Three weeks from today I will be boarding a bus in the early morning to eventually end up in Glasgow Scotland, roughly 29 hours later. I can see my new best friend may be a friendly dose of Benadryl when I am settled into seat #7D on the third and final leg of that journey from Boston to Toronto to Halifax to Glasgow. Excited? Oh yeah. And luckily I am one of those people who loves the planning stages, making packing lists, changing my mind, adjusting the list in the middle of the night.
I did a test-run of packing the other day because as usual I plan to travel with carry-on only, and there is a 20 lb limit. (I felt so victorious when my suitcase weighed in at 15.8 lbs for 13 days!) “No Checked Luggage” is the only way for me to travel since I have to go through customs at the layover, not just at the final destination. (This does depend somewhat on which country you are from, going to, and stopping over at, but best to prepare for the worst case delays I say.) For my itinerary this time, checked baggage would have had to be picked out and claimed at the layover, carried through customs, and given back to the airline, all during my stop in a country I will never actually visit. Excellent opportunity to miss my connecting flight, and I am not doing that! So here’s my unoriginal idea: I think of the parts of airports beyond security gates as International Waters: you’re not really in a country if you fly into an airport, walk to another gate, get on another plane, and then take off in Silver Bullet #2. But then again, I am a little old lady with nothing to hide, silly me. As it stands, every country wants to know what you’re carrying, even if only for a stop-over, so we practice acceptance.
And now to the fun part…
Many of my fellow artists know full well that the most enjoyable, most maddening, most crazy-making part of the packing list challenge is in defining THE ULTIMATE SKETCHING KIT. When traveling you suddenly realize how many simple little things like scotch tape, rubber bands, paper clips, you use every day to hold your life together. (At least I do!)
And then you get down to the really scary part, choosing between all your children and having to declare your favorite. I catch myself whispering to my collection of palettes, sketchbooks, and brushes, “Oh honey, I love you too, but you’re just too big/heavy/fragile/annoying to go on this trip. Maybe you can go with me when we head up to the White Mountains in July…that would be nice, honey, wouldn’t it?” I can be such an idiot, but I’m used to it. Again, acceptance.
Which paper? Which palette? Which colors, Which brushes? I can easily tell you my plan today, three-weeks-out, because it is sitting right here before me. I will reread this after I am airborne in late June and most likely get a good laugh from it.
First and Foremost: My “Look at That! “™ Art Pouch
Have you bought yours yet? It is my constant companion and I keep it fully loaded in my bag at all times. (That sounds bad, better not let the TSA agent read this.) When traveling with other folks it is even more important to have Instant Access/Instant Put Away Accessibility. Otherwise I will come home with an empty sketchbook and a full camera. (NOTE: Buy yours with PayPal on this website before June 15th and I guarantee I will ship it to you First Class before I leave for Scotland on the 19th. Simply click on the tab above marked Art Pouches.)
So here are my Art Pouch’s current contents, left to right:
1 & 2: Brown and black watercolor pencils, any brand, I am no connoisseur.
3: Mechanical pencil, cheap enough that if you lose it you will not cry.
I use these (whichever one depends on my mood) to lay down beginning marks, not a full-scale drawing, but just enough to warm-up and begin to build a relationship with the page I am using.
4: Click ball point pen
Not necessarily an art supply, but I want a cheap pen that click-retracts so I can’t lose the cap. Great for signing autographs, right?
5 & 6: Water brushes
One filled with water for quick painting from my palette, one with diluted grey fountain pen ink for value-study-only tinting. These monochromatic renderings can be some of the most exciting pages in my sketchbook.
7: Drawing pen
This one is a Sailor Fude fountain pen, and once I got the hang of it, I was hooked! If you are curious, watch a video demo of it here . As the man says, it is like having several fountain pens all in one. (I got it all wrong when I tried to learn how to use it from reading a string of words in a paragraph.) It makes the most gorgeous array of expressive lines and is reasonably priced. Check it out here. Sailor Fude Pen
And then there was color…
As much as I have loved using a water-brush for adding super-quick color splotches to a sketch, there is nothing like a real watercolor brush, whether synthetic hair or natural. My advice is to pick at most two brushes, a reasonably sized round and a flat, and really get to know them. Like with the Fude pen, my brushes only worked when I listened, not when I demanded performance.
Hidden within the photo on the left are three bulldog clips with magnetic ends to hold the metal watercolor palette securely. to the lower right is a double turpentine cup, rigged up to hold water in a film canister (white plastic) in the left cup and a sea sponge in the right cup to help control the amount of water in my good thirsty brushes. All of that is clipped to a small piece of coroplast which keeps everything together. (See note on my sketch below– no need to buy coroplast if you live in a place that gets LOTS of presidential campaign yard signs every four years. After election day, there are heaps of useless coroplast signs available for free, just pick one of your favorite ex-candidate and start cutting.) The clear toothbrush holder protects an angle-cut flat brush, held secure with a piece of blue-tack putty (thanks Dana Burrell!), and a blue non-repro sketching pencil whose lines, as the name implies, magically disappear when photographed. I used one of these for page layouts back in a previous life working at New Hampshire Times newspaper in the early 1980s. Good times.
It happened again. I can only write about sketching for so long and I just have to go do it. Kind of like blogging about cookies I suspect. So I’m off to sketch my kit, a great warm-up to the next adventure. Enjoy, and thanks for reading!