|Is it possible to build a high-quality sketch kit for $25?|
The Art Supply Posse podcast took on a fun challenge: Build a beginner sketch kit for $25 or less! Although I’ve built myself many types of sketch kits for various purposes – minimalism, wet weather, life drawing, physically tiniest, nocturnes – I’ve never put one together with an eye on whether it could be purchased for $25. Game on!
The important factors would be versatility and value – a kit that could serve as many of my sketching needs as possible for the lowest cost. For me, that would mean the kit would have to meet my urban sketching needs, which might eliminate some specialized needs like sketching at night or life drawing. If you’re considering building your own, it would be key to consider how you would use your kit the majority of the time.
If cost were the only factor, it would be easy enough to assemble a watercolor pencil sketch kit inexpensively. Cheap colored pencils are a dime a dozen. But of course, I’d want it to be a good sketch kit that I would be satisfied using on a daily basis – that’s a bit more challenging, but certainly possible.
Let’s do the fun part first: the watercolor pencils! Regular readers of this blog know that I’m a luxury user in this department since I was spoiled early on by Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelles: Unfortunately, I don’t think they’re going to make it into this kit. But Caran d’Ache Supracolors would be only a minor compromise (after all, they would be my choice if I absolutely had to choose only one colored pencil – it’s that versatile). The key is to carefully select a basic, open-stock palette ($2.69 each at Blick) instead of buying a pre-packaged set. And that palette would be four CMYK-based hues: Gentian Blue (370), Purplish Red (350), Canary Yellow (250) and Black (009). Yes, it’s challenging to use only these four colors, but my experiments have been lively, informative and fun.
|Open-stock Caran d'Ache Supracolors... |
|... in a CMYK palette.|
With watercolor pencils as the color medium, a pen is optional. I use one so often, though, for line drawings without color that I consider it an essential sketch kit item. Any of my favorite fountain pens and inks would blow my kit budget big-time, so my choice is a Uni Pin brush pen ($2.45 at JetPens), which is currently the pen I use most for sketching anyway. Containing waterproof, pigment-based black ink, the tip lasts longer than most firm-tipped brush pens under my heavy hand – at least as long as the ink – so it’s a good value.
The clincher is the sketchbook: I’m picky about paper quality, and I don’t think compromising on paper is ever a good idea. My long-time favorite Stillman & Birn Beta softcover or my current Hahnemühle watercolor book would put me way over budget. I have an easy solution, though: Go back to hand binding sketchbooks, which I did for many years (and if I ever travel again, I intend to make a book for each trip as I always used to). My favorite paper for that is Canson XL 140-pound watercolor paper in the 9-by-12-inch size (30 sheets for $8.84 at Blick) which folds nicely into 6-by-9-inch signatures. With the same 52-page count as a 5 ½-by-8 ½-inch Stillman & Birn, I could make a book for about $4, including bookbinding thread and cardboard covers.
The final essential piece in this urban sketching kit would be a portable pencil sharpener. Here’s where I am saved by putting Supracolors into the kit instead of slightly girthier Museum Aquarelles: The barrel is a standard size, so any sharpener will fit. (The few handheld sharpeners I own that fit Museum Aquarelles would put me over budget.) The Kum wedge is not the best handheld sharpener in the world, but it gets the job done sufficiently, and for only $1.95 at Blick.
Here’s my tally:
Supracolors: 4 x $2.69 = 10.76
Brush pen: 2.45
Handbound sketchbook: 4.00
|High quality, compact and essential for $24.91!|
|1/22/22 Central District (Caran d'Ache Supracolor pencils |
on Canson XL 140 lb. watercolor paper)
(Whew! It’s been a while since I’ve had to use a calculator to write a blog post! I need a nap.)