Monday, June 19, 2017

Painting the Livingroom Walls

Pre-Tran Portfolio: The Kutsuwa Dr. Ion
with all my pencils bunched up.
Are sketchers ever completely happy with their bag or sketch kit-carry system?

For years, I almost was – all my tools and materials fit comfortably and compactly in my everyday-carry Rickshaw messenger bag. My only issue was finding a way to keep all my implements standing upright (which is an absolute requirement for the way I like to sketch) and instantly accessible. A big improvement a couple of years ago was the Kutsuwa Dr. Ion bag organizer that I found in Tokyo. At last, I was completely happy and satisfied – all my bag organization needs were met.

Then just a couple months ago, shortly before I went to Italy, I discovered the Tran Portfolio Pencil Case – an elegant, streamlined way to keep all my colored pencils accessible and visible at all times – and something happened. It’s similar to what happens when you paint the livingroom walls, and suddenly the carpeting looks dingy, so you have to get new carpeting, too. And then the furniture looks terrible. (This is why we haven’t painted the walls in 25 years.)
The Tran Portfolio: like painting the livingroom walls.

The Tran Portfolio made me realize how much I prefer having all my colored pencils in a single row, and I no longer liked the way the rest of my tools bunched up in the Dr. Ion’s roomy pockets (the largest of which was now unused, since the colored pencils were now in the Tran). I didn’t need a second Tran Portfolio, which would have been overkill for the remaining tools, but I wanted something else like it.

Lihit Lab Slim Pen Case, opened
First I found the Lihit Lab Slim Pen Case, which has a couple of slender pockets. The whole thing is meant to fold in half like a billfold, but I leave it open in my bag, and it keeps nine or 10 implements standing upright in a single flat row. There’s no room for them to bunch up as in the Dr. Ion, and the pockets are too narrow for short pencils to fall down and get lost – perfect! The only problem was that I still had about eight more implements that wouldn’t fit in the Lihit Lab, but I felt like I was on the right track.

The extra-small Grid-it
Next I found the Cocoon Grid-it Organizer in the extra-small size. A bunch of elastic strips criss-crossing over a stiff board, the Grid-it is designed to hold and organize whatever random gadgets you carry. I’ve known about these Grid-its for a while, but the ones I’d seen were as large as laptops and would never fit in my bag – until the 5-by-7-inch size caught my attention. I put my remaining implements into the Grid-it, and like the Lihit Lab Slim Pen Case and Tran Portfolio, it’s slim, compact and allows everything to stand upright in single file, just as I want them to, and they also feel very secure – too secure. The only thing I don’t like about the Grid-it is that the elastic strips are very tight, which means I sometimes struggle to get tools back into the loops. I think they might loosen up after some use, but maybe not, since the system is designed to hold everything in place securely.

I do like the way all three components fit together nicely in my bag with minimal bulk (compared to the Dr. Ion, which is a bit bulkier). I’ll give these a try for a while and see how they go.

Bird's eye view of my Rickshaw bag: All three components keep my tools upright and fully accessible.


  1. Wow!!! The lengths we sketchers will go to for the arrangement of our tools!!!

    I'm excited to see this extra small Grid-It. All the others I've seen and considered weren't quite right. I've had them in my cart on Amazon many times, and even had it physically in my hand while standing in line at Office Max, but I always put them back because I wasn't certain just how it'd work and it felt kind of heavy and bulky.

    My wish is that the Tran had loops on both sides! One side for pencils, and the other with slightly larger loops that would hold water brushes, markers, etc. Or, better yet, a bag designed with all these loops built in!! Maybe the Tran comapany would consider some of my "design ideas" for a Sketcher's Bag! Lol!

    1. A double-sided Tran would be perfect! Go over there and tell them how to design it, Wendi! ;-)

  2. So, now you have me looking at the Grid-It's a little more closely. I actually want to the website to look at the different dimensions. Did you see the small size? On Amazon look for Grid-It Organizer CPG5. It is 5.1x10.25, almost the same length as the Tran. It might eliminate the need for two separate holders for your remaining tools, unless your system is more efficient with them separate.

    1. Hmmm, very interesting. . . but I'm going to see how I do with the tight bands on the one I have. If they loosen up over time, I'll definitely think about the other one, because that would be more streamlined than what I have now. The Grid-its have such a simple yet clever design!

    2. One more thing about the Grid-it is that the backing is VERY stiff -- not at all flexy like the Tran. So that would make it harder for the other things in my bag (I do carry a few non-sketch items! ;-) ) to fit around it, which happens nicely now with the smaller Grid-it. I put that 5.1x10.25 one in my wishlist for now, though, pending further rumination!

  3. You are always getting so organized! Maybe you need to design the perfect bag.

    1. Thanks, Joan! I would love to design the perfect bag -- and have someone else make it for me! ;-)

      - Tina

  4. Getting new tools is part of the fun of urban sketching,isn't it!?


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