Sunday, November 1, 2015

Travel Prep (or Lack Thereof)

In my bag for Japan!

Last May when I was getting ready to go to France, I wrote a relatively ho-hum blog post indicating that my bag would contain very few differences from its regular, day-to-day configuration of supplies. In a few days I’ll be on my way to Japan. As I scrutinized my bag contents to consider what to jettison and what to bring, I did review that post, as well as my follow-up post about things I learned in France, and again had very few modifications. I guess that means that I’ve finally got my everyday-carry bag ideally packed for wherever I might go, whether it’s Maple Leaf Park in my ‘hood or Tokyo! (I almost considered not writing this travel prep post, since I had so little news, but personal traditions are hard to break.)

The photo above shows the bag dump. To see the bag itself and related compartments, see the France-prep post. Here are the contents:

  1. Colored pencils, including a few water-soluble colors, a couple of Koh-i-Noor Tri-Tones and a rainbow pencil.
  2. Waterbrushes filled with a dark and a light gray, Iroshizuku Tsuyu-kusa for blue sky and a new mix: Diamine Poppy and Diamine Red Dragon. I don’t usually carry a bold red in a waterbrush, but I’m going to Kyoto in November. Being able to make a quick splash of this red without opening my paint box might come in handy! (Stay tuned for my return follow-up to see if it did.)
  3. My trusty Stefano sketchbook, of course (it has been with me on four continents so far).
  4. My usual clip-on watercolor tin – no changes at all.
  5. My usual mixing palette (taken from an old Koi watercolor box) and water spritzer.
  6. A Kum pencil sharpener (see comments below).
  7. Three waterbrushes (two large, one small) and a cheap conventional brush for spreading water that I’ve spritzed onto paper.
  8. Pens (from left): Pilot with Waverly nib (filled with waterproof Platinum Carbon Black), Platinum Preppy and Platinum Carbon Black cartridge (see comments below), Sailor Naginata Fude filled with water-soluble Sailor Doyou, Kuretake brush pen, Zebra double-sided brush pen (I love it for making quick gesture sketches of people, but it might not make the final cut), and two Pilot Parallel pens, one filled with Sailor Tokiwa-matsu and one with a mix of Diamine Autumn Oak and Iroshizuku Yu-yake. (I’ll probably add one more – stay tuned tomorrow for details.)

Here are the changes I made and the reasons behind them:

  • The biggest change is that I am allowing more colored pencils, ink-filled waterbrushes and pens containing non-neutral colors to remain in my bag for this trip. Normally I would remove all but the basics for the sake of weight and bulk reduction (after all, I always have my watercolors if I want to add color). But if there’s one thing I learned from participating in Inktober, it’s that inks applied with waterbrushes like paint or even directly with fat-nibbed pens can be more intense than watercolor – and faster. I don’t have the versatility of mixing any hue I want as I would with watercolors, but mixing particular colors with my limited palette can be time-consuming. When I’m traveling and have limited time to see and experience all that a place like Japan offers, I don’t mind taking short cuts to capture only the essentials in a sketch. I’m thinking that all these inky waterbrushes and pens will help me do that. (Stay tuned for the follow-up when I return.)
  • Before France, I had been traveling with a spare fountain pen containing my mission-critical waterproof ink, Platinum Carbon Black, because if my primary pen ran dry, the ink would be difficult to replace on the road. (I can’t bring proprietary Platinum cartridges, which seems like the obvious solution, because my primary sketching pens are all Sailors or Pilots.) Then I started hunting for waterproof ink cartridges that would fit into my Sailor pens, which would certainly be the easiest solution. I found and tested Sailor Nano Kiwa-Guro, which at first seemed like an acceptable substitute for PCB. On further use, however, I found that it’s just not as waterproof as Platinum; if my brush happened to scrub a line a little hard, the ink would smear – something that never happens with PCB.
    So I’ve gone back to my previous backup pen plan. This time I’ll carry an unpunched Platinum Carbon Black cartridge in the barrel of an inexpensive Platinum Preppy. If I don’t need it, then the cartridge seal remains unbroken, and I can save it for the next trip. If I
    do need it, I’ll know it’s my usual reliable ink – no annoying surprises.
  • When outdoors, I always try to catch my pencil shavings in a tissue for later disposal, but on windy days it’s difficult (and sometimes inconvenient). Japan is such a clean country that I wouldn’t want to litter even pencil shavings! So I swapped out my old pencil sharpener with one that has a cover to catch the shavings. The new sharpener still isn’t ideal for use with my favorite Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle pencils, but it will have to do. The perfect pencil sharpener for those Museum pencils seems to be a grail.
  • And speaking of colored pencils, I always choose one or two unusual or hard-to-mix colors that are specific to the areas I will be seeing. For Japan I chose vermillion, the exact hue of torii gates seen all over Kyoto, plus a basic red for the flag.

I took these items out:

  • The Molotow white opaque acrylic marker (the cap is aggravatingly difficult to remove, sometimes opening with such violence that ink spatters, and I hardly use it anyway. This is probably a permanent removal).
  • A number of other colored pencils and fountain pens that will inevitably creep back in when I return.


  1. I love seeing your thought process about the pens and pencils. Good idea to have things that will help you do quick pops of color that you will find in Tokyo. Who do you order your Platinum Carbon Black from? I ordered some cartridges from JetPens but they are NOT waterproof. I know the Platinum Carbon Black bottles of ink from Goulet say they are waterproof and all the comments seem to reinforce that. I'm going to the source. lol Do the cartridges from there come filled with the same ink that is in the bottle?

    How exciting that you are going to Tokyo! How long will you be traveling? I haven't ventured someplace that exotic yet...although Istanbul was a bit exotic, but I had a cruise ship to run back to. Have a great time!

    1. Yes, the Platinum Carbon Black cartridges contain the same ink as the bottled kind, and I get them at JetPens:
      You just have to read the label carefully to make sure it says "Carbon Black," because Platinum also makes a regular black ink that is not waterproof. The bottled Platinum Carbon Black ink can be purchased at both Goulet and JetPens as well as Amazon.

  2. Good to know about the cartridges as for my recent trip to France I left my Lami pen at home and used Pitts or Sigmas.

  3. I forgot to ask about the brush pens...I'd be afraid they'd leak and make a mess. I left mine at home last trip.

    1. Just arrived in Tokyo. . . no problem with any of the pens or brush pens. The waterbrushes filled with ink, however, always leak, but I was prepared. I always wrap them in paper towels and put them in a Ziplock.


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