I change my basic kit fairly regularly. Rather than continuously updating the blog pages with my choices in paint, pen, paper etc I’ll use this one to explain the resources I’m currently using everyday, the ones I always put in my pocket before heading out. Please email if you’ve got any questions.
Spring/Summer 2017 – This season I am mostly using a fairly simple kit…
- I’m enjoying the variable lines I get from the fude nibs on my two Sailor pens (especially after I tinkered with the nibs/feeds to make them smoother and wetter). I’ve mixed some De Atramentis Document inks to make a waterproof sepia that ‘sits back’ within sketches once a watercolour wash is added.
- The dilute grey ink in the water brush is a faithful standby for softer lighter lines in the background, and it’s excellent for quick shading. I’m trying to break this grey shading habit as it dulls colours and so am using more watercolour for shadows.
- The latest mini-palette is still working well (here’s how to make one), and the opaque watercolours are useful on toned paper and for signs/lights etc (see car lights in sketch below). More details about the paints on this page here.
- The sketchbook is the same wooden covered multi-papered design I’ve been using for a while; here’s how to make them. The bulldog clip holds it flat and open, or completely folded back, making a very stable drawing surface.
Autumn/Winter 2015 – This season I was mostly using a much simpler kit…
A Kuretake #40 filled with Lexington grey ink for expressive line, a ‘detailer’ Kuretake water-brush filled with fairly dilute Lexington grey for layers of tone and shade, and a water-brush and six-colour pocket-palette for colour. Er, that’s it.
I’ve chosen resources that offer maximum flexibility and effectiveness for speedy sketching of whatever’s in front of me, and that have lots of room for exploring… I’ve been using the kit for last two months and have found it very liberating. No pondering over the materials to use, just getting stuck in, and gradually learning to use the brush. I’ll see how long it is before I change my mind again and have a grateful reunion with pencils/marker-pens/coloured inks/Gelly roll pens/gouache/dip-pens etc!
The wristband is for wiping the water-brush between colours when painting, and I’ve added old pen-clips to the water-brushes so they stay in my pocket and don’t roll around on tables! I’m still using home-made A5 sketchbooks with High White watercolour and Mi Teintes paper, and the folding sketch-book clip when needed (see also below).
Summer 2015 – This season I was mostly using…
- The ever reliable broad nibbed Lamy Safari, with Lexington grey (I add a few drops of Brown 41 to the cartridge when refilling it to give a slightly warmer tone).
- Four fine-tipped Kuretake water-brushes filled with the same inks as before (see April below for details).
- An Edding 30 Marker pen, that I’ve posted about. Lovely ink, and great for very fast bold sketching.
- A couple of Grafwood pencils, 6B and 5B, that I’ve also posted about. (Two of them so that when one gets blunt I don’t have to sharpen mid-sketch). They’ve got old water-brush caps on them to prevent accidental stabbing!
- And a few extras; a white gel pen for occasional highlights, a detailed eraser for creating lighter spots in a pencil sketch, and the vital water-brush for painting.
- I’ve also built a new pocket palette. It’s still in a Muji card case, but a slightly thicker one, allowing me to build very useful mixing wells into the lid. Loaded with the same 6 single pigment highly translucent colours, with Titanium white as a useful wash when using tinted paper.
April 2015 – In this month I was mostly using:
- Just one Lamy Safari filled with slightly dilute Lexington grey ink. I used the blue and brown ink Safaris so rarely they weren’t worth carrying, so they’re back in the drawer.
- Still carrying 4 water-brushes, loaded with the same dilute inks as before (see below), but I’ve changed the blue to Pilot/Namiki. It’s a redder blue, more useful for skies, and blends very well with the Brown 41.
- I’m using the pencil more (a Graphgear 1000 pencil, 0.7mm, ‘B’ lead), and also a Pigma brown ’05’ pen. Both good for lighter lines.
- Err, that’s it. Apart from a folding ruler that holds the sketchbook open, a great help when sketching standing up. It’s a cut down carpenter’s ruler, with clips taped on the ends. Here’s a few photos of it attached to the sketchbook, and below them a self-portrait using it, looking oddly severe as I stare into the mirror…
January 2015 – I was mostly using:
- 3 Lamy Safaris, all with juicy broad nibs (that are extra-fine when reversed), loaded with 3 water-proof and fountain pen friendly Noodlers inks; Lexington Grey, Brown 41 and Bad Blue Heron. The blue’s a bit too turquoise, so I’m looking forward to trying out another couple of waterproof blue inks next month (Pilot/Namiki Blue, and Platinum Pigment Blue). Purepens is the best UK (and European?) source of Noodlers that I’ve found.
- 4 water-brushes loaded with dilute versions of the 3 inks listed above, and one with neat Lexington Grey. The dilute inks, especially the grey, are a fast and effective way to add shade, form and simple colour contrasts to line drawings. As they’re based on waterproof inks you can easily add layers, building up detail in the tone and shade. Remember to dilute inks with distilled or battery top-up water to avoid the ink separating. The water-brushes are all Kuretake ‘detailers’, the thinnest ones they do.
- A Shachihata, or self-inking seal to ‘sign’ sketches after I’ve added the date. I saw racks of these in Japanese stationery shops, all with different characters on. Read vertically this one says ‘river mouth’, but I noticed that looked at horizontally it read ED, ‘which was nice’. An affectation, and a nod to a couple of my favourite artists, Hokusai and Hiroshige…
- All held in a top opening pencil case (that they’re lying on in the photo).
And my A5 sketchbook, a reloaded Derwent book that contains ‘high white’ Saunders and Waterford watercolour paper, and 2 shades of Mi Teintes pastel paper. I recommend learning how to bind your own sketchbooks; you end up with the paper you want, in the size and covers you want, for very little money. (You can’t tell from this photo but the high white paper is a huge improvement on my previous favourite paper, Fabriano Artistico, for colour work. It removes the yellow/cream tint that meant I could never paint an accurate blue.)
Er, that’s it, apart from these other accessional items below…
I sometimes use a Graphgear 1000 pencil (0.7mm, ‘B’ lead), and some watercolour, but it’s mainly inks at the moment (they’re so immediate and permanent, you commit to the line being drawn). The softer pencil line suits some subjects (faces, trees?), but I love the juicy broad ink line.
I have my tiny water-colour palette for colour, but I don’t worry if I don’t. I usually focus on capturing the key lines and shading in a subject, and add the colour later. The palette is wrapped by a wristband for wiping/cleaning the water-brush. I use a ‘large’ Kuretake water-brush with the palette.
I also carry a folding ruler with clips taped on. This holds the sketchbook open and means you can hold it easily with one hand, a great help when sketching on a double page, or standing up, or if it’s breezy. And a white rollerball for occasional highlights. And a rubber.