You can do watercolor sketches just about anywhere. I highly encourage you to try it in your home or studio and consider it “play!” This is where you can just play with the materials, discover what pigments you like best, what paper you prefer, what brush do you gravitate to the most. Force yourself to use a bigger brush than you are used to, maybe a natural hair brush, versus a synthetic hair brush. Which feels best for you? If you are an experienced painter in watercolor, force yourself to use a different paper than you are used to, or different brushes. Keep this in mind, don’t labor over it... it’s a sketch!
Most watercolor sketching I do is on location or plein air. If you would like to work on the figure, try sketching in a cafe or coffee shop. If you enjoy florals, go to a favorite park or your garden. If you would like to paint plein air, you can do landscapes or urban scenes.
My favorite time to watercolor sketch is when I’m traveling. My watercolor travel journals are a treasure to me. I look at them often just to remember the places I’ve been, recalling smells, sounds or interesting things that happen while I’m sketching or people I meet and talk to. It all comes back. I also use them to develop larger paintings.
Today I thought I would share with you my equipment. When I go out on location I want to keep it as light as possible and I’ve have narrowed it down to these essentials:
- Watercolor sketch book- I use one with hand made paper from Nepal or India. I love the deckled edge, texture of the paper, and it doesn’t take to being too wet or being overworked, so I stay in that “sketch mode.”
- 2 brushes- a #18 round, and a #16 flat
- My Windsor & Newton, compact paint palette- Here is a handy tip. When I run out of paint in the little pans. I just squeeze more in from my tubes and leave it out to air dry and get hard.
- A collapsable water container
- A bottle of water- I recycle a water bottle. I always take water with me because I can never count on water being at the location I want to paint.
- A travel pack of tissues or a few paper towels.
- Mechanical pencil and a pack of leads.
- 2 permanent ink pens
- A kneadable eraser
- A binder clip to hold my page down, if it’s windy
- My black canvas pouch to keep all the above in. I also use a bamboo brush holder for my brushes.
- A stool- I have 2 a simple triangular one that folds up and fits in a case and nifty one that combines a stool and backpack. I found this in a sporting goods store in Paris in the fishing section! I love it for sketching in museums, too. I sit on it with the backpack section in the front and have easy access to all my materials.
All the sketches I have posted and will continue to share were all done with just these items! I feel the brushes are key. As long as you have one good big round brush that comes to a nice point, that is all you need. It will also hold more water and allow you to be more gestural and spontaneous with your painting. Have fun! :-)
A funny story... Like I suggested try and keep your kit as light as possible. I have been known to carry my stuff around with me all day while we are touring around, and never get around to doing a sketch. My daughter teases me and asks me if I did, “performance art,” or “real art” that day! She happens to be an actor and performing artist and sometimes a smarty pants.