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Out-and-about Sketching Equipment

Here's a little look at what I carry about with me, just in case the opportunity to stop and scribble presents itself.

I'm one of those people who selected a handbag based on it's suitability for carrying a sketchbook, not that it's had much use for the past year (the handbag that is). Whatever criteria you select a bag on, if you want portable sketching equipment with you at all times there are some fantastic products out there. This is a little peek at what I have.

My favourite thing is my pencil case. My lovely husband bought it as a Christmas present a couple of years ago. It didn't even hit the £20 mark. He was looking for something special for me to carry some sketching pencils about in and came across a company called Gusti Leder. He read up about them as I tend to prefer local handmade products where possible, and he loved their whole philosophy of being eco-friendly, sustainable and taking responsibility for their animals, workers and processes. He could even watch his purchases being made! He bought me this pencil holder it's real leather, simply gorgeous and I carry it everywhere.

It contains two old paintbrushes (which I don't think I've ever used, but just in case), three fine liner pens, a selection of pencils (7B-2B), a plastic palette knife for scratching watercolour about and a set of three water pens. In the zip pocket there are two mini brushes, a sharpener and a couple of rubbers. Behind the zip pocket is a little space which perfectly fits a mini Daler Rowney sketch book. When folded closed the whole thing is about the size of a long wallet. It goes everywhere with me, sometimes just stuffed into my coat pocket.

The other thing I find really handy is an A5 slimline sketchbook. I don't want to be lugging a big, heavy, hardback thing about with me all day and then realise I didn't even draw in it, and sometimes the mini one just isn't big enough. You can draw over two pages of the A5 one and get an A4 drawing.

As well as sketching in pencil I enjoy making a mess with watercolour. I am not a good watercolour painter but I do enjoy trying; sometimes I just like playing with the paint to see what happens while my children spend half an hour throwing stones into a stream (my son is a compulsive thrower-of-things into water which does come in handy occasionally). I treated myself to a little set of watercolour paints (again from Cass Art). The sketchbook I bought from West Dean College while on a course there. It's a little one from Seawhite of Brighton and I especially love it for the elastic band which stops the pages blowing about as you paint. I am considering treating myself to the next size up though, as I have realised that I tend to go out with the intention to paint, or knowing that the opportunity will arise, rather than impulsively grabbing a pencil on noticing an interestingly shaped tree in the supermarket queue, as is more the case with pencil sketches.

The purpose of my sketching tends to be to attempt to record what I can see so that when I come to design a linocut I have some source material to work from. I try to record colours and shapes, although sometimes I just get really fascinated by what the paint is doing and keep experimenting, usually to the point of ruination. I have tried carrying water and brushes about but since discovering water pens I stick to these. I found the cheaper the better, the more expensive ones tend to have a big bulge and be harder to fit into my case. I found mine for less than £5 in the craft section of my local garden centre (I then presented them to my husband and suggested he wrap them and put them under the Christmas tree!).

The final piece of kit I treated myself to was a folding tripod stool. I saw it on offer in my local camping/hiking type shop, it was going for about £6 so I bought it. I have discovered that if you tuck one leg through the bottom of a rucksack strap and use its carry handle then it's held in place very nicely. I have slopey shoulders and things on straps tend to fall off my shoulders remarkable easily! Most importantly it's very lightweight. I take it on our family dog walks when I know there's a chance of a five minute pause when you just so happen to come across a rope swing in the woods.... how convenient!

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