Small Sketch Kit

Field sketch kit

Field sketch kit

The basic ingredients in my current sketch kit are:

  • A Winsor & Newton Bijou Box – with a little modification – I have taken out the bars which usually hold the pans in place to fit in a few more colours.  The box came with eight pans and a tiny travel brush but now holds 14 pans. They’re held in with a dab of No More Gaps silicon sealer under each pan. A little wiggle gets them out again when I want to change a colour.
  • Uniball pens – I really like the Eye pens – they’re waterproof and reliable. (They’ll even write in a Moleskine Cahier without skipping…) In the studio I do like a dip pen and ink for a more varied line but out in the field that’s all too hard – pass me a Uniball anytime. I like their Gel Impact too – good for a heavier line.
  • Simple el cheapo 2B pencils – I like a bit of smudge AND a sharp line. Sometimes I go watersoluble, sometimes not. I use them up so fast it matters more that I have plenty around than which kind.
  • And a waterbrush. I’m not fussy about the brand. If it wets it’s all good.
  • My sketchbook changes each time. (I guess I haven’t yet fallen in love with any of them. You’ll be the first to know if it happens!) The one shown is a Stillman & Birn Alpha 8.5″ x 5.5″ – recently finished. I’ve just started in one of their Epsilon in the same size. Both are good. Next? Probably a Fabriano Venezia, if it arrives in time. None of these sketchbooks are available in Perth (I have asked you-know-where a couple of times… no response) so I am mail ordering from Melbourne. has the Stillman & Birn

Field sketch kit

Sometimes I add colour pencil – either over the top of watercolour or alone – usually preferring very soft pencils for a little smudge. This box is a Derwent Coloursoft Skin Tone set with a few colours swapped out for others chosen from open stock. Specifically, I ditched the pinks, which weren’t light fast or relevant to the types of things I sketch, adding instead a pale grey and a cream for highlights. I would really like a white but my usual art shop has been sold out of those for months… They must be good. I expect the colours will change over time but I’ll be keeping the box.

Gouache in pans


Also on the ‘sometimes’ list is this little gouache kit. It’s an old Winsor & Newton Pocket Set with the pans removed and the spaces filled with tube gouache of assorted brands.  (No, I didn’t throw the pans out, they’re in the Bijou box.) The gouache re-wets pretty well with a water brush but are really good if given a spritz of water a few minutes before use. A tip gleaned from Cathy Johnson was to carry a mini spray bottle. (It’s good with water colour pans too – check out her video demo if you need convincing.)

Small sketch kit

The “kit du jour”  (whether I carrying the box gouache or watercolour) fits neatly in an oversize plastic pencil case for ease of use and to protect my handbag from spills.