Supplies & Materials Overview - Field Sketching/On Location

Of the many considerations for choosing art supplies & materials for ‘on location’ work, portability is key. The following checklist of my favorites are presented with consideration of absolute necessity and ease of working in wildly varied conditions.


___ Pencil Range from a dizzying array of numbers and brands. Range from a dizzying array of numbers and brands. For working on location, narrow the options by choosing something in the mid range---such as an HB or an F. 
___Sharpener Small hand held canister style.

___Emery Board Small, free, portable and functions to
 'brighten' the pencil tip.


___Eraser The soft and pulley kneaded leaves no crumbs to sweep away and can be 'kneaded' into specific shape for erasure precision. A white vinyl eraser, erases marks cleaner. Avoid colored erasers and any eraser sitting atop a pencil

___Sketch Books/Pads Spiral bound suggested for all mediums/techniques below. The dimensions remain the same when opened, whereas a bound sketchbook, doubles in size. Look for standard sizes like 9 x 12, 8 ½ x11’ish. Get a book that fits in your backpack.
Papers labeled 'drawing' are a heavier weight than 'sketching'.

___Hand Lens Reveals the glorious details you would miss with just the naked eye.

___Bulldog Clamps Secures pages shut in the wind.

If working in pen, add to the above BASICS list, the following:
___Pen or Pen Set Black, waterproof, fade resistant, archival i.e. Micron, Pilot, Zig, Sakura, Staedleter, Pitt, etc. Quality ball point pens are acceptable

___Sketch Books/Pads For optimum pen movement across the paper without skips or drags, look for descriptive words like 'hot press' or 'vellum surface.'

___ WATER SOLUBLE PENCIL Dissolves in water for a lovely subtle grey wash. Available in light, medium and dark. Or packaged with all 3 greys. This medium is lovely over pen & ink.
If working in water soluble graphite pencil, add them to the above BASICS and PEN lists.

Pan set only. Not w/c in tubes. Tube are heavy, cumbersome, messy and the process of opening and closing wee caps, all day long, defeats the purpose of easy, quick sketching.

If working in wc, add to the above BASICS list, the following:

___Watercolors Look for the compact pan watercolors described as a field box, pocket box or travel set, etc. The lid doubles as the mixing palette, a tiny retractable paintbrush will be included and the more expensive…the more cool  extras you’ll discover. That entire set, fully opened, should fit in your palm.  A very affordable option is a child’s ‘ Prang’ set.  Limited color selection, but these pan colors are rich and creamy and quite serviceable for beginners to advanved
___Sketch Books/Pads Paper weight hefty enough and/ or indicated as ‘suitable for water media.’ Avoid rough surface paper. Hot press or ‘grain fin’ is a perfect surface for detailed drawing PLUS wet media. Available via online art suppliers but hard to find in retail stores.

___Brush (1) small and/or (1) medium watercolor round. Must come to a fine tip. Or look for the new ‘waterbrush,’ its handle contains and dispenses the water.

___Palette Small metal or plastic palettes are susceptible to flipping over outdoors  and making a mess of your page. Ceramic or porcelain palettes are sturdier and easy to clean.
Looked for the hard plastic version w a lid. [extra space for color mixing].

___Water Container Anything lightweight, portable. Tight fitted lid suggested if you will need to carry water from place to place. [A plastic mayonnaise jar is ideal shape/size for all -day workshops...a simple plastic drinking water bottle should suffice for half days]. Many options online marketed to plein air painters ie the collapsible containers.

___Spritzer A wee sized mister/atomizer to keep paints moist and workable out doors. Or a

___ Medicine Dropper Free at many Target, WalMart, TomThumb, Kroeger and similar pharmacists counters.
___Rag absorbant cotton dish rag or old Tshirt.

If working in the new Watercolor Pencils or Watercolor Crayons, add to the above BASICS list and WATERCOLOR list the following:
___Pad Compare brands and decide on the wc pad with the smoothest [ie hot press-like] surface. Not easy to find. But a rough surface paper will trap and scuff the wc pencil strokes, resulting in a child-like painting and you will abandon this fun and portable wc medium. A pad labeled bristol vellum is not a wc pad and not marketed to watercolorists but one you should give a try.

___Water Container  Hauling around a water source is not an issue with these wet/dry   mediums. Simply color [dry] on location and paint [add water to the coloring] later.

Ideal for building subtle glazes of color layers. New ‘open’ acrylics are formulated to stay wet and workable long enough for on location work. As a ‘teaching artist’ for Chroma’s Interactive professional acrylics, it is the brand I demo in, teach with, and use in my own work.

If you want to give acrylics a try, bring in acrylics, all the supplies listed in WATERCOLOR and:

___Miscellaneous Coffee stirrers;  Lidded palette dedicated only for your time acrylic painting on location. Look for the Tupperware - type rubber one w the very tight fitted lid. My local JoAnne store has this item.

WORKSHOP TECHNIQUE: PASTEL [Soft pastel/ often referred to as chalk pastel].
In stick, pencil, crayon form and the new ‘pan’ pastels. Few think of pastel as a 'field sketching/on location. I'll teach you all the tricks:

If giving pastels a try, add to the ‘BASICS’ above, the following:

___Pastels A set with the smallest sticks equals more colors for the money and less to carry.
___Pan Pastels I'm loving these. 

___Pastel Pad or other suitable for dry media. [ie 9 x 12 Strathmore charcoal pad, assorted tints]. Pads interwoven with protective glassine pages recommended if you can find them.
___Glassine or Waxed paper. Or simply slip sheets of translucent protective glassine paper between each page of any pastel pad yourself. Do this at home before workshop.

___Blending A small cut of a high quality chamois; Sponge  make-up wedges and sponge- tip eye shadow applicators.

___Drafting Tape Preplaced on papers edges help
keep fingers clean.

___ Rag Kept damp inside a ziplock bag to keep finger tips clean.

In addition to the ‘BASICS’ above, include the supplies under ‘PEN.’
___Colored Pencils Avoid kiddie quality sets. Professional or Artist grade cps will be soft and creamy with uniform color and texture.

___Blending Colorless blender pencil contains the stuff in a cp ie wax and fillers but not the pigment. Blends layer colors into one, seamlessly, links ombred skies, and creates transparent, jewel-like effects when burnishing; Soft Tshirt-like fabric scrap.

___Sketch Book For advanced artists seeking the optimum in blendability and layering, look for descriptive words like hot press or bristol vellum or just a vellum surface. Likely only at online sources…not at local art & craft retailers.

___Weather There's nothing to compare to breaking free from the confines of a studio to work outdoors, on location. Check weather forecast before depart and then re - pack. Wide brimmed hat or cozy cap; Cotton bandana or wool muff; Gloves or sunglasses; Sturdy broken-in footwear, boot warmers; Rain gear – poncho/slicker, wee umbrella; etc. Embrace the swings of all outdoor conditions...changing temps, quick downpours, howling winds, dust in eyes. Yes!
___Dress We do lots of standing/sitting/stooping. Think baggy clothes, loose waists, pockets, thick jacket tied at waist to sit on. And outfits you can dust off and wear again next day. Please... no purse!
___Backpack ALL supplies must fit inside, so that we move about hands free. NOTE: An option to the backpack is the..

___Fishing Vest/Photographer’s Vest Lots of zippered pockets, mesh, snaps etc hold all your art gear
___Seating REQUIRED. For all - day sketching from locale to locale comfort tuck some small seating option in your backpack: ie foam stadium pad, or gardeners kneeling pad, etc.  The compact three-leg sketch stool that folds up like a wee umbrella is great if you are driving or have room in a suitcase. But DO NOT plan to simply sketch for the duration of the workshop standing, squatting or kneeling. Some form of seating is MANDATORY

___Miscellaneous  Insect repellent; Personal 1st aids/meds/'scripts; Extra eye glasses; Whistle; Dry socks; Cell phone; Bandana.

___Lunch Some workshop formats don’t break for an official lunch so pack a snacks, thermos and always sufficient bottled water.

Tentative and subject to change each session...hourly...and/or minute by minute. Sketching on location entails varying plans according to opportunities, weather, luck, and serendipity. Please be an agreeable team player!

See all upcoming exhibits, demos, workshop/retreats:

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