Overview of the Sketchbooking Tools I Took With Me on a Recent Trip to Europe

I've been trying to write and rewrite this post this way and that way and ended up cutting it much shorter (I know how this sounds - this is a very long post for this blog :) But after all, there are no two identical trips and nobody has time to read all the details about what pencils worked best and what situation which one might never encounter again :) I will try to stick to the 5 facts:

Fact #1: I took with me more art supplies than I've ever packed on a trip! 3 lbs (1300 g) - not including any paper. And I took only one sketchbook - A5 Daler Rowney Ebony Book - this paper is not really for the wet media but it worked quite well with the mixed media which I planned for this trip mostly. In terms of paper, I also took several Strathmore Drawing Spiral Bound notebooks - which live in all the bags I have. 

Fact #2: The underlying desire behind my packing was to do Everything Possible :) But to rain myself a bit I outlined that I wanted to do mixed media and work with the shapes and textures more than lines as much as possible. But my main goal in a sketchbook is always documenting my experiences - and I find it there is nothing faster than I line - so I had to be ready for some of that switching too.

I tried to think about places I would be in and make a color palette to help with the choices. Which proved to be hard - because my summer travels took me from the Adriatic Sea (bright, sunny, and arid) to the Baltic Sea (rainy, cloudy, and full of greens and grays). These color palettes did not overlap!

I also knew that I would have a lot of time and flexibility in my sketching practice at the beginning of my trip and would have to be fast and decisive with my sketching on the second part - two different requirements for sketching tools. I solved it by making my whole kit fit in one bag (see Fact #4) and resolving to pick every day a new but very limited set of tools for outings during the second part of the trip.  

Fact #3: I did not take any of my favorite pen tools with me. It was HARD. But I took only the simplest "workhorses" of writing instruments which I knew I could have one in each pocket, can drop, lose, land, and easily substitute: ballpoint Bic pen and uni-ball vision rollerball pen. I later realized that I had a thin Muji pen and a lovely Tombow Brushpen in my handbag - and of course, used them too :) 

But I took lots of small parts of my various sketching kits: watercolor and gouache pan with some white gouache on the side. A little stenciling tool (including a knife and some pre-made stencils). Acrylic markers. Neocolor II crayons in their case (worked great!), a few water-soluble markers, and a whole range of color pencils - colors tailored to the rest of my kit. You can see all the details and some comments on the overview below and also more details on the photos below - there you can read all the names and numbers for the pencils :)

Fact #4: I used this Expandable Handbag Insert Purse Organizer with Handles - which allowed me to consolidate all the tools for a super quick set-up of my sketching area at the moment's notice - without a need for making choices. That "everything in one glance" was useful both for actual sketching time and for the "let me pick 4-5 tools to take with me for the day. 

Fact #5: Now that I am looking back I think I packed perfectly for this particular trip! Yes, it was a lot but I used all of my materials at one point or another. All of them - all the colors, all the pencils, crayons, etc. Some not as much as I thought - but others way more than I thought. I was able to reach for something particular and find it right away and enjoyed working with this setup so much that I might start using it during my local sketching outings too. Did I miss my pens? yes. But not as much as I thought I would :) (and next time I am taking at least one (or two :)) 


  1. So much to love here but most of all, I'm just in awe of how you were willing to leave behind your favorite tools! That is awesome!!

  2. For the record, I love hearing all the details, including which pencils worked better in which situation! :-) Wow, I love seeing and hearing about your tools and processes. By the way, the Amazon link you provided is "not found." That bag looks great! And I love your idea for storing Neocolors, which are a bit fragile.

    1. thank you very much! Link fixed :) And I will know that there is at least one person who wants to know what happens when I drop pencils in a sea :) This neocolors hack is wonderful - and forces me to bring fewer colors (I never got a full set but slowly accumulated... more than fits in this case ;)