There’s something special about sketching with friends. Last Saturday my friends Becky and Mitsuno and I met upstairs in the Natural Wonders Gallery at SNOMNH for a morning of companionable sketching. Our little group was a cluster of self-affirming creative expression (“wow, LOVE the way you drew the face on that deer” “nice gesture on the bison”). No dinosaurs here; it’s a roomful of Oklahoma, with a stream, woodlands and prairie. Conveniently available for sketching: bison and blooming wildflowers, a young spike buck, warblers, native fish, a green heron poised to strike.
I have been asked by a kind reader to describe the materials and tools I like to use. For this museum trip I only brought along what I could fit in a small shoulder bag:
Moleskine 5×8 sketchbook
Papermate Clearpoint .5 mechanical pencil
Koh-i-noor Rapidomatic .9 mechanical pencil
Mint tin watercolor kit, with 12 tube colors squeezed into empty half-pans and allowed to dry. I usually use Winsor Newton colors but lately I’ve been in love with Sennelier and Daniel Smith. My current palette:
- Ivory Black (Sennelier)
- Alizarin Crimson (Daniel Smith)
- Opera Pink (W&N)
- Quinacridone Red (W&N)
- Lemon Yellow (Holbein. Don’t use anything with Nickel Titanate)
- Transparent Yellow (W&N)
- Raw Sienna(W&N)
- French Ultramarine (Daniel Smith)
- Cobalt Violet Hue (Sennelier)
- Brown Madder (W&N)
- Phthalo Blue (Sennelier)
- Phthalo Green (Sennelier)
This is subject to whimsy; I keep extra half-pans filled with optional colors and change them out when I want to shake things up. And, boy, are there ever a lot of great new manufacturers to choose from and shaking going on.
For longer, more ambitious trips:
rapidograph pen, size 0 nib, extra FW waterproof black ink
Sharpie Ultra-fine black felt pens
Brushes: #2 and #3 Isabey series 6234 Petit Gris; W&N 3/4″ Series 680 flat watercolor brush; Richeson Steve Quiller Series 7000 rounds #5 and #8, a couple of cheap large rounds
Pencils: Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth Triograph Series 1830 #6 (a.k.a. “Fatboys); Woodless pencils #2, #4, #6; a graphite stick for broad swaths of gray
sharpener: Helix 2-hole (it’s the only one I’ve found that’s big enough for a Fatboy)
Sketchbooks: the hardbound ones they sell cheap at Borders are great, nice paper, perfect for just messing around and sloppy gesture sketches; Robert Bateman spiral bound 8 1/2″x 11″ for field work (carried by Daniel Smith); Moleskine 5×8 sketchbook for sketch-journaling. Moleskine watercolor sketchbooks are really nice, too, but the regular sketchbooks work fine for informal watercolor sketches. At least, I think so.
Watercolor Travel Box: Daniel Smith makes a great enameled tin folding box. It’s empty; you buy the plastic pan inserts and fill them with your own colors. I use this box on longer trips and in the studio.
Watercolor papers: I buy full sheets of watercolor paper and cut them down for travel; they are taped to a clipboard for painting. My favorites: Arches 140lb. cold press, Lana 140lb hot press; Fabriano 140lb soft press extra white; Arches 140lb rough press.
Drawing papers: I keep a folder of loose sheets, which are taped to a larger piece of masonite for drawing. My favorite drawing papers: Rives BFK Heavy in Cream, Tan or Gray; Fabriano Ingres lightweight in various colors.
Paper towels: I even have a favorite paper towel: Viva
and of course you’ll need a folding chair or stool: Woodland Folding Camo Camp Stool is the best I’ve ever found, and stood up to the rigors of the Amazon. Big advantage: doesn’t sink in the mud.
Field Easel: I’m using a Winsor Newton Giant Meadow Sketching Easel, a wonderful bit of almost nautical engineering, oak and brass. Not sure if it’s available anymore but you might look around.
After drawing the Natural Wonders, we ambled to the next gallery over: the Native America collection.
A very satisfying morning with good friends over sketchbooks, followed by lunch and lively discussion of all the future sketching trips we must take one of these days: Japan, Italy, Paris, Oklahoma. The SNOMNH is a safe bet for a return trip. For anyone who would enjoy an evening of drawing at the museum, I’ll be giving a quick workshop, “Sketching Oklahoma’s Natural Wonders” Thursday, April 23, from 7 to 8:30 pm at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. There’s more information about it if you click here and scroll down. I’d love it if you’d come join me for more good company and museum sketching!