Sketching Fife: What’s in my Sketching Kit?

I’m sketching using a type of style called ‘line and wash’, which is a combination of ink line-drawing with washes of watercolour paint.

If I’m going out to sketch, I need a small(ish) kit that I can take out with me easily, and something that’s not too difficult to lie by my side when sketching, or to rummage through when I need to find something I want to use.

Now, I know there are lots of ‘super-mini’ outdoor sketching kits in YouTube videos, and they look enviable, but I really have no need right now to squeeze all of my things into a bag the size of a matchbox. I can have a little extra with me, knowing that if I were travelling, or really needed to pack light, I could just grab a little paintbox, a water-barrel brush and paper, and go.

Here’s a picture of most of the things I might reach for when I’m at home. Actually, it’s probably not everything because if I am at home I know that I have a little art room stuffed full with art materials of all kinds that I can dip into. You can never have too many art supplies, though!

My outdoor kit fits into a handy case. Most of the above fits into it. I can zip it closed and take it with me when I head out.

Here’s what it looks like inside my sketching case. Sometimes there is a tiny (A6) sketchbook in there too, but even I find that a bit small, so I generally have a bigger sketchbook (A4). I sometimes take loose paper, which means I also might use

  • masking tape
  • bulldog clips
  • an A4-sized board

I have everything I really need in my sketching case: however, apart from the watercolour sketchpad, and possibly a plastic bag to sit on if it’s been raining (this is Fife, after all). The only other thing that doesn’t fit is my flask of coffee, which is a key part of my outdoor sketching kit!

The things I take with me

To save you from trying to scrutinise what is in the case, I’ll talk you through it here:

  • My little paintbox. This is a Meeden paintbox, and I have a few of them, filled with different colours of paint. They hold 20 half-pans (5ml) of paint, which I buy in tubes and squeeze out in small portions as it lets the paint go further, and is much more practical for outdoor sketching. I’ll write another blog post about the types of paint I use, but the paintbox pictured is only one of the selections that I’ve put together – I’ll change them about but I only really need a few basic colours and anything else is a luxury.

In addition, I have:

  • a few paintbrushes of different sizes and shapes – I could cope with just one or two, but it’s great to have a variety so I can grab and go when sketching quickly.
  • a water-barrel brush (pictured below) – this is a brush that holds water in the handle, which you can gently squeeze to drip water into the plastic bristles. If I had just this with me, paper and paint, I would have the perfect minimal kit. I’m not quite ready to go Marie Kondo on it yet, though. I can’t quite get the delicacy with this when working on such a small scale. Very handy for larger drawings, though.
  • My favourite triangular Derwent eraser – I’ve tried lots of other kinds but keep coming back to this one. I know it won’t smudge or leave marks.
  • My Derwent sharpener – again, handy and reliable.
  • my viewfinder/template (see below) – this is the size I’m doing my daily sketches, so I use it as a template to draw the area in my sketchpad. I also use it as a viewfinder, and it’s really handy for that.
  • A small ceramic dish palette. I can use the lids of my paintbox, but I prefer this. And they’re cute.
  • A tiny tub of masking fluid, because if I want really clean white areas this is a great way to achieve that.
  • A tiny tub of Bleed Proof White, because if I mess up this is practically the Tippex of the watercolour world. I try not to use it.
  • A small bottle of water (sometimes with a spray lid). Also, some small water containers (see below). These ones are perfect as they can clip onto a drawing board, and have lids. I need two little tubs of water – one to clean my brush in, and another full of clean water so it won’t contaminate my paints when I dip into it with my brush.
Viewfinder/template; water barrel brush; water containers.
  • A pencil in 4h for very lightly sketching in perspective guidelines, and for drawing around the template to mark the area of the sketch. Easily erased later, but can also stay underneath the pen and ink without being noticed. I also have a 2b automatic pencil, although I’m using it less and less often as I become more confident in going straight to pen work.
  • A new addition – a couple of permanent markers in light greys, which I’m still experimenting with using in my sketches.
  • Some kitchen roll, for dabbing brushes on and soaking up excess water or paint, and possibly a lint-free cloth for cleaning spills or messes.
  • Last but not least, I have a selection of line markers – these are permanent ink pens in different sizes ranging for 0.05mm to 0.4mm. I have a few different brands and find them all good, in all honesty. I do like the new Derwent ones though. I haven’t had any trouble with any of the linework bleeding, even when using really wet washes of paint.

Please ask if you have any questions! I’m sure I’ve forgotten something. I’ll do more explanatory blog posts about the various tools in the future.

Sketching Fife: Cara Shanley, 18 Feb 2020

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