I’m Now Prepared For The Spring Sketching Offensive

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. It seems like the media have gotten attached to “spring offensive” when talking about Ukraine and I tire of the media’s innane use and reuse of catch phrases. And don’t get me started on the militarization of North America rhetoric. Seems we can’t even speak of sports without it. But I have “rearmed” and I’m ready to “battle” the plein air with my new “arsenal,” none of which were supplied by NATO 🙂 Some were purchased locally while other pieces had to be sourced abroad.

A few blog posts ago I talked about losing my sketching bag and I showed you the replacement. In preparing this post I realized that I didn’t talk much about this photo.

What I should have mentioned was that THIS was the real pain of losing that bag. The bag itself was over a decade old and while it was an old friend, it wasn’t much of a loss. The value of the sketchbooks, to me, was not great as they just end up on a shelf with the other umty-tendy-teen sketchbooks and I never look at. But the photo above was of the paint kit lost with that bag. By far, it was the hardest, and most expensive thing to replace.

But I have reconstituded that kit, with some differences. Heck, I was even able to find a Rosemary Co. sticker for the palette box, though this one is square and not round like the old one. I replaced my squirrel mop (I really don’t like squirrel hair brushes) with a Princeton synthetic cat-tongue brush but the important thing(s) here are the two sable travel brushes (#6 & #10) which are my primary brushes. I’m still mostly an idiot when it comes to using brushes and watercolor but those are my favorites.

I’m a fan of metal paint boxes cuz magnets can attach them to stuff, so the first order of business was to find a replacement. I finally did but when it arrived I realized that it was just a wee bit smaller than the old one I had and that wee bit was just enough to prevent the 4×6 (24) half pan palette of my old one. No big deal as I didn’t use half the colors anyway but it did require that I rethink a bit. I’m pretty happy with the result and I can add a couple more colors. I think I’m going to leave those slots empty, though, so I’ve got place for trial colors. I’ll show it to you just cuz it will never be this clean again (grin).

Oh, I know that many of you are way past “spring” and probably wonder why I’d talk of spring being a future event, but we had a frost advisory last night. It is getting warmer, though. Slowly.

My Daily Carry Bag

Thanks to everyone who commented on the new backpack I bought to replace the bag that I lost. I mentioned that this is for when I go on actual sketching adventures rather than a trip to the grocery store, doctor, or to have coffee with a friend.

Some were surprised by the size of it and I confess that my “serious” bag needs to be ample because it might be carrying a tripod, stool and have to handle gouache or oils in addition to my typical sketching needs.

It was suggested that I do a post on my daily carry bag. Because my loss included the contents of the bag, I’m struggling to fill both bags adequately/properly. Add this to my generally fickle nature regarding what I carry and the best I can do is throw out on the table its current contents at this point, but I can assure you that it will be different within a week. For instance, I don’t have a kneaded eraser (a must) in my daily carry bag because l lost my favorite little metal container where I carry carried it. This is why I didn’t talk in detail about my new bag contents as they are changing by the minute (grin). Anyways, here goes…

The main bag: This bag is really the baby version of my old main bag. They came in several sizes and I bought two of them.

Bag with flap open: With the flap open this is the view. As you can see, all my pointy devices are accessible. You can also see that these aren’t the same pointy devices as you see in the contents photo. Photos taken at different times and some of the stuff was on my desk when this photo was taken.

Top View: I’ve tried to open all the compartments so you can peak inside. There’s a pocket on the back of the bag that you can see but I stuff things like a plastic bag and paper towels in it.

Bag Contents: Treating this as two rows (LtoR), Uniball Vision – micro, Pentel Kerry 05 mech. pencil, Ticonderoga #2 pencil, Lamy Safari (F), Kaweco Lilliput (F), waterbrush, #10 pointed round travel brush, spritz bottle. 2nd row – Nalgen bottle for water, Portable Painter Micro, Kleenex.

A couple things to note that underscores the serendipity nature of these contents. That Lamy Safari isn’t something I carry. I wanted to do something with Lex Gray and so I filled it and it found its way into the bag. The sketchbooks I show in the second graphic aren’t permanent fixtures. I’ll always have a 3×5 scribbler and I keep meaning to fill the tiny sketchbook, but the other one will probably be jettisoned soon. I’m using sketchbooks less and less these days (see below).

My Paper Case and Drawing Board: I’ve played mental ping-pong over the sketchbooks vs single sheet approach to drawing, art or whatever you want to call it and single sheets are winning the day for me. The reason is pretty simple. Sometimes I like pen and ink. Sometimes I’ll draw with pencil. At other times I want to do watercolor, qouache, etc. Being able to choose a paper on a per sketch basis is wonderful. Being able to choose the color and format of paper on a per sketch basis is, well…let’s just say it’s a bonus.

And so, in both of my bags I carry a “paper case” which is nothing more than a couple pieces of pieces of Coroplast taped together to form a book. Inside I can put any quality, size, or color paper. I can select one and clip it to the exterior and the book becomes a backing board for drawing. The biggest that will fit in my small bag is 8″ tall. A bonus of this approach is that it’s a LOT lighter than carrying a couple sketchbooks all the time.

** Note that the bulldog clip shown here is really horrible. I lost a bunch of clips with my lost bag and need to get some replacements.

So, there you have it – my daily carry bag. I try to keep it light and not carrying sketchbooks really helps with that. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

Sketching The Past

I enjoy drawing the past, a past I never experienced. Because of this I’ve done sketches of Quebec trolley cars rolling through the streets, old construction sites, etc. But the other day I was flipping through old photos and came across a photo I took in 2014. I remember thinking that I should make a large painting of it as my daughter is in the foreground, looking from a bridge down on the Ottawa canal lock descent into the Ottawa river. Above her in the view are the Canadian Government complex. It would be a very time-consuming painting I fear, which is why I never did it.

But I was inspired by my daughter’s red coat and so I made this sketch.

The Snow Has Melted And The Heavy Coats Are Gone

I think spring has sprung, though it’s still pretty cool around here. But the snow is gone and we’re starting to get typical April rainy days. Still no leaves on trees and our tulips are just little shoots coming out of the ground. But, for a sketcher, one nice thing is that people are switching from big, bulky coats to lighter jackets, making them more interesting to draw.

I was downtown and did a quick scribble of this guy. When I got home I fleshed him out with ink and then added some color.

Is There Anything Worse than Losing Your Sketchbag?

The last year of the Before Times, I almost lost my sketchbag. Lucky for me the coffee shop where I had mindlessly left it, put it behind the counter and I was able to retrieve it.

More recently, in the After Times, I haven’t been so lucky. I’d hadn’t taken my main bag out throughout the pandemic and rarely after it. When I found out that Laurel and Marc Holmes were coming to visit I decided that I should prep for the occasion and, eeeek…I couldn’t find my sketch bag.

I don’t really know when I lost it. I’ve been carrying my tiny bag and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d used the big one. What I did know was that it was missing, along with a couple sketchbooks, my good travel brushes and paint kit, a couple fountain pens and mechanical pencils and the rest of the bag’s contents.

I’m putting a new sketchbag together – this time a backpack. I decided to go this way so I could carry my WalkStool or tripod in it rather than carry those in my hand. I’m still working out how to use it but here’s what it looks like so far.

The main bag: It’s a Samsonite backpack that seems particularly suitable as a sketchbag because of all its storage segments.

Front Pouch: This is where all the pens, pencils, and waterbrushes go. Lots of room for expansion here. Not necessarily a good thing 🙂

Small pouch: I use this for clips, kneaded eraser and such

Main section: This is the big space. It’s got some storage pouches in the back but I’ve reserved the main space for my WalkStool or tripod. I’ve also got one of those roll-up seat pads that I use mostly when it’s been raining and benches or ground are wet. Notice the small pouch at the front of the pouch. I use this to carry small pieces of watercolor paper.

Back pouch: I looooove this section. I think it’s for a laptop but it’s just dandy for carrying my backing boards and larger format papers. I also keep my paint kit in this section. Carrying 9x12s was impossible with my old bag. Not anymore.

Paint Kit: As the name implies, this holds my palette, brushes and paper towels. Water is contained in Nalgen containers in the side pockets of the backpack.

Now all I’ve got to do is train my brain to know where I put everything. While sketching with Laurel and Marc I found myself opening ever section to find stuff. For me, getting use to a backpack instead of a messenger bag will also take some time. The whole thing only weighs about five pounds, though, and my shoulder is less tired after a long session. But I can’t retrieve stuff from it without removing it like I did with the messenger bag so It’s not as convenient for stand-up sketching.