Monday, February 26, 2018

Leaner Sketch Kit Update - Details

This is the same kit you saw last week, but a reader asked for the details on the specific items, and I realized I hadn’t updated my Current Favorite Art Materials page since last summer, so it’s a good time to take care of both:

  1. Pentel sign pen (a hard-tipped brush pen). I change out the brush pen frequently, so this one is not necessarily a favorite, though I do like it. The Pentel has water-soluble ink, which is nice for fast and easy shading. But now that I’m back to using water-soluble colored pencils, I’ll probably switch to one with waterproof ink. I also like to switch between real (“hairy”) brush tips and formed “non-hairy” tips, because each has benefits (and drawbacks). The Copic Gasenfude is a favorite hairy one containing waterproof ink. See the post on my favorites in all categories for details. Diet tip: I used to carry four brush pens – two hairy (one with waterproof ink, one with water-soluble ink), and two non-hairy (one with waterproof ink, one with water-soluble ink). Now I make a choice and carry only one.
  2. Two Sailor Naginata Fude de Mannen fountain pens, one with waterproof Platinum Carbon Black ink (very waterproof and non-clogging) and one with water-soluble Sailor Doyou ink (fast drying). These have been my stable, consistent pen-and-ink combos for several years now. For variety, I occasionally rotate in my Franklin-Christoph with fude nib, but it’s not a sketch kit standard.
  3. Faber-Castell Pitt Artist brush marker in warm gray. I like it because it’s waterproof and is handy for quick shading on both white and toned papers.
  4. Two Kuretake waterbrushes with the largest and smallest tips.
  5. An emptied hand sanitizer bottle that I’ve filled with water for spritzing (see my demo for one technique I use).
  6. A low-quality traditional brush that I use only to spread water that I’ve sprayed onto paper.
  7. A white Gelly Roll gel pen. I use it for sharp highlights on red or toned paper and whenever I need to write white signage lettering.
  8. A white Hester & Cook Midtown grease pencil. Unlike most grease pencils, this one can be sharpened with a sharpener, so I can get a good point on it. But I sometimes use a traditional white colored pencil, too. Its purpose is for subtle highlights (especially nice for skin and other rounded surfaces) when using toned or red paper. (If I’m not carrying either a toned or red sketchbook, I take it out of my kit.)
  9. A Viarco ArtGraf water-soluble carbon pencil. I also use water-soluble graphite pencils in a soft grade (the ArtGraf 6B is a favorite), but this carbon pencil has the darkest darks I’ve ever seen when activated with water. It also doesn’t have the shiny look of graphite.
  10. A Blackwing pencil with the softest (ungraded) core. I swap this out frequently with other soft-core pencils – usually 4B or softer. Other favorites are the Mitsubishi Hi-Uni in 4B or 6B and the Gekkoso 8B.
  11. An ever-changing palette of water-soluble colored pencils (mostly Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle). Right now I’m carrying 14 colors, but as you can see, my Tran Portfolio pencil case still has a few slots to spare. I always add one or two specialty colors when I travel (based on what I see in photos of the place I’m visiting). My goal is to carry no more than 18 colors under any circumstance, which would fill all the slots in the Tran Portfolio.
My overall sketch kit diet principle is to carry only one of each type of product (such as brush pen, gray tonal marker, water-soluble pencil, graphite pencil) instead of multiples as I used to. I always think I need to have choices, but the fact is, having to choose just adds to the time it takes to make a sketch. This principle is enforced by one rule: When I put something in, I must take something out.

Now, the sketchbooks: Unlike pens, pencils and colors, my sketchbook selection is narrow and rarely changes. The sketchbook is an integral part of any sketch kit and is often the heaviest element in it, so it needs to be chosen thoughtfully. It is also the foundation for the rest of the sketch kit elements, because if you choose paper that is inappropriate for the tools and media you want to use, it’s likely that you’ll be unhappy with your results. I tried many, many different sketchbooks – some more than once, many for only a few pages before I abandoned them – before I reached resolution on my carefully considered selection. While I always love experimenting with new art materials, I’m firmly devoted to my sketchbook selection because it just works for me.

  1. A self-made signature – four sheets of 9-by-12-inch Canson XL 140-pound watercolor paper folded in half and stitched with a temporary cover. This is my daily-carry sketchbook. When I have filled six of these signatures, I bind them together with Coptic stitch. This is the lightest, thinnest, self-supported sketchbook I have found containing paper I can use with any media – but I have to make it myself. It’s a small price to pay for getting all my needs met.
  2. Stillman & Birn softcover sketchbook in the 5½-by-8 ½-inch size. Except for the two-month period when I challenged myself with a minimal sketch kit, the S&B books are not my daily-carry. I keep a variety of books with different papers (Alpha, Beta, Epsilon and Nova) on my desk for use on still lives and other experiments in the studio. I also take one 8 ½-by-5½-inch softcover landscape-format Beta book when I travel, since that tends to be when I use a landscape format most often.
  3. and 4. Field Notes notebook. I always carry one, most often a red Sweet Tooth edition, but occasionally others for variety, like the slightly larger Signature edition. This is handy for quick, perhaps discreetly made sketches of people on public transportation or other situations when I don’t necessarily need or want my full-size sketchbook.
Top view of my slimmer bag! This is my waterproof Rickshaw Bagworks Zero Messenger Bag in the "small" size.

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