Saturday, January 11, 2020

Minimal Kit Check-in: Green, Gray, Bigger Book

Left: out; right: in

It’s been more than two weeks since I started using my minimal sketch kit, and I’ve already revised it, so it’s time to check in. After only a few days, I had to swap out the bright green/yellow-green Caran d’Ache Bicolor pencil for my tried-and-true Light Olive (245) in the Cd’A Museum Aquarelle line. The Bicolor greens were just too garish and unnatural for the dead of winter, and neither could be toned down with the other colors in my kit. By contrast, my favorite Light Olive is a versatile, medium green that can easily be brightened with yellow or darkened with blue. In addition, I took out the brown/amber Bicolor and put in my all-purpose neutral, French Gray (808) (also a Museum Aquarelle). Those Bicolor browns hadn’t been very useful, while the warm French Gray works well for both shading and standing in for an urban or natural brown.

According to my own rules, any change is fair game as long as I don’t increase the number of items in the kit. I still have a net of five sticks – but eight colors now instead of 10. (Surprisingly, I’m reducing colors instead of adding – who would have guessed?)

Ahhh.... it's nice to have my usual-sized "canvas" again.
During my walk/sketch fitness walks, the Field Notes Signature didn’t last long, either. I was afraid I was going to find the paper less than satisfying, but ironically, that part was fine; it was the page size that I found too constraining. I’m so used to having a full 8½-by-5½-inch page without a gutter in the middle that the smaller size cramped my style, literally. I’m now simply taking my usual daily-carry Stillman & Birn (currently a Zeta) on my fitness walks, too. It’s about 6 ounces heavier than the Signature, but I think it’s a worthwhile compromise to have a comfortable page size. Thankfully, it still fits in the mini-size Rickshaw Zero messenger bag I’m using for this purpose, so I didn’t have to change that.

Shown below is the revised kit – same number of tools with a few color changes. The ArtGraf water-soluble graphite pencil has proven to be a useful shading tool when some Bicolors have turned out to be too pale (as well as a fun drawing tool on its own). Normally, I would have reached for a cool gray or black for that role, so my minimalism challenge is teaching me to stretch the versatility of materials.

Revised minimal kit.


  1. An awkward thought has come to mind. As the bi-colour pencils don't seem to be available open stock this combo has a limited shelf life. Come on, CdA, make these pencils a) open stock and b) more widely available (or just available!). I am really enjoying this experiment and find it fascinating how it's evolving (can something evolve in just 2 weeks?).

    1. I've had the same thought... colored pencils that can't be replaced with open stock instantly label themselves as a novelty instead of a product to be used seriously. On the upside, these are hard enough that I'm finding I don't have to sharpen often, so they are lasting longer than the super-soft Museum Aquarelles. Glad you're enjoying the experiment! So am I... it's going well this time in that I'm not constantly wishing I had the thing that's not with me!

  2. I was totally distracted by the Darth Vader sticker! I want one!


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