Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Bag Dump: (Almost) Nothing New

My UK and Manchester Symposium sketch kit bag dump!

Every time we travel internationally, the time and attention I have to give to preparing depends on the country we’re visiting, the time of year, how long we’ll be there, and many other factors. For example, Brazil required a visa with a tedious and lengthy application process, but packing clothes was easy because I knew the weather would be mostly warm. I’ve been to Japan four times now, so familiarity makes packing for that country relatively fast. But boning up on my rusty Japanese reading skills with a deck of flash cards always takes longer than I think it should! It took us more time than expected to plan our itinerary for France, despite being a small country geographically, simply because there were so many places we wanted to see.

Instead of my purple daily-carry Rickshaw bag, this waterproof version is
coming with me to the UK.
Although prepping for our upcoming trip to the UK seems like it should be a snap – after all, for the first time, we don’t have to worry about language issues – logistically, it’s not the easiest country to visit, at least without a car. But one part of my prep has been the easiest ever, and that’s my sketch kit!

Three years ago when I was getting ready for my first Urban Sketchers Symposium in Barcelona, I had to write two blog posts just on my kit prep – one for watercolors, and one for everything else. As a newbie to both symposiums and sketching in general (I’d been at it for less than two years at that point), I didn’t know what to expect, and I didn’t have enough experience to have a solid kit in place. I spent many hours wringing my hands over what to bring, how much, putting things into my bag, taking them out, and putting them back in again.

With each successive travel experience my sketch kit prep got easier. By 2014 as I prepped for the Paraty symposium, the contents of my bag weren’t an issue so much as the bag itself. By the following spring, I yawned through my France kit prep – just business as usual. For Japan in the fall, I almost didn’t blog about the prep at all because I had very little news to report.
The view from the top.

Again, not much is new about my kit for this upcoming trip. Because rain is a distinct possibility, especially in London and Manchester, I’m switching to my waterproof Rickshaw Bagworks Zero messenger bag (which I decided to purchase after my fabric Rickshaw got drenched in Kyoto). I really love the fact that its design is identical to my usual purple Rickshaw Zero; I won’t have to learn a new pocket arrangement.

My Kutsuwa Dr. Ion accessory organizer that keeps all my tools upright in my
bag. (I have at least one blog reader who loves this, so I put this photo in just
for her! :-) I bought this in Tokyo, but I hope that JetPens will someday carry it.)
I’ve looked at photos of the areas I’ll be visiting and picked out a couple of colored pencils that might come in handy (like the pale turquoise blue of oxidized copper trim on old buildings), and I may ultimately change out a few others. Overall, though, the bag’s contents are all the same tools and materials I use every day (numbers refer to photo at top):

1. Two hairy and two non-hairy brush pens (waterproof and water-soluble inks); a white Gelly Roll gel pen
2. A couple of Sailor fude fountain pens (one with waterproof ink; one with water-soluble ink); a couple other fountain pens that serve as spares as well as for writing
3. A few Kuretake Zig markers for quick swipes of color; a careful selection of water-soluble colored pencils
4. Waterbrushes filled with warm and cool gray inks for shadows; sky-blue Iroshizuku Tsuyu-kusa; and Iroshizuku Chiku-rin for foliage
6. Watercolors and a mixing tray
7. A hand-stitched signature of 140-pound Canson XL paper (I’ve stitched up seven signatures for the trip, which is the number I typically fill on a trip of this length)
8. Pencil sharpener
9. Water spritzer

Included in the photo is (10) the Rhodia Rhodiarama pocket notebook that I’ll use as my travel writing/collage/photo journal. Also shown is (11) a red Field Notes Sweet Tooth notebook. That’s one part of my everyday bag that the jury’s still out on; it might get jettisoned at the last minute. Since I’m bringing the little Rhodia as my pocket notebook, I don’t really need the Sweet Tooth, but I’ve had so much fun with it lately that I almost can’t bear to leave it behind. (We’ll see how stuffed the bag feels on the night before I leave.)

Notable for its absence is the single biggest change from all my previous trips: My “Stefano” won’t be coming along. (And you know how sad I am about that, so I won’t dwell on it.)

I do have a couple of new additions: Although I’ll still be using my usual hand-stitched sketchbook signatures for my “normal” sketches, I’m bringing a spiral-bound, hardcover Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook in the 10-by-7-inch size specifically for symposium sketches. I’ll be one of four correspondents commissioned to report on symposium activities for the three days. I wanted to keep those reportage sketches separate from my personal travel sketches so that I could easily detach any that I want to donate to the annual Urban Sketchers silent auction at the symposium’s closing. Unfortunately, that book doesn’t fit in my Rickshaw, so it’s going to have to go in my supplemental tote bag for the few days of the symposium.
Poloroid Zip printer for travel journal photos.

The second new addition doesn’t have anything to do with sketching, but it’s more about my general travel journal. Before I started sketching, I used to bring along a small Polaroid PoGo printer. At the end of the day when we were relaxing in our hotel room, I’d print a few of my favorite photos on the self-adhesive Zink paper and stick them right into the pages of my journal where I wrote about experiences, observations and other travel thoughts. When I first began sketching, I left the PoGo behind because I was a little worried that I’d get lazy and go back to sticking in photos instead of sketching. By the time I realized that risk was nil (although I may have my share of issues, it’s probably apparent that getting lazy about sketching is not one of them!), the PoGo had died.

The last couple of trips, however, I’ve missed my PoGo. When I thought about the types of photos I’d glue into my journal, I realized they wouldn’t replace sketches; they were more like selfies or strange signage I didn’t want to forget. There’s a place for an instant printer even in a sketcher’s journal.

On Amazon Prime day, a friend let me know that the Polaroid Zip printer was almost half price; I jumped on it! It’s even smaller and lighter than my old PoGo.

So that’s it; nothing very exciting to report. But don’t you like that photo of my bag dump? 


  1. LOVE IT! I always enjoy reading about your trip prep! Thank you so much for mentioning the Kutsuwa Dr. Ion Accessory Orgainzer on Instgram! I hope Jet Pens will try a little harder to get their hands on them. I'm not sure what the hang up is about stocking them, but I guess they're just not readily available, or maybe they are expensive to buy in bulk or something. I also have a Zip!! I love it. It's super fun to use, but I can't see it replacing my sketching. I like to use it for photos of my family to remember special situations as an adjunct to my journaling and sketching. I save one of the blue cards after it's been spit out, and tuck it into my journal so I can use it as a template for a page layout/design when I want to get fancy. It's such a great little device!! I can't wait to see all of your sketches from the symposium!!

    1. Glad you enjoyed the bag dump, Wendi! And I DO hope JetPens caves to all our pestering! ;-) Maybe our public shaming on Instagram will wake them up! :-0 Thanks for your support and enthusiasm!

      - Tina

  2. Ok, so just a heads up... I reposted your photo from Instgram (giving you credit) on Instagram, and on a few groups on Facebook and the JetPens Facebook page. The pressure is on now! I included a link to your post about it here (the one from November 2015).

    1. Thank you for the reposts, Wendi! We need all the pressure we can give! ;-)

      - Tina

  3. I didn't realise Barcelona was your first symposium too :)
    You are so organised I haven't really thought about art stuff other than my sketchbook is full eek. See you soon.


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