Sunday, May 10, 2015

Bag Dump and Travel Prep: Ho-Hum

My bag dump!

In a few days, I’ll be on my way to Paris and other parts of France! Compared to previous “big” trips, I’ve had almost nothing to do to prep my sketch kit – it’s nearly identical to the kit I carry every day (and to the one I brought to Brazil last year). Ho-hum – no exciting changes. In fact, almost nothing about my travel prep is different. But in the case of travel, I’m all for ho-hum: It means I spend less time thinking about and rearranging my stuff and more time learning French (theoretically!).

First, I’ll identify the kit contents, and then I’ll talk about the few minor changes I made: 
  1. Three Kuretake waterbrushes filled with ink: Iroshizuku Fuyu-syogun (cool gray for shadows and dark clouds); Iroshizuku Chiku-rin (grass green); Iroshizuku Tsuyu-kusa (sky blue)
  2. Six colors of Caran d’Ache Museum water-soluble colored pencils (including red and blue for the French flag. J I’ll probably refine the specific color selection during the remaining days and switch out one or two for the rusty rooftop brown of Arles or the warm stonework of Sarlat.)
  3. The “Stefano” sketchbook cover
  4. Hand-stitched, 12-page signature of Canson XL 140 lb. paper (I’m packing seven of these, which is how many I filled in Brazil last year on a trip of the same duration.)
  5. My clip-on watercolor box and mixing tray
  6. Water spritzing bottle
  7. Brushes and pens (left to right): Escoda travel brush; three Kuretake waterbrushes; Sailor fude pen containing Diamine Chocolate Brown ink (I might change the ink to a bright blue); my new Sailor 1911 Naginata Fude de Mannen containing Sailor Doyou ink; Platinum pen with music nib containing Diamine Eclipse; a second Sailor fude pen containing waterproof Platinum Carbon Black ink; Platinum brush pen containing Platinum Carbon Black ink.
  8. Pencil sharpener
The items I took out of my everyday kit were a couple ink-filled waterbrushes, the Zig markers and two fountain pens.

Top view of my Rickshaw bag (including sketchbook signature only, not the cover).
Now the changes:

  • I’m still bringing my Stefano sketchbook cover (No. 3), which is essential as a support when I want to sketch across the page spread while standing or use my clip-on watercolor box (No. 5). It’s been with me on three continents, and it still meets almost all of my sketchbook requirements. The only difference this time is that in most circumstances, I’m planning to carry only the signature (see photo at right) and not the leather cover. This cuts down significantly on the bulk and weight in my bag. Although I still prefer the support and protection that the cover provides, it’s a good compromise for travel. (I carried only a signature the other day at the zoo, where I rarely use watercolor or make full-spread sketches, and it was ideal. I did the same thing Friday in Pioneer Square and even used watercolor on a full spread because I found a place to sit.)
  • Instead of using converters, ink in all the fountain pens will be contained in reused cartridges, which hold about twice as much ink as converters. I’m hoping I won’t run out at all, but. . . 
  • Instead of bringing a spare fountain pen containing waterproof ink, I’m making sure that my writing pen (for jotting notes and writing in my journal) is a technical pen with waterproof ink (probably a Copic Multiliner SP or a Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen, both of which I used extensively for sketching before I discovered fountain pens). I’m trying to avoid bringing “spare” materials; every item in my bag has to earn its keep by having at least one primary function at all times.
  • I put more dividers in my everyday Rickshaw Bagworks Zero messenger bag (yes, of course it’s coming with me – it, too, has been with me on three continents so far!) to make it more functional. I need all my pens, pencils and brushes to stand up vertically in my bag for instant visibility and access. The problem with the main central compartment is that it is wide enough to allow all the pens and other materials to fall horizontally into a heap at the bottom. Last year I sewed a fabric divider into the main compartment with the intention of keeping things upright, but some items still slipped to the bottom.

    I recently made two improvements to the bag (see below): The transparent pink plastic thing on the left originally contained Mary Kay samples; it now holds my colored pencils upright. The yellow and green thing on the right is a
    Kokuyo Neo Critz Mini Transformer Pencil Case. It “transforms” from a flat pencil case to a self-standing pencil cup by folding over the top. I keep it unfolded, but the fabric is stiff enough to keep my pens upright. (If I need extra security, I could even zip the case closed, but I always keep it open for  quick access.)
Bag compartment dividers to keep my pens, pencils and brushes upright.

One other travel-related improvement and a few keepers from last year:
  • The biggest failure of my Brazil trip was using the wrong backpack. (I use a backpack for carry-on transport only. Once I arrive at my destination, it stays in our hotel room.) I liked the slim profile and dimensions of the Rickshaw Velo, but ultimately, it was a little too slim, and I was constantly struggling with jamming everything in. For France, I’m taking the L. L. Bean backpack Greg had purchased last year for his own use but ended up rejecting. The Rickshaw fits inside with plenty of additional space for on-board essentials.
  • A simple fabric tote bag will again function as the catch-all for my water bottle, sunscreen, hat and other essential miscellaneous items during the day.
  • I got another Rhodia Rhodiarama pocket notebook to serve as my travel journal and impromptu sketchbook. This little notebook was a surprise win last year. The paper is a delight to use with a fountain pen and even takes a light wash. It’s small enough to fit in the passport case that stays on my person at all times while flying, so it’s easily accessible when my Stefano might not be.

Sitting on these stone steps in a Paraty cemetery was
more comfortable with a self-inflating cushion.
Optional but nice to have:
  • Whether my self-inflating cushion comes with me to France will depend on whether it fits in my carry-on rollerbag after everything else is in. It’s not essential, but last year it sure was nice to have that bit of padding between me and the hard, grimy pavement.
  • Another last-minute throw-in, depending on whether I have space, is a landscape-format watercolor sketchbook (probably a half-used Pentalic I still have lying around). I don’t have need for this format very often, but if there’s any place it might come in handy, it’s the scenic Dordogne Valley.


  1. Your preparation posts are always so fun to read! I hope you have fun on your France trip and are able to capture a lot of great sketches

  2. Sounds like you are ready to roll!!! You have your supplies whittled down to exactly what you need. Have a wonderful time!!! Can't wait to see your sketches and read about your adventures.


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