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6 essential items for Artist's go-anywhere kit!

Updated on May 1, 2011

6 key items for the travelling artist.

Do you long to paint or draw but don't have the time?

You're not alone! As an artist with limited time to paint, I need to be ready when the opportunity arises.

It used to be a problem, but I've managed to overcome that problem.

This is what works for me!

©2009 Cathy Read Ambulance in Well Street
©2009 Cathy Read Ambulance in Well Street

How to be more productive as an artist?

The idea behind the list.

Finding time to sketch was a real issue for me. I wondered how I could improve the situation.

Inspiration came when I read a book on watercolour painting - "The one hour watercolourist". Two things struck me.

1. The author suggested carrying art materials in a wooden box which could act as an easel.

2. He suggested working in small blocks and leaving the work area set up. Less set up time equals more painting time!

That was it!

Being a Mum, I often wait for children, school run, appointments... All usually in the same locations. Sometimes I had the chance to sketch but no drawing materials handy.

Then there were the occasions when there wasn't enough time to complete a drawing in one go. But there might be enough time to do something, if I did a little bit each day/week. I could achieve something in stages!


After 18 months adhering to the practice rigidly I've seen results.

...admittedly, the box has gone by the wayside! Too heavy and awkward! I use a large handbag for my drawing materials which go everywhere with me.

The other day I was blocked into a parking space by an ambulance dealing with an emergency. There was nothing I could do but wait...

So, I drew as I waited.

Another, I was caught in a downpour, I wasn't in a hurry and the rain was fascinating. So I delayed setting off and drew - get the picture?

Keep some drawing materials with you, and you will!

Frequenting coffee shops is another great way to practice quick sketching. On these occasions I limit myself to a small sketchbook and a pen. I don't use pencils, they tend to smudge unless fixed. And that's a bulky item.

Sketchbook and pen
Sketchbook and pen

Top 6 essential items for a travelling artist's kit

The first two

You really don't need much to get going.

I have 2 levels of "kit" super lightweight, essentials and full.

1 - Sketchbook - choose a small sketchbook that fits neatly into a pocket.

2 - Drawing Pen - I like the Faber castell Pitt drawing pens, but whatever you prefer is fine.

Water bottle, water pot, pencil sharpener
Water bottle, water pot, pencil sharpener

and to complete the list...

I could have stopped there but I like to add colour!

These are the final four items for the Essential list.

3- A compact/travel watercolour box - these usually have very small brush included. Some have an inbuilt water bottle and pot. If not you will need -

4 - Water bottle - any plastic bottle with a large lid which can double as a water pot

5 - Pencil

6 - pencil sharpener

I haven't included a rubber. I don't think it's essential, but if you must add it as number 7. Or nick a piece of bread from your sandwich. Believe it or not, it works well!

14 items for the "Go anywhere" artist travel kit

Kitchen sink mode

I've worked with the kit for a while now. I've mentioned that the box was ejected and I've also added a few items.

A search through my handbag will reveal.

1. Sketchbook - One small moleskine sketchbook and a larger sketchbook, approximately A5 but it varies.

I tend to carry two but one is all that's required. It allows me to sketch while a painting is drying.

Plus, if time is really tight, I can usually finish a smaller sketch.

2. A set of travel paintbrushes- they fold in on themselves so they keep their shape.

3. A set of travel watercolour paints.

4. A small plastic bottle - containing water

5. A water pot - could be the lid of the water bottle but mine is an aerosol lid which fits over the bottle.

6. A tin of 6 pencils graded B-6B

7. One set of 12 watercolour pencils - allows me the option of coloured pencil or watercolour pencils

8. One putty rubber

9. One pencil sharpener - the kind that hold the shavings

10 . One folding ruler - a lovely old wooden one

11. A small piece of sponge - good for skies and trees

12. Small white crayon - useful for keeping areas white when sketching. Wax resist method.

13. A pack of 4 drawing pens, varying widths.

14. Some tissues. Not many but enough to blot and dry up before moving off.

Western Avenue
Western Avenue

The results of this?

It means if I get the chance to sketch, I've no excuse not to and it REALLY helps. I've always tended to avoid buildings but often they're all I get. Which stretches me. I don't mind them so much now! Secondly I've finally started to Sketch rather than draw, a truly liberating experience.

This was done over the course of a few weeks of snatched 5-10 minutes. Not a masterpiece but it demonstrates the effectiveness of the practice.

Wouldn't it just be easier to carry a camera?

Well, I suppose "Yes" is the obvious answer...

Yes, if I wanted to find subject material to work on in the studio!

But the aim is to improve my drawing, to sketch and draw more frequently, Using a camera sort of defeats the object. I take a camera with me sometimes, when I know time will be tight or the subject prone to movement. Either that or I use my phone to take reference shots.

So, should I include a camera on the list?

The trouble is, It could be the sole item! No need for the list then!

OK! I might let you have it, if you promise to be good boys and girls. For back-up reference use only when you're sketching.

Otherwise it's a definite, NO!

You only want to take pictures?

May I suggest photography is your medium!

What art Essentials do you carry around?

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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great Lens, very informative, thanks for sharing! Westland Place Studios

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 

      8 years ago from UK

      I used to take a sketch book and pencil with me when I walked the dog, he would go off exploring in the fields whlst I sketched. Colour was added back at home later.

    • CathyReadArt profile imageAUTHOR

      Cathy S R Read 

      8 years ago from Buckinghamshire

      @CathyReadArt: Thinking about your comment I might put a module in on cameras.

      The list was intended as a way to get people sketching more. A camera sort of defeats that object. However, I would add that I do take a camera with me occasionally or take a picture with my phone if time is tight. I use it to supplement the sketches.

    • CathyReadArt profile imageAUTHOR

      Cathy S R Read 

      8 years ago from Buckinghamshire

      @WildFacesGallery: Wildlife are always tricky but after you've taken some pictures, I'd have a go. I managed some sketches of Swans when I was sitting in a boat about 2 weeks ago. They've turned out really well.

    • WildFacesGallery profile image


      8 years ago from Iowa

      Being primarily a wildlife artist mostly I just carry my camera. On occasion I do sketch my sleeping dog or cat for the fun of it though.


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