Thursday, February 21, 2019

A Small Box, Part 2: Sketchbookless and Primary Palette

2/18/19 Caran d'Ache Museum Aquarelle pencils on reused cardboard 

Once in a while I’ll see sketches shared on social media that are done on unconventional supports. Australian urban sketcher Peter Rush is well known for his sketches made on cardboard packaging (like cereal and cracker boxes). And other sketchers are even more spontaneous, using things like maps and brochures when they travel. I thoroughly enjoy the look of these drawings, especially travel sketches done on related ephemera. In fact, every time I travel, I have the intention in the back of my mind to do one or two sketches on a brochure about something I’ve experienced in that country, but somehow I always forget when I’m there.

As I’ve learned during my annual sketch kit diets, the tools I choose integrally depend on the sketchbook paper I choose. It turns into a complicated business: If I choose toned paper, then I need a white pencil and a tonal marker or two. If I choose a toothy watercolor paper, then I won’t enjoy using graphite on it. If I decide on thin, smooth Bristol, then I might as well forget about water-soluble pencils.

Yesterday you saw my pencil box from Portugal filled with my most beloved, most essential sketch supplies: four pencils (one graphite, three colored), one brush pen, one waterbrush, an eraser and a sharpener. Those items were chosen without regard to paper because I decided to see how basic I could be – a sketch kit that could work on any paper. Today I’m showing the results of my experiments sketching only on paper I found in my recycle bin.

2/18/19 Zebra brush pen on envelope
The apple sketch (top of post) was made on the inside of a light cardboard box that contained greeting cards for inkjet printing. It was the heaviest piece of paper in my bin, so I thought it would be the best bet for using a little water. The activated pigments in the Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle colored pencils sunk quickly into the cardboard’s unsized surface, so the hues aren’t as vibrant as they would be on watercolor paper. Otherwise, however, the smooth surface wasn’t unpleasant to apply pencil to, and the paper certainly didn’t buckle (and if I had only thinner paper, I could simply use colored pencils without water).

Next, I used the envelope a utility bill came in with the Zebra brush pen to draw Weather Bunny. Sometimes I like making simple line drawings with a marker, and the Zebra works well on almost any paper without bleeding, so I knew it would be fine.

2/18/19 Blackwing pencil on inkjet printer paper
Finally, I wanted to do a simple graphite sketch of the view from my studio roof window. Graphite pencil, of course, works on almost anything. I used the back of a discarded sheet of ordinary inkjet printer paper.

Obviously, these were just fun experiments; I have no intention of giving up my self-made or purchased sketchbooks. It was a good exercise, though, to prove to myself that the materials I chose for my pencil box are perfectly sufficient for all the ways I like to sketch – and they can be used on whatever paper is at hand. (I’m going to make a greater effort to try this when I’m traveling.)

How about that primary palette I chose? A big lesson I learned from last month’s minimalism challenge was that a secondary palette, though fresh and exciting, can be too limited. While predictable, a more basic primary palette is more versatile. It’s ideal for a honey crisp apple, and it’s probably also sufficient for urban sketching. That’s as yet untested, though; maybe when the trees start to leaf in a few months and it warms up, I’ll take this minimal kit, including this primary palette, outdoors for more experiments.
Caran d'Ache Museum Aquarelle primary palette

Imagine the freedom of traveling with only these eight implements and paper gathered along the way. . . .

Can you imagine traveling with a sketch kit this simple. . . ?


  1. How fun to use other "paper" for your sketches. Although using any kind of paper is fine once in a while, I can't imagine using that consistently. I like having more control of how my paints and inks are going to work on the surface. I did once do a sketch on paper from a coupon book at an outlet complex when the fire alarms went off and we had to leave the store. I sketched until they let us back in. lol

    1. I remember your coupon book sketch, Joan!! Sometimes the paper fits the sketch!

  2. Wow! That is such a great experiment, and a great way to just get on with sketching and stop worrying about paper. I’m inspired by the way you keep stretching your sketching experiences, knowledge base and skill set. That primary palette is gorgeous!

    1. Thanks, Wendi! It's fun because I'm treating it as an experiment! I'm pretty sure I'm not going to keep on sketching on stuff from my recycle bin! ;-) But it's really good to open my mind and realize I don't have to have the perfect paper/sketchbook to sketch. (I'm kind of mentally fussing about that right now, so it's a good lesson!)

  3. I've seen several articles saying that a great way to boost creativity is to limit your options. If you have 200 colored pencils you might agonize over deciding which to use. If all you have is your Blackwing, then, the decision is made and you can move forward from there.

    1. Very good point! It's a constant struggle between wanting to have everything I might need and wanting to be as simple as possible.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...