Archive of Sketch Kits

Sketchbooks I've used, clockwise from upper left: Moleskine large watercolor sketchbook, Moleskine pocket watercolor sketchbook, Stillman & Birn Alpha, Hand Book sketchbook, Moleskine large sketchbook

Because I want to document the evolution of my sketching process, this page is an archive of art materials and sketching systems I’ve used in the past. Please see my Current Favorite Art Materials page for the updated list. 

Sketch Bag

I make no a distinction between my everyday purse and my sketch bag. Since 2012, I've been using a Rickshaw Bagworks Zero messenger bag, carried with me at all times the way I used to carry my purse. 

Top view of Rickshaw bag (7/14)

(2015 - 2017) To keep my sketch bag organized, the Kutsuwa Dr. Ion accessory organizer was invaluable! Purchased in Tokyo, it was an integral and essential part of my sketch kit:

Kutsuwa Dr. Ion bag organizer

(2012 - 2016) It breaks my heart to put my "Stefano" on the Archive page, but it was truly loved and used well on four continents:

My beloved Stefano sketchbook cover

Sketchbooks (2013 - 2019)

  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.
Bag contents (full transition from watercolor to colored pencils, Sept. 2016):


  1. A hand-stitched signature of 140-pound Canson XL paper
  2. KUM pencil sharpener (the only one that seems to accommodate my favorite Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle colored pencils (see No. 7 below)
  3. Waterbrushes filled with warm and cool gray inks for shadows; and sky-blue Iroshizuku Tsuyu-kusa ink (still my favorite way to make a quick streak of sky)
  4. Water spritzer
  5. Two Sailor fude fountain pens (one with waterproof ink; one with water-soluble ink)
  6.  One small and two large waterbrushes and one traditional brush (which I use only to spread sprayed water with)
  7. An expanded but still carefully selected palette of colored pencils 
  8. A red Field Notes notebook
  9. A white colored pencil I like using with the red Field Notes (No. 8 above)
  10. hairy brush pen
  11. A white Gelly Roll gel pen (again, for use with the Field Notes)
  12. non-hairy brush pen with waterproof ink
  13. A non-hairy brush pen with water-soluble ink (currently a Zebra double-ended brush pen)

Bag contents (July 2016):


Bag contents (October 2015):


Contents (May 2014):

3. Pilot Metropolitan and/or 14. Pilot Prera fountain pens containing some of the following inks (see my updated blog post on how I came to select these inks):

Waterproof ink:

Water-soluble inks:
Private Reserve Velvet Black
Diamine Chocolate Brown

6. A waterbrush filled with undiluted Diamine Grey ink
12. A travel-size perfume atomizer filled with water to spray paper and paints and freshen mixing palette
13. Kuretake waterbrushes (one small, two large) (For an excellent article comparing various waterbrushes, please see Russel Stutler's website. I review several waterbrush brands in this blog post.)
14. Pilot Prera fountain pen (see No. 3 above)
15. A careful selection of Kuretake Zig Clean Color Real Brush pens (see An Urban Palette for the specific colors)
Pencil sharpener
Paper towels
A pocket-size hand-stitched signature of watercolor paper (my "catch-all" sketchbook)
Water bottle

Contents (February 2013):


2012: In my everyday purse that goes with me everywhere, I carry:

2012: If I’m on my way to a coffee shop for sketching, I’ll grab:

Rickshaw Folio with Moleskine sketchbook
My “coffee shop sketch kit,” a Rickshaw Bagworks Smartphone Folio containing either a Global Art Materials Hand Book sketchbook or a Moleskine sketchbook, plus a few assorted drawing and coloring implements.



Sketching vest

2012: For an outdoor urban sketching adventure, I like to keep my supplies as simple as possible so that I can carry almost everything I need in my sketching vest and be able to sketch bag-free:

My clip-on watercolor box (2012)

3/12 photo

2012: Recently I acquired a Rickshaw Bagworks Zero messenger bag (in the small size), customized to match my Rickshaw Folio, of course. I take it on sketching adventures when I want to use larger-format sketchbooks than the pocket-size Moleskine that fits in my vest. It has more space than the vest, but I don’t want it to get so heavy that it becomes cumbersome, so my goal is to be judicious in my selection of materials. It contains everything listed above, plus the following:

Minimal Sketch Kit

2013 - 2018: When fitness-walking, I never used to take sketching gear of any kind. But ever since I wanted to capture an elusive gray heron I spotted at Green Lake, I’ve been taking my ultra-minimalist sketch kit.

Travelon bag and contents (photo updated 9/16)

This kit is currently housed in a Travelon Convertible Travel Wallet, which has (though barely) enough space for my smart phone, wallet and keys too, so it’s actually a serviceable bag. It contains:

My studio (2012)
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