Thursday, August 10, 2017

Chicago Symposium, Part 4: Sketch Kit Review and Swag

Symposium swag!

I can’t complete my blog series about the symposium without talking about sketch materials – everything I brought and everything I received there!

The first part is boring: The materials I brought with me worked well, predictably, because they are the same things I use every day. No surprises, no drama – this is the one kind of boring I like!

My faithful sketch materials: Ho-hum, no drama here.
At the last minute I made one change to the bag dump I showed: I brought a new water sprayer (originally holding hand sanitizer) that puts out a finer mist. It’s larger than the old one, so it takes up a bit more space in my bag, but in a pinch I was able to use some of its water to fill a waterbrush, so that was a bonus. Except the rainbow pencil, I used every single item that I carried at least once, and most things I used daily.

The only thing I missed was a verdigris colored pencil, which was essential in Europe, but I didn’t think to bring it to Chicago. Although I was able to mix a passable color with the blues and greens I had, verdigris would have come in handy when I colored the lion I sketched outside the Art Institute.

Overall, I have a finely tuned sketch kit, if I say so myself!

7/29/17 The Bowman at Michigan & Congress
Now that the boring part is done, let’s get to the fun stuff: the symposium swag bag! The symposium sponsorship staff out-did themselves this year by giving us a tote stuffed with lots of great samples, discount coupons, brochures and some full-size sketchbooks. It was an especially useful selection of goodies for a mostly dry-media sketcher like me – quite a few pencils, markers and appropriate sketchbooks.

7//29/17 Grant's Park
7/29/17 Dearborn Station
One of the most useful swag gifts turned out to be a set of sample papers from Stillman & Birn, including their brand-new gray, beige and black toned papers. On one of the sketchwalks, I was a bit disappointed when I learned that the walk leader was going to take us on a tour of the Printer’s Row neighborhood with multiple stops, giving us only about 20 minutes to sketch at each stop. (The other sketchwalks had focused on central locations where we were able to wander on our own and spend as much time as we wanted on a sketch – a more conventional sketchwalk format that I preferred.) At first I felt constrained by the time limit, but I decided to take advantage of the format by putting the toned paper samples to work. I used one 4-by-6-inch sample at each stop, sketching a small vignette on each using General’s pastel chalk pencils that were also in the swag bag (and the white Derwent colored pencil I always carry for use on red Field Notes pages). I ended up enjoying the short sketch periods much more than I thought I would, and I like the triptych of small toned sketches I completed.

For the record, I’m not a fan of sketching on location with pastel chalk pencils (if you’re interested in learning more about them, I reviewed them for Ana at the Well-Appointed Desk when a couple of General’s pastel chalk pencils were included in the June ArtSnacks box). They smudge easily and transfer to the facing page. But I know artists who use traditional colored pencils to great effect on toned paper, so I can’t wait for the S&B Nova books to come out (due imminently at my local Daniel Smith as well as
A triptych of sketches made with General's pastel chalk pencils on S&B Nova paper samples.

Derwent's new Procolour pencil
A swag gift I am really excited about is the Derwent Procolour colored pencil. A month or two ago I heard that Derwent’s newest line of colored pencils had just come out in the UK, and it had yet to be released in the US. It is being marketed as the pencil line somewhere between its very soft ColourSoft (which I reviewed earlier this year) and the much harder Studio (which is intended for outlining and crisp details). Since my colored pencil review series taught me that I prefer a slightly harder pencil than super-soft ones (but not as hard as those intended for detailing), I was curious about the Procolour. After trying the sample I received, I am definitely interested in exploring them further. When I got home, I poked around online, and I found that they are starting to be available in the US now. offers them open stock, which is the ideal way to buy colored pencils, so I’ve ordered a good selection of colors I tend to use. Stay tuned for a full review.

My growing collection of symposium pencil tins!
My favorite swag gift of all is sentimental more than functional: The Cretacolor pencil tin with the USk Chicago logo! Beginning with the Paraty symposium, Cretacolor has been a staunch USk supporter every year, and one of their gifts has been the custom tin filled with a variety of art pencils. Honestly, I don’t care much about their contents, but I love collecting the tins commemorating the symposiums. Since I didn’t go to Singapore, I was sad to be missing that one, but my friend Shiho gave me one, so my collection is complete. I can’t wait to get another one in Porto!

1 comment:

  1. Glad to see that you tried some of the swag gifts. I finally went through them but haven't tried any. Maybe I'll find something to take along on our NYC Urban Sketching meeting on Saturday. I'm not very adventurous with materials and tend to stick to my same old same old. Using the Stillman & Birn paper samples was a great idea to see how the new series meshes with your style.


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