Mercury Capsule and my smallest sketch kitPosted: October 11, 2021
A Concorde, the Lockheed Blackbird, the Space Shuttle Discovery, the Boeing Enola Gay, or a 1903 Wright flyer. How do you choose what to sketch at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum when you only have about 30 minutes? Everything is so big and SO complex. There are aircraft on the ground AND hanging from the rafters in the enormous hangar that houses the museum. It’s a place that I could easily spend a whole day, but with only a bit of time before heading back to the Washington airport I chose something relatively small to draw. Something on a human scale: the Mercury Capsule.
I had a small sketch kit with me for the weekend — a 5 x 8” Hahnemuhle sketchbook, a few ink pens, a pencil, a brush with a water reservoir, and a folding Winsor & Newton palette with a small selection of half pans. This is the kit I often use for travel on airplanes because there’s no need to carry water. I empty the water brush before going through security, and fill it again on the other side. The brush is not ideal for painting big washes but if I’m working with ink and only want to add a few dabs of colour, it’ll do.
Although the Mercury Capsule is relatively small compared with the massive Space Shuttle Discovery that was behind me, it still has a fair amount of detail on it, including a window that allows you to see inside it. I was only able to draw the basic shape of the capsule, and then add a light wash on top of it before it was time to go. The rest of the drawing and lettering was done while waiting for my (delayed) flight.
A note about the palette
Although my favourite travel palette is the one where I add my own half pans of artist-quality tube paint, I highly recommend this Winsor & Newton one as well because of the quality of the paint in the half pans. It’s a fairly expensive product that I bought at least five or six years ago, but the pan colours are STILL fresh and soft. That means that they release tons of colour when you re-wet them. The last thing you want when you are using a water brush is to have to empty half the water from your brush into the palette to get good, saturated colour.