Supplies & Materials: On Location

Of the many considerations for choosing art supplies & materials for ‘on location’ work, portability is key. The following checklist of my favorites are presented with consideration of absolute necessity and ease of working in wildly varied conditions.


___ Pencil Range from a dizzying array of numbers and brands. For working on location, narrow the options by choosing something in the mid range---such as an HB or an F.

___Sharpener Small hand held canister style.

___Emery Board Small, free, portable and functions to 'brighten' the pencil tip.

___Eraser The soft and pulley kneaded leaves no crumbs to sweep away and can be 'kneaded' into specific shape for erasure precision. A white vinyl eraser, erases marks cleaner. Avoid colored erasers and any eraser sitting atop a pencil

___Sketch Books/Pads Spiral bound suggested for all mediums/techniques below. The dimensions remain the same when opened, whereas a bound sketchbook, doubles in size. Look for standard sizes like 9 x 12, 8 ½ x11’ish. Get a book that fits in your backpack. Papers labeled 'drawing' are a heavier weight than 'sketching'.

___Hand Lens Reveals the glorious details you would miss with just the naked eye.

___Bulldog Clamps Secures pages shut.

If working in pen, add to the above BASICS list, the following:

___Pen or Pen Set Black, waterproof, fade resistant, archival i.e. Micron, Pilot, Zig, Sakura, Staedleter, Pitt, etc. Quality ball point pens are acceptable

___Sketch Books/Pads For optimum pen movement across the paper without skips or drags, look for descriptive words like 'hot press' or 'vellum surface.'

___ WATER SOLUBLE PENCIL Dissolves in water for a lovely subtle grey wash. Available in light, medium and dark. Or packaged with all 3 greys. This medium is lovely over pen & ink.
If working in water soluble graphite pencil, add them to the above BASICS and PEN lists.

___Sketch Books/Pads Paper weight hefty enough and/ or indicated as ‘suitable for water media.’ Avoid rough surface paper. Hot press or ‘grain fin’ is a perfect surface for detailed drawing PLUS wet media. Available via online art suppliers but hard to find in retail stores.

___Brush (1) small and/or (1) medium watercolor round. Must come to a fine tip. Or look for the new ‘waterbrush,’ its handle contains and dispenses the water.

___Palette Small metal or plastic palettes are susceptible to flipping over outdoors and making a mess of your page. Ceramic or porcelain palettes are sturdier and easy to clean. Look for the hard plastic version w a lid. [extra space for color mixing].

___Water Container Anything lightweight, portable. Tight fitted lid suggested if you will need to carry water from place to place. [A plastic mayonnaise jar is ideal shape/size for all -day workshops...a simple plastic drinking water bottle should suffice for half days]. Many options online marketed to plein air painters ie the collapsible containers.

___Spritzer A wee sized mister/atomizer to keep paints moist and workable out doors. Or a

___ Medicine Dropper Free at the 'big box' pharmacists.
___Rag absorbent cotton dish rag or old Tshirt.

If working in the new Watercolor Pencils or Watercolor Crayons, add to the above BASICS list and WATERCOLOR list the following:

___ Pad Compare brands and decide on the wc pad with the smoothest [ie hot press-like] surface. Not easy to find. But a rough surface paper will trap and scuff the wc pencil strokes, resulting in a child-like painting and you will abandon this fun and portable wc medium. A pad labeled bristol vellum is not a w/c pad and not marketed to watercolorists but one you should give a try.
___Water Container Hauling around a water source is not an issue with these wet/dry mediums. Simply color [dry] on location and paint [add water to the coloring] later.

WORKSHOP TECHNIQUE: PASTEL [Soft pastel/ often referred to as chalk pastel].
In stick, pencil, crayon form and the new ‘pan’ pastels. Few think of pastel as a 'field sketching/on location. I'll teach you all the tricks. If giving pastels a try, add to the ‘BASICS’ above, the following:

___Pastels A set with the smallest sticks equals more colors for the money and less to carry.

___Pan Pastels I'm loving these


___Pastel Pad or other suitable for dry media. [ie 9 x 12 Strathmore charcoal pad, assorted tints]. Pads interwoven with protective glassine pages recommended if you can find them.

___Glassine or Waxed paper. Or simply slip sheets of translucent protective glassine paper between each page of any pastel pad yourself. Do this at home before workshop.

___Blending A small cut of a high quality chamois; Sponge make-up wedges and sponge- tip eye shadow applicators.

___Drafting Tape Preplaced on papers edges help keep fingers clean.

___ Rag Kept damp inside a ziplock bag to keep finger tips clean.

In addition to the ‘BASICS’ above, include the supplies under ‘PEN.’

___Colored Pencils Avoid kiddie quality sets. Professional or Artist grade cps will be soft and creamy with uniform color and texture.

___Blending Colorless blender pencil contains the stuff in a cp ie wax and fillers but not the pigment. Blends layer colors into one, seamlessly, links ombred skies, and creates transparent, jewel-like effects when burnishing; Soft Tshirt-like fabric scrap.

___Sketch Book For advanced artists seeking the optimum in blendability and layering, look for descriptive words like hot press or bristol vellum or just a vellum surface. Likely only at online sources…not at local art & craft retailers.


___Weather There's nothing to compare to breaking free from the confines of a studio to work outdoors, on location. Check weather forecast before depart and then re - pack. Wide brimmed hat or cozy cap; Cotton bandana or wool muff; Gloves or sunglasses; Sturdy broken-in footwear, boot warmers; Rain gear – poncho/slicker, wee umbrella; etc. Embrace the swings of all outdoor conditions...changing temps, quick downpours, howling winds, dust in eyes. Yes!

___Dress We do lots of standing/sitting/stooping. Think baggy clothes, loose waists, pockets, thick jacket tied at waist to sit on. And outfits you can dust off and wear again next day. Please... no purse!

___Backpack ALL supplies must fit inside, so that we move about hands free. NOTE: An option to the backpack is the..

___Fishing Vest/Photographer’s Vest Lots of zippered pockets, mesh, snaps etc hold all your art gear

___Seating REQUIRED. For all - day sketching from locale to locale comfort tuck some small seating option in your backpack: ie foam stadium pad, or gardeners kneeling pad, etc. The compact three-leg sketch stool that folds up like a wee umbrella is great if you are driving or have room in a suitcase. But DO NOT plan to simply sketch for the duration of the workshop standing, squatting or kneeling. Some form of seating is MANDATORY

___Miscellaneous Insect repellent; Personal 1st aids/meds/'scripts; Extra eye glasses; Whistle; Dry socks; Cell phone.

___Lunch Some workshop formats don’t break for an official lunch so pack a snacks, thermos and always sufficient bottled water.

Tentative and subject to change each session...hourly...and/or minute by minute. Sketching on location entails varying plans according to opportunities, weather, luck, and serendipity. Please be an agreeable team player!

Am I coming to your town? Request me!