pens, palette & brushes

How to pack for outdoor sketching

When it comes to sketching outdoors, I prefer to carry as little as possible, bringing just what I need once I’ve decided where I’ll be going. In this short article, I will show you some of the supplies I pick and choose from when I pack my bag for sketching outdoors.

outdoor sketching
This pic shows how it’s done. I, too, use bookbinder clips to hold my ‘box’ of paints at the upper LH corner of my sketchbook.

Every sketcher I have met packs differently so you do what you need to do. As for me, when I am outdoors sketching, I prefer to have my stuff come to hand easily which means I don’t use a backpack. That’s something I learned over time. A backpack just doesn’t suit me. I prefer to use either a satchel over my shoulder, or a plastic basket with improvised shoulder straps which I can place on the ground next to my feet. That way I don’t worry even when the ground is a bit damp because the bottom of the basket is not an open weave. Best of all, I can see where everything is inside the basket. The cotton satchel is something I sewed up just to suit my needs. This is when I really want to pack very little.

basket or satchel

As for papers, here is what I normally use. All of them stand up well to any water-based medium such as the paints I have in my palette. The large A2 papers are pretty versatile because I can cut them down to any size I need while the A5 pad is great because each sheet lies flat on a clipboard which is great for holding down papers when you sketch. Loose sheets means you don’t have to wait for your sketch to dry before you start another.

sketching papers

On the left of the picture above is a sketchbook by Daler Rowney and with 160 gsm paper, it’s really one of the best out there that I have come across. I like the texture of the paper as well as its off-white colour. If I do use a sketch book, this will be the one for me. It can take a lot of rough handling and doesn’t buckle even when I turn it into an art journal with lots of gesso-ing and scrubbing, and collaging, basically all that we normally do when we just let loose.

pens, palette & brushes

As for pens, what you see above is the usual selection that I use for outdoors sketching but I don’t bring all of them out with me. I would have one of finest, fine, a bit broader, etc. At most I would have 3 to 5 pens. But you’d be surprised to know that one pen is really all I might bring out. As for brushes, the selection you see in the upper left are all my working brushes. When packing for the outdoors, a round brush size 10 or 12 is superb for laying down a decent wash to putting dabs here and there. The rest of the brushes stay home. I might bring along a water brush as well just in case but I must tell you the bristles and shape of the head isn’t the same as a regular round brush.

my palette

I won’t go into my palette in full detail here but suffice to say the basic primaries like yellows, reds, and blues will expand your range once you start mixing the colours to get to the secondaries. In fact, it’s really all about mixing the colours in an intuitive way so there’s really no need to buy sets of 48 or 36 tubes or pans for the outdoors. You see the 12 mini pans in the picture above? This is from an outdoor set from Windsor and Newton and together with the water brush bought separately. This is all that’s needed to start you off. These days, you can find a shorter version of the water brush that fits nicely into a tiny container. Flip the lid and use it as a mixing area.

Lastly, check out my video for some of my outdoor sketches here. And you can go to my Pinterest board here for more examples on how to pack for outdoor sketching.