Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Travel Sketching Supplies

I've done a lot of traveling in the past few years, and I'm happy to say that I think I've finally figured out what sketching supplies to pack, whether I'm heading down the road or across the Atlantic. I thought you might like to see what's in my bag....

My travel sketching supplies (click to enlarge)

My carrying case is the Kutsuwa Dr. Ion Super Mega Pencil Case. I carry it, along with my sketchbook, jacket, wallet, water bottle, etc., in a backpack whenever I'm out and about.

Dr. Ion Super Mega Pencil Case

(The Kutsuwa Dr. Ion Super Mega Pencil Case is available for purchase on at the time of this writing, but it is sometimes not available. Kutsuwa has a newer model, the Dr. Ion Multibox Large Size, which is available here. I haven't seen it in person to know if it's the same case, but it looks very similar to mine.)

The case holds everything I need, other than my sketchbook. It's small and compact, but it holds a generous array of sketching supplies. It's almost like one of those clown cars at the circus - you can stuff it full of much more than it appears capable of holding. Let's take a look inside...

There are two main zipper compartments. In one I store my pencils, pens, paintbrushes, and miscellaneous supplies. 

In the other, I stash a small palette, a kneaded eraser, and a few more small travel brushes.

The elastic straps that hold the paint brushes in were too loose on the original, so I hand-stitched some additional seams on them to divide the brush-holding area into smaller sections, as shown below.

My favorite travel sketching palette is an old Winsor & Newton Compact Set that I've had since I was in college. I long ago emptied out the Cotman watercolors that it came with and refilled it with a selection of tube paints. (Click to enlarge the photo and see the paint names.)

Click to enlarge

I like to have plenty of color choices, even in a small travel palette, so I made some extra wells using hot glue to divide the paintbrush storage area...

and the tiny water cup that's part of the set.

That gives me 24 colors in a palette that measures only 4-1/4" x 5-1/4".

The paints are American Journey (from Cheap Joe's Art Stuff), Winsor & Newton, Daniel Smith, and Holbein. The colors I've included are ones I'm familiar with and tend to use often, but there are many others that would work just as well. I like this little palette, because it fits in my Dr. Ion case, it holds a good number of colors, and it has a decent-sized mixing area.

For drawing, I carry mechanical pencils, Sakura Pigma Micron pens (sizes 01 and .005), a Faber-Castell Pitt Artist's Pen (size S), a Uni-Ball Signo white gel pen, and my favorite fountain pen, a Platinum Carbon Desk Pen with Platinum Carbon black ink cartridge. I also bring along a ruling pen to use with masking fluid, and a Pentel Clic eraser.

A kneaded eraser comes in handy for erasing a pencil sketch after it's been inked.

When it comes to packing paintbrushes, it's tough for me to narrow down my choices. I could probably get by with just one brush if I had to, but since I have the room, I bring along a selection that seems to work well for any situation I encounter. It's a mix of round DaVinci Maestro sable travel brushes, a size 8 Joe Miller Signature Series sable/synthetic blend, a small Isabey size 6 round, and a set of American Journey Interlocked Synthetic brushes. (The AJ set is reasonably priced, and they have been performing well for me for several years.)

I also include a tiny size 0 Escoda Versatil for filling in Roman-style lettering, and an old toothbrush for spattering.

The miscellaneous supplies in the interior mesh zipper pocket give me options for scraping, spattering, masking, salting, and blotting...

Here what I usually carry in that catch-all pocket:
  • A collapsible water container with a magnet hot-glued to the bottom. It attaches to my Coroplast plein air setup, detailed in this post. 
  • A tiny bottle of Dawn dish detergent. When I want to use a brush to apply masking fluid, I dip my paintbrush in Dawn, make sure the bristles are coated, then wipe off the excess before I dip into the masking fluid.
  • Pebeo Drawing Gum (masking fluid). Used to preserve the white of the paper or to mask at any stage of the painting process.
  • Natural sponge. Great for adding texture when painting trees, rocks, and other natural landscape elements.
  • Pencil sharpener. This one has two sizes of holes.
  • Paper clips for clipping sketchbook pages together on a breezy day.
  • Tissues. Used for blotting/lifting paint or to remove excess water from a brush.
  • Fine mist sprayer. Used to moisten paints in the palette, wet my paper, or spritz paint to help it move on the paper.
  • A piece of window screen for spattering.  Just dab on some watercolor, hold the screen over your paper and give a quick puff of air to blow perfect small spatters onto your sketch. 
  • Salt packet. I rarely use salt while sketching, but I always carry a packet of it, in case I need it for adding texture to rocks or beaches, or for painting a starry sky.
  • Credit card pieces can be used for scraping into a wet or damp wash.
  • Rubber cement pick-up. Used for removing dried masking fluid from paper.
  • Kitchen sponge. This piece of kitchen sponge has Velcro stitched to one side. It sticks to my plein air setup board, and I blot my brush on it.  
  • Plastic viewfinder. I seldom use this, but I always demonstrate its use to my students, so it warrants a place in my kit.
  • Ink cartridge. I usually carry a few spare Platinum Carbon Black Ink cartridges for my Platinum Carbon Desk Pen. The ink is permanent and waterproof.
  • Ruler. You never know when you might need one!
  • Rubber bands. I wrap these around the pages on my hardbound sketchbooks, to help hold them flat while I'm sketching. 
Can you believe all the above-mentioned brushes, pencils, pens, palette, and miscellaneous indispensables fit into that one small case? But even though this sketch kit is compact and doesn't take up much room in my backpack, sometimes I need something simpler. When I know all I have time for is a quick pencil or pen sketch, I pull out my "Minimalist Kit"...

It's a quart-size Ziploc bag with a pencil, two pens, and an eraser tucked inside. Honestly, I use this more often when traveling than I do the larger Dr. Ion kit. So often, I'm just adding a small sketch to a composite page, filling a box on a gridded page, or catching up on my journaling. At those times, there's no need to pull out all my supplies. A pencil and pen are all that's needed to capture the moment.

I always carry my sketchbook in a Ziploc bag to protect it from spills and wear, and I usually slip this "Minimalist Kit" into the same bag, so I can pull the essentials out of my backpack in one quick move.

There is one additional supply that I take with me on trips - a larger palette. My choice is the Alvin Heritage 18-well plastic palette. It has a rubber gasket around the edge of the lid to prevent wet paint from leaking out. I like to use the Heritage palette when I'm painting in the studio or at a table, times when I have room to spread out a bit, rather than working in my lap. 

Click to enlarge

It holds a generous supply of paint and offers several good-sized mixing areas. The clear plastic insert in the lid is removable and can be used as an additional mixing area, but I filled mine with extra paint pans, so I never remove it.

I glued an assortment of half pans and full pans into the palette lid with rubber cement, so I have room for some of the non-essential but useful and fun colors that I use often.

So there you have it, my travel sketching supplies! More than I need, maybe, but not too much to easily carry with me on a trip. So whether you use a minimalist kit, like I did on the lawn beside the Eiffel Tower...

or the full plein air setup, as I did at the lavender fields in Provence...

Whether, you're sketching with a group of friends on the rocky coast of Maine...

or with just one friend in Sweden...

grab a sketchbook and some supplies, get out there, and just do it! Remember, your sketches don't have to be perfect; it's the act of sketching that's important. It centers you and puts you in touch with the real and beautiful things in this world. Focus on what moves you, and sketch to remember it.

If you're up for some travel sketching, why not come along on one of my 2018 sketching trips? Next September I'll be teaching workshops in Sicily and Northern ItalyAll the details are taken care of for you on these sketching vacations. All you have to do is enjoy!

And I also have US workshops scheduled in San Francisco, San Clemente, Maine, Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. Read all about them on my US Workshops page. Come and join the fun - I hope to see you in 2018!

Where would you like to take your 
travel sketching supplies one day? 
Leave a comment, and let me know 
what fabulous places you're dreaming of!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Lucky Winners!

Congratulations to 
Karen Cox Shelly E.!
You have each won a copy of the
December/January 2018 issue of
Mary Jane's Farm.

I hope you enjoy reading
Rebekah Teal's article,
"Sketching Around the World".

(Be sure to email me with your shipping information.)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Sketchbook Journaling in the Spotlight (and me!) + GIVEAWAY

Years ago, when I made my first tentative efforts at sketching, I never dreamed that one day I and my artwork would be featured in a national magazine...

Six big, beautiful pages filled with colorful sketches from my travel journals and everyday sketchbooks - I'm so tickled!

There's just something so thrilling about seeing the paintings that I've poured my heart into published in a nice, glossy magazine for all the world to see. (Well, maybe not all the world, but at least the readers of Mary Jane's Farm!)

The article was written by one of my students, Rebekah Teal, whom I first met at Cheap Joe's when she took my "Sketchbook Journaling Comes to Life" workshop in 2016. She writes, "Little did I know that the class would forever change the way I view the beauty around me."

It was during our week together in Boone, NC, that she decided to take the plunge and sign up for my workshop tour to Provence in June 2017. Her experiences during that memorable trip are what inspired the piece in the magazine.

She writes with passion about sketchbook journaling, our trip, and the impact it had on all of us, how we gathered as strangers and left as friends.

I love this sketch that Beka did in St. Remy-de-Provence

And best of all, Beka encourages people to give sketchbook journaling a try. I hope her upbeat article will convince lots of folks to pick up a pencil, grab a sketchbook, and begin capturing their lives on paper without worrying about being good enough or having talent or being an Artist. (Why is that term so often fraught with anxiety?)

Our Provence group - that's Beka in the back row with her arm up in the air, next to me.

If you haven't tried sketchbook journaling yet, I hope you'll pick up a copy of the December/January 2018 issue of Mary Jane's Farm magazine and read Rebekah's article. It's sure to get you excited about joining the fun. Or, sign up for one of my workshops and dive right in. I have lots of them scheduled for next year, both here in the US, and in Sicily and Northern Italy.

Barnes and Noble bookstores carry the magazine, as well as Books-A-Million, or you can order a copy online. I liked the whole magazine so much that I signed up for a subscription. It's filled with a great mix of articles on healthy living, cooking, craft projects, and so much more. It's a welcome change from the magazines I've subscribed to for years and have wearied of, a real breath of fresh air.

I have two copies of 
the Dec./Jan/2018 issue of 
Mary Jane's Farm
to give away,
courtesy of Mary Jane's Farm.
 Leave a comment below for a chance to win one. 
(Drawing will be held Sunday, 11/19/2017)

Friday, November 10, 2017

And the Winner is...

The winner of the Cheap Joe's travel palettes 
and Joe Miller Signature Series brush giveaway is.....

Tracy Clark!

Congratulations, Tracy! 
Please email me to claim your prize.

Monday, November 6, 2017

San Francisco Workshop + Travel Sketching GIVEAWAY!

Watercolor Sketching in San Francisco
April 3-8, 2018
(Click here to register)

You've read about the wonderful European trips I returned from recently, but did you know that I'll be teaching in some just-as-awesome places right here in the US in the coming year? No jet lag, no endless lines at customs, and everyone speaks English! Sound good? Well, let me tell you about one trip that I'm particularly excited about...

Next spring I'll be teaching a 5-day workshop in fabulous San Francisco, and I'm looking forward to learning why so many people say it's their favorite city in the US. San Francisco has been on my bucket list for a long time, and I'm finally going to have a chance to ride a cable car and see the Golden Gate Bridge - and you can, too!

We'll be sketching the famous painted ladies on "Postcard Row"...

and I'll show you how to capture the essence of those ornate homes without getting bogged down in all the details.

We'll visit iconic sites like the Golden Gate Bridge...

Fishermans Wharf, 

Golden Gate Park,

and other beautiful spots that will have you sketching furiously to get everything down on paper.

For a change of pace, we'll head out of town on day five to visit the wine country of Sonoma.  (The area we'll be visiting wasn't affected by the recent fires.)

The scenery in Sonoma is filled with panoramic views, 

classic mission-style architecture, and vineyards stretching off to the horizon. I've been told it will remind me of Tuscany. 

And a little wine tasting is sure to help us loosen up our sketches! :)

During our time together, I'll be teaching you how to sketch on location and capture your memories on the pages of your travel journal. You'll learn how to enhance your journal through the use of creative design, and I'll help you find the perfect lettering style to fit each sketch. We'll pull border ideas from the architecture, signage, and patterns that most people pass by without a glance, and use them to create unique frames for our watercolor illustrations. 

I'll share the watercolor painting techniques that work best for plein air sketching and give you specific lessons for painting the subjects we encounter during the workshop. And you'll receive lots of one-on-one help throughout the sketching process, so there's no need to worry about challenging subject matter.

In an immersion workshop like this, you'll learn new techniques and glean fresh ideas from the instructor, your fellow students, your surroundings, and just from the experience of painting each day. You'll take what you've learned and make it your own in ways that will surprise you, and your sketching will never be quite the same.

So why not join us? 
All the logistics will be taken care of – all you have to do is relax and enjoy recording the sights, sounds, and tastes of San Francisco in your sketchbook journal.  

Reserve your place before December 31 and you'll qualify for a reduced rate at our host hotel
April 3-8, 2018
Watercolor Sketching in San Francisco
Cost: $1490.00 
Includes: A welcome reception, two dinners, one lunch, wine tasting in Sonoma, 
all art classes, transportation during the workshop, studio use, tour leader
Excludes: Airfare, hotel, some meals, painting supplies

Click on the "US Workshops" tab above
to read more about the workshop,
or visit for all the details

And now, to get you in the mood for travel sketching, I have a fantastic giveaway that should make any sketcher's heart race....

American Journey Nomad Palette Set

Joe Miller Signature Series
Travel Watercolor Brush

Thanks to Cheap Joe's for donating these supplies for the giveaway!

Yes, I'm giving away not one...not two...but three Nomad travel watercolor tins! The winner will receive a set of three metal travel palette tins from Cheap Joe's Art Stuff (sizes small, medium, and large) plus my favorite travel watercolor brush, the Joe Miller Signature Series 50/50 Travel Watercolor Brush, size 8 round.

I've fitted each tin with empty paint pans. The winner can choose to take the tins as they are, or I'll fill the pans with watercolor paints from my stash. Your choice!

Keep all three palettes or be a good friend and surprise a sketching buddy with one for Christmas!

The empty pans are held in place with adhesive magnetic strips, so the arrangement or selection of colors may be changed at any time. 

The Joe Miller Signature Series 50/50 Travel Watercolor Brush has been my favorite brush for plein air painting in the past year or so. Its combination of sable and synthetic fibers gives me the springiness I like, while holding plenty of water or paint. It's large enough to do a sky wash in my 10" x 7" sketchbook and comes to a fine point for detail work. It's perfect for the way I paint, and I thought you might like to try one, too!

Enter for a chance to win this 
travel painting set
by leaving a comment below. 
(If you've been to San Francisco, I'd love to hear what you liked about it.)

The winner will be chosen Friday, November 10, 2017.

Good luck!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Greek Isles: Naxos and Santorini

Blue Domes of Santorini - 6" x 5" ink & watercolor sketch on Kilimanjaro 140 lb. watercolor paper

After leaving quiet, laid-back Amorgos (read about it in this post), we moved on to the island of Naxos. It was a place that seemed "just right". Not too big and touristy but with more shopping and gelato shops than on Amorgos. (And you must know that gelato is a very important part of any Leslie Fehling workshop trip!)

The gang, out for our morning walk  

We stayed at a hotel just steps from the beach and a short walk to the historic town of Naxos (also known as Thora), where a maze of narrow cobbled streets and walkways surround a Venetian castle on a hill.

It was a fun place to just meander around, stopping in shops along the way, then head down to the harbor for some lunch at a seaside restaurant.

So many pretty things to was hard to decide what to sketch!

The Portara or Apollo's Gate near Naxos's main city of Thora

Our stay in Naxos was brief, just two days, but I really enjoyed my time there. It's a beautiful place with nice shops, wonderful restaurants, and beaches that are perfect for swimming, walking, and sunset watching.

The last stop on the tour was Santorini, where we spent four nights. The C-shaped island surrounds an underwater caldera (crater) that sank thousands of years ago after an apocalyptic volcanic eruption. It makes for some spectacular scenery...

and we sketched it!

Santorini is a bustling, touristy place where cruise ships dock daily and the streets are lined with shops and restaurants, so it's quite a different experience from the quieter pace of Amorgos or Naxos.

But even on Santorini it was possible to escape the crowds. There were quiet cafes and side streets that didn't seem to tempt the tourists who only had a few hours in town. And several people in our group took long hikes along the caldera rim, away from towns and crowds, and were rewarded with peace, quiet, and amazing views.

I preferred sketching and having a gelato with friends!

Also on this trip, I developed a taste for a drink called cappuccino freddo....

Doesn't that look good? It's just an iced cappuccino with espresso coffee on the bottom and frothy milk on top. In Greece, drinks don't come pre-sweetened, so they always ask if you want any sugar in it. It's so cool and yummy - I just had to figure out how to make it at home, so I Googled it, ordered some Nescafe instant espresso from Amazon, got out my milk frother, and whipped up my own cappuccino freddo here in Prosperity, PA. But what I can't duplicate is the view that I had in Santorini when I was drinking the one in the picture...

Well, it's about time for me to wrap up this lo-o-o-ng saga of my nearly 4-week trip to Italy and Greece, but let me just share a few more pictures of a sunset cruise we took in the caldera on one of our last evenings in Santorini. It was interesting to see the island from a different perspective, floating on the clear, cold waters of the caldera.

We had a great view of the gondola going up the cliff, and the zig-zag path of the mule trail. (I'm not sure what could ever entice me to ride a mule up a slippery path cut into the side of a cliff!)

We had a surprisingly good dinner on the boat, and it included a taste of ouzo. The anise-flavored liqueur has a distinctive taste that isn't to everyone's taste, but I enjoyed it.




Our final morning in the islands was spent touring the ruins of Akrotiri, a five-thousand-year-old settlement dating to the early Bronze age. The inhabitants evacuated the settlement before the massive volcanic eruption in the 17th century BC, which created the Santorini caldera and buried the village under tons of ash, preserving it for present-day archeologists to find in the 1960s.

We had a wonderful tour guide who really brought the place to life for us. This was an advanced civilization that created amazing works of art, traded with distant lands, had sophisticated infrastructure, and worshipped a female goddess. There is speculation that the story of Akrotiri was the basis of the legend of Atlantis.

The largest heart-shaped rock I've ever seen was part of the Akrotiri excavation. It was perfectly shaped and over three feet across!

We had some free time that afternoon, so I walked into Fira again along the caldera path.

It was my last chance to explore, so I wandered around a bit, stopping here and there to browse in a shop or grab one last cappuccino freddo, then headed back to the hotel for a final get-together with the group.

We shared our sketches and talked about what the trip had meant to us, what we had learned and what our favorite places and activities had been.



Christine and Wendy

Christine's sketches of the group

Then we went to a cute little restaurant in Fira for a farewell dinner, all homemade Greek food, of course.

One final stroll through town, with a stop at our favorite gelato shop, then, with lots of hugs and even a few tears, we said our goodbyes.

Steve, Wendy, Milla, Connie, Pat, Candy, Christine, Leslie, Saundra, Virginia, Marilyn, & C.R.

Travel changes you. It helps to clarify what's important and makes you appreciate the everyday things you take for granted at home. It makes you realize that there are very few true necessities in life, and that taking time to absorb beauty is good for your soul. Travel teaches you in countless ways and opens your eyes to new possibilities. You return home a new person.

I am not the same,
having seen the moon shine 
on the other side of the world.

- Mary Anne Radmacher

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