There are a few things I can’t leave home without, and aside from the usual wallet-keys-phone trifecta, the most important is my sketchkit.
Now, this changes depending on where I’m going and how long I’ll be sketching — always match your tools to the focus of your day — but on weekdays when I work my 9–5, the sketchkit I carry has to be minimal and portable. It gets pulled out of the bag only once a day for about a half hour of my commute home on the bus, which is sometimes crowded and sometimes not.
(Why only on the way home? Well, I’m not a morning person, so the commute into work becomes precious, extra nap time. On the way home, I can steal a half hour of my two-hour commute to sketch, and it caps off any kind of day I’d had, particularly a bad one.)
For most people, a simple pencil and sketchbook will do. Heck, instead of a sketchbook, grab a bunch of index cards you can put in your pocket and scribble and scrawl away. I suggest putting a date on a small corner so you can see your progress — and trust, you will see progress, given time and regular practice. It will boost your confidence to see weeks or months of drawings collected together and how you changed the way you see the world and expressed it in the lines you put down on paper.
Because I have a love-hate relationship with pencil (love only when other people use it and create amazing work, and mostly hate when I have to use it, which is mostly under duress and under a guard’s watchful gaze at some strict ‘n stern museum), my preferred drawing tool is a pen. Usually a fountain pen inked with Platinum Carbon (waterproof, fountain-pen-friendly, and so dark), and sometimes a similarly inked brushpen (the Pentel Pocket Brushpen is an old favorite), or both. Other times it’s a felt tip or a gel pen. I like waterproof ink — sometimes I go back to a drawing and add watercolor, often many days or weeks after a drawing is done, either for ruin or good. And if it’s ruin, I turn the page. If it’s really bad and my soul cries for mercy, I paint it over with white acrylic paint. Though cringe-worthy, bad old drawings are likely much more valuable than the better ones: as Steve Hall says, “Remember, the difference between a good painting and a bad painting anyhow is that a good painting has less mistakes than a bad painting.”
(We do not mention ballpoints here. They are the ink equivalents of pencils. See above.)
For sketchbooks, I prefer an A5 size or smaller, either hardcover or in a Midori Traveler’s Notebook or similar leather cover. Anything larger than A5 becomes unwieldy and difficult to pull out easily from the bag, and because bus seats are seemingly made for thin children still in single digit ages, all of which I am not, these sizes work best when on the go.
Below are some sketches I did on the commute. Most of these are glimpses of people I see on the street, and the rest is detail I added in before settling into my usual evening nap:
What comprises your minimalist sketchkits and how/where do you use them?