Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Cutting the Fat Again

IN: essential materials in my newly slimmed-down daily-carry bag.
In preparation for my trip to Europe last summer, I put my daily-carry Rickshaw bag on a diet. After much careful consideration, I jettisoned all art materials and tools except what I considered to be the bare essentials for sketching in Spain and Germany.

After I returned home, and in the year and a half since that time, things kept creeping back in. I pared it down again shortly before I went to Brazil this year, but now I find my bag overweight again (we all know how that happens!).

Actually, it’s not so much the weight (which is still tolerable) but the bulk that made me realize it was time to cut the fat. The bag’s inner compartments were so stuffed that it was getting difficult to dig things out, and when my “Stefano” sketchbook was also in it, I could barely get my hands in.

Another motivator was that we’re moving rapidly toward winter when I sketch mostly indoors and tend to prefer the monochrome simplicity of pen and ink (with just a marker or two for color). Even the brightly colored trees that I delighted in painting last month are now mostly brown or bare, so I won’t miss color there.

OUT: the "fat" nonessentials!
The fat I cut was ruthless (shown at left): my watercolor paint box, four fountain pens with various ink colors, two waterbrushes filled with more inks, seven colored pencils, three Zig markers and a few other assorted writing instruments I consider “nice to have” but not essential.

What stayed in my now lean-mean-sketching-machine of a bag (see top of page)? Three fountain pens (waterproof black plus water-soluble black and brown), two waterbrushes, Kuretake fountain brush pen (for bare trees), three Zig markers, three waterbrushes filled with ink (bright blue for sky, dark blue and gray for shadows), two colored pencils and – a new essential combo – a twig and small jar of India ink. (Not shown is my still-essential Stefano sketchbook, which doesn’t stay in my daily-carry bag if I’m only going shopping or to yoga; I grab it as I’m going out the door toward any potential sketch opportunity. Also not shown is my tiny DIY sketchbooklet, which does always stay in the bag.)

A small belt pouch now holds the "fat."
Of course, every dieter cheats, and I’m no exception. All of the jettisoned supplies went directly into a belt pouch (shown at right) I bought this past summer when I was experimenting with the“quiver” concept: A small holster-like bag that would contain my essential supplies at my side while larger items stayed in a backpack.

My current thought is that when I’m on my way to a full-on sketch outing (defined by me as at least a couple of hours dedicated to sketching, with or without other sketchers), I could easily grab the quiver – now full of my second-tier “fat” supplies – and throw it into my car or over my shoulder. It would be a good test of which, if any, of those jettisoned supplies are actually essential. For day-to-day quick sketches (such as trees I capture on my way home from errands or meetings), the lean kit would certainly suffice.

Of course, my color needs are seasonal. I’ll probably add a couple of red and green markers for the holidays. And come spring, I’ll certainly want my watercolors back in my everyday-carry. We’ll see if I stick to this “diet” until then.

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