Art materials

When I first started sketching, my materials changed often, but now I seem to have found my favourites and most of the time these are the things I reach for first. Of course that doesn’t mean that I’m not open to trying new things, but these are the ones I find that I can’t be without. There are two sections below. One for supplies that are in my sketch bag and one for studio and plein air painting.

Sketching supplies

The list below is what I carry in my bag on most days. If I’m not sketching in my car, I also carry a folding stool of some sort, as well as sunscreen, bug spray and water bottles.

The colours in my travel palette, from left to right, are:
Left: Azo Yellow, Quinacridone Gold, Tranparent Orange, Cadmium Red, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Quinacridone Rose.
Middle: Raw Sienna, Naples Yellow, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Cobalt Violet Light, Lavender, Viridian Green.
Right: Turquoise Blue, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Prussian Blue, Payne’s Grey.
If you are interested in knowing the brands, the tubes are below, photographed in the same order as the placement in the palette.

Plein Air Brush Set
It’s a pleasure to partner with Jack Richeson & Co, a family-owned fine art supplier, for several brush sets. The Plein Air Brush Set contains a variety of round and flat brushes, perfect for carrying in a small sketch bag. I love it because the kit stands up on its own and the brushes are always in easy reach. The brush kit comes packaged with a great viewfinder that I am never without when I go out sketching. This set is available on Amazon or at Judson’s Art Outfitters.

Travel Brushes
I also use a variety of travel brushes, including a small flat. I like them because they all hold lots of wash and come to a good point. I could probably get away with only one or two but it’s nice to have a few sizes and a small flat for painting poles and straight edges.
from top:
Rosemary & Co Squirrel Mop Travel Brush R14
Rosemary & Co Pure Kolinsky Travel Brush Size 10 R3
Connaisseur Pure Kolinsky Travel Brush # 7 Flat
Escoda Reserva Kolinsky Tajmyr Sable Travel Brush #12
DaVinci Maestro Travel Brush #10

Drawing materials:
Mechanical pencil: I use pencils that I buy at MUJI stores. I just like the way these feel in my hand (but not sure if these are still available), but you can use any mechanical pencil that feels right for you. The leads in these are 2B, 005.
Pens: When I’m out sketching, I like to draw with permanent pens, usually quite fine. The two I like best these days are the Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen and the Ecco Pigment pen. I use these interchangeably.
Brush Pen: I like the Pentel Brush pens with permanent ink. I use these often for drawing people in cafés.
White Gel Pen: These are great for adding little white lines like on boat rigging or the mullions of windows.

Miscellaneous supplies:
Bulldog clips: You need these for windy days when the sketchbook pages flap and fly about.
Kneaded rubber erasers: These don’t damage soft watercolour paper like pink or white erasers might.
Small spray bottle: I often give my paints a little spritz to freshen them up.

Studio painting supplies

For larger studio or plein air paintings, I recently invested in a Holbein Enamelled Steel Folding Palette with 24 slots for colour and a handy thumb hole. The palette is really well designed and rests on my arm when I’m standing to paint.

The colours I filled it with are somewhat different from my small sketching palette. New additions are Lavender, Naples Yellow and Cobalt Green, all opaque colours that are fun to play with.

Top row: Azo Yellow, New Gamboge, Naples Yellow, Quinacridone Gold, Transparent Orange, Cadmium Red Deep, Quinacridone Rose, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Raw Sienna, Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber.
Bottom Row: Manganese Blue, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Prussian Blue, Indanthrene Blue, Sap Green, Phthalo Green, Cobalt Green, Lavender, Cobalt Violet Light, Carbazole Violet.
If you are interested in knowing the brands, the tubes are below, photographed in the same order as the placement in the palette.

Studio Brushes:
Grumbacher 6143 Aquarelle, 1″ Kolinsky sable flat: This brush is a vintage treasure, and one of my favourites, but I think it’s discontinued. It holds lots of water, covers big areas of paper, is great for painting straight edges and the angled handle is ideal for scraping into wet areas.
Jack Richeson Squirrel Mop #4: Great for big washes and for getting texture on rough paper, if used with not too much wash.
Raphael Petit Gris Pur, series 803, no. 7: A big floppy brush that’s great for skies, large washes and foreground texture. I’ve had this one forever.
Da Vinci Casaneo Inlaid Liner series 5599, # 8 & #16: Wonderful for branches, rigging, wires and other details.

If you want more info about how I use different brushes, have a look at my free video My Five Favourite Watercolour Brushes.

Paper and sketchbooks:
If you have to skimp on something, don’t let it be paper. Use the best you can afford. I paint on blocks, in sketchbooks and on loose sheets (taped to a plexi backing board). The watercolour paper I use most often is Arches or Fabriano, 140 lb cold press, bright white. My preferred sketchbooks are made by Global Art Materials. For watercolour, I like the linen-covered Travelogue Watercolor Artist Journals in either 8.25″ square format or portrait format (10.5″ x 8.25″). For drawing I use the Travelogue Artists Journals (red cover) which have a creamy paper that’s great for both ink and pencil, and come in many formats. For quick little paintings I also love the Fluid Watercolor Paper blocks, 8″ x 8″, shown here with the orange cover.


If I am working on a larger plein air painting, I would add an easel to this list, and probably a bigger water container. My travel easel is the Eric Michaels En Plein AirPro.