketchbook fit in a small pencil case.
There are many sketchbooks to choose from in an art supply store. The factors to consider are paper quality, size and weight.
– The paper needs to be heavy enough for watercolour washes
– A5 is a good size for on location sketching, compact and lightweight.
These are my favourites:
Stillman and Birn Zeta Range
Hardback 5.5 x 8.5inches
Or square 7.5 x 7.5 inches
Stillman and Birn have a wide range of sketchbooks offering a choice of paper surface – cold pressed or smooth, lightweight or heavier. My preference is the Zeta range – the smooth hot pressed paper is best suited for pen drawing and heavy enough for watercolour washes.
I use both the hardback version, as well as the square format in this Zeta range. The square sketchbook has a soft cover which is a little lighter, but sturdy enough, and allows for a wider panoramic view. Photo below shows A5 format on top, square format below.
Available from jacksonsart.com or amazon.co.uk
Watercolour Book A5 from Evans Art Supplies
This is another good option. The cold pressed paper is good for watercolour but a little rougher for pen drawing.
WATERCOLOUR PAN SET
I like to use a small set of 12 half pan colours, and there are many brands to choose from.
Highest artist quality is probably the Schminke Horadam range available from Kennedy Art, Harcourt St (€65 for 12 half pan set)
A more affordable alternative especially if you’re starting out, is the widely available Winsor and Newton Cotman sketcher pocket box priced around €20. I’m currently trying out a Derwent Inktense pan set.
WATERCOLOUR PENCILS OR BLOCKS (optional)
These are a handy alternative to a paint set, and there are many brands and options available. You use them like colouring pencils, then add water with a water brush (see below) Depending on the quality they will be more or less soluble, but may leave some pencil lines that won’t completely dissolve. I like the Derwent Inktense range which includes pencils, blocks and a pan set.
Available in most art stores, a water brush has a barrel that can be filled with water and squeezed to release water onto the page. Super handy for immediate use with watercolour pans or pencils.
Most watercolour pan sets will include a small brush. I carry 2 brushes, one a flat watercolour brush with a short handle, about 1cm wide for laying in washes over larger areas of the page, as well as a compact folding brush that fits in my pan set.
I carry a selection of waterproof pens in sizes from 0.1 to 0.5. Widely available in art or stationary stores such as Easons. There are several brands – Pitt, Micron, Staedtler, Unipin, and some are available as a set of 3 or 5 pens – just check that it says “waterproof”, so the ink won’t run when you apply watercolour on top.
My favourite pen right now is the Unipin Fine Line in Dark Grey, size 0.5. It marks like a pencil but won’t smudge. I start all my sketches with this, so first marks are light, then add stronger, darker lines later on.
I also carry a white gel pen, useful for adding white detail like windowpanes to your sketch
For value studies, a set of markers in shades of grey. I like the Pitt Artist Pens in the Soft Brush format
A small round plastic lid – the simplest perspective tool! I’ll show you how!
Small dipper or jar for water, to attach to your paintbox
Bulldog clips to hold your page in place
Water bottle, sun visor, sun screen
Backpack or cross body bag
Optional three leg folding camp stool