Saturday, June 8, 2024

Kit Angst: Don’t Make Me Choose My Children


All the media I'm currently carrying: Slender, lightweight pencils vs. heavy, bulky markers, especially my favorite Faber-Castell Pitt Dual Marker (near center) and several acrylic markers.

It has probably been a couple of years since I started using my super-slimmed-down pandemic-edition sketch kit as my ongoing daily-carry. With a watercolor pencil-focused kit, my bag was both lightweight and slender. I could easily carry both an A6-size Hahnemühle sketchbook for colored sketches and an Uglybook for quick, tonal sketches and not feel the bulk or weight on my fitness walks. Everything I needed for spontaneous walk-sketches as well as planned destinations like Urban Sketchers outings were with me at all times without constant shuffling of materials from bag to bag. I had finally found my sketch kit/bag sweet spot, and I was extremely satisfied.

Until a couple of months ago – when on-location comics came into my life. Although I tried water-soluble graphite briefly, it just doesn’t have the strong, high-contrast look that I love about markers for the comics format. Black or dark brush pens and markers used with white and a bright contrasting color on a midtone-colored Uglybook: That’s still my favorite look so far. And the issue is that markers and brush pens are bulkier than pencils.

Tight and overstuffed.

I haven’t been using pencils nearly as much as I used to, mainly because when making comics, colored Uglybooks pack so much punch without any additional color. If I remove all my colored and graphite pencils, the markers have plenty of space and even room to grow. But every now and then I still want to use color on white paper in a more traditional way, so if I’m going to continue carrying pencils, I must also continue carrying a white sketchbook.

Arrghhh!! Don’t make me choose among my children!

My bag was getting so stuffed that I could barely push my hand in; something had to be done. For now, I’ve kept all the media, but I’ve replaced the bulkier A6 Hahnemühle with a white Uglybook. It’s slim and light, but as you can see from the photo below, the pages buckle even with light washes, and the sizing isn’t ideal. It certainly can’t take the kind of spritzing I like to do with watercolor pencils, so it’s a big compromise. The bag, however, already feels less bulky and more comfortable to use and carry.

Hahnemuhle and Uglybook

A6 Hahnemuhle (with my own sticker) and
Uglybook (sticker by Draplin Design Co.)

Hahnemuhle at left is much bulkier, but the slim, white
Uglybook (which I've been using for skyscapitos with watercolor pencils) can't take much water.

The new (probably temporary) daily-carry: Two Uglybooks

Quite a while back, I had bought some Hahnemühle 100 percent cotton paper (the same as what’s in my A6 daily-carry) in pad form. My intention was to try stitching some simple signatures (which I did for many years until 2019) in an A6-ish size. Maybe the time has come to finally do it.

The new daily-carry: Lighter and slimmer, but compromised.

Since I’m showing you my daily-carry bag, it’s a good opportunity to show off my latest Rickshaw purchases. No, not more bags – eyeglass Coozy Cases! Rickshaw has long been known in the fountain pen community for its plush-lined Coozies, rolls and other cases for pampered pens. Then at least a year ago, owner Mark Dwight teased on social media a prototype of an eyeglass Coozy. I did my share of shouting my approval in the comments (and also reminded him periodically, in case he forgot).

Rickshaw eyeglass Coozies! Two for my daily-carry bag, plus a third to keep in my car with my spare glasses.

Finally the announcement came a few weeks ago, and I couldn’t order them fast enough! The eyeglass cases I had been using were generic brown fake leather freebies that I had received from my optician. You know the kind I mean – they are about as fashionable as vinyl pocket protectors (and probably from the same era). Now my glasses cases are as stylin’ as my bags!

Plush lining to keep my glasses fashionable as well as cozy.


  1. Oooh...I love the purple eyeglass case. I feel your pain about the sketchbooks and materials. I drag around too much, and the weight is bothering my shoulder and my back. I try to take out what I think I won't need for the day, but sometimes regret is later. I like to have something that takes watercolor well, but also something for mostly ink sketches that are quick. It is a hard choice.

  2. Years ago I read a tip from an artist who did what you are thinking of doing, making limited number of pages pamphlet stitched sketchbooks to take on site, then when she had a big enough group of them, choosing one sketch for the cover and coptic binding them together to store on the shelf. I remember her saying it finally dawned on her that she only used a few pages at a time when she was out sketching so why was she lugging along a heavy thick sketchbook? Your change in "children" you want to take along may have inadvertently led you to this great solution.

    1. I guess you've missed all my posts on bookbinding? ;-) That's exactly what I did for many years. Then I eventually decided I didn't enjoy the process as much as sketching, so I settled on store-bought books I liked. But I really loved the portability and flexibility of binding my own. Here's the last book I bound:

    2. Yes, I've just recently started following your blog, and yes, you've mentioned that you used to make your own sketchbooks, but that is not exactly what I am describing here. But I did find a post that indicated you had tried that, at least for awhile. Was it more than an issue of not enjoying the binding process that made you move on to ready made sketchbooks?

    3. I think my process was fairly similar to what you describe... I stitched signatures of paper, then carried only one signature at a time to sketch in. When I had filled several, I used Coptic stitch to bind them together. I actually enjoyed the stitching part, but I didn't like cutting the boards and paper because I don't have enough space in my studio to do it properly, so I was always having to move stuff around. It all became too tedious, and I'd rather spend my time sketching! :-)

    4. Cutting boards is my least favorite part of bookbinding. I've learned some soft cover binding methods (Kraft Tex is a relatively new and quite remarkable material for that) but you are right, it all takes time away from actually using a sketchbook. If you can find commercial sketchbooks that fit your needs, then why bother. :-)


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