Preparing My Sketching Trip To Manchester

I am shortly going on a sketching trip and need to keep it lightweight while having a variety of materials to hand. Time now to turn out boxes and bags of portable art materials and put a kit together that will provide me with everything I need without weighing me down.

Sketching Habits

I am a spasmodic sketcher and a user of scrap for the purpose. My home, garden and surrounding countryside provide me with plenty of subject matter. My mostly unkempt garden is full of wild plants and creatures, pieces of junk and machinery. I only lack a variety of people and buildings to draw and when visitors come I forget to draw them unless they stay a while.

A trip to Dartmoor, the coast or an errand in town provides me with an opportunity, but is often unplanned so I tend to chuck a load of stuff in the van without attenion to detail. On arrival I dig out a piece of card or paper and choose something to make marks, often sitting on the van step to draw and paint with everything to hand. I rarely need a tiny pack of everything but this time it’s different – I won’t have always have the van nearby on this sketching trip.

An important Art Event is Imminent

I joined a number of North Devon artists in the Open Studio event ‘North Devon Art Trek‘ in September, but my preparation has been on hold for many months while I helped to make their website and added all the artists’ details to the site. I was beginning to despair of having anything recent to show when my sister, BJ, came to the rescue.

BJ, a multi-talented woman with art in her blood, has many strings to her bow. She has worked in TV and film as designer and film art director, and eventually as producer, her work taking her all over the world. Always an artist she paints and draws at every opportunity. This is her website:

Invited To A Super Sketching Event

BJ belongs to an organisation called Urban Sketchers, also known as USk.
She has invited me to join her at the ‘International Urban Sketchers Symposium, 2016‘ held this year in Manchester.

Four full days of immersion in sketching in the company of artists from all over the world – Wow! That’ll get me started again!
We might even take some extra days away together and drive home slowly stopping on the way – who knows? She will spend another 10 days or so with me at any rate. We see one another so rarely.

Packing Materials for Sketching

Not having done much sketching lately and in particular not being one to do a lot of walking with any kind of load, I really needed to get organised for the trip.

For the life of me, I couldn’t even remember where some things were! How embarrassing to admit such a thing.

I rooted around and of course, I have a ‘quick-pick-up’ basket tucked under the drawing board, hidden by aprons hanging from the top. A drawer and a trolly with baskets (the kind you use for veg in the kitchen) gave up their treasures.

I picked some favourites and spread them out on the floor – too much, too heavy. We will walk or bus everywhere and I don’t want to hold people up or lose the mood in the struggle to keep up.

What to take? How shall I carry things? Although my habit is to use scraps of paper and card, I do have sketchbooks large and small – even a luxurious Moleskin. Hmm, not the best for watercolour paint but they make a watercolour paper Moleskin these days. I could have bought one online but it’s too late for that now.

Small sketching bagA small bag with compartments is fine for art things and a lightweight shoulder bag can hold any extras as well as the usual handbag stuff.

I chose a tiny unused sketchbook, a bigger hardcover, a plain paper excercise book and a kids’ plain paper drawing pad for speedy throw-away sessions. I couldn’t resist tucking some pieces of stiff watercolour paper in the bag.

Pencils soft and hard will be needed, graphite sticks and conté, some colour too – watercolours and a pen or two. I like the variable line of a calligraphy pen – I know I have some somewhere… I find them and in they go together with some brushes – the ones with cut-down handles. Three round sable brushes, a flat wash brush and a stiff bristle. Some pieces of white cotton rag will be useful.

Sketh kit with A5 sketchbook Paring it down brought me to this neat little package to hang over a shoulder. The extras will undoubtedly go in the van to chop and change depending on how the trip unfolds.
I have a fishing/gamekeeper’s waistcoat thing with lots of pockets too – I can simply tuck the minimum in those if I want.

That’s the most important part of packing for a sketching trip sorted, I think.

Does this preparation frenzy resonate with you or are you always ready for any sketching outing?