Black Bag

I’VE DRAWN this in dip pen and Winsor & Newton Indian ink then added a premixed ink wash. I used this method for my High Peak Drifter sketchbook, taking four small plastic containers of pale to dark washes with me.

This proved ideal for subjects in the Dark Peak in late winter and early spring, such as drystone walls and running water and places like Thor’s Cave but as summer approached it seemed wilfully contradictory to use the same monochrome treatment for wild flowers and butterflies. But I stuck with it to the final page, drawn one sultry early summer’s evening at Jacob’s Ladder, the zig-zag path that climbs up to the Kinderscout plateau.

I recently kitted myself out with a fresh batch of Pink Pig cartridge paper sketchbooks in a range of sizes and my plan is to have art-bags ready to go in a small (A6), medium (A5) and largish (A4) sizes.

I’m still looking for a bag that is suitably compact for an A6 sketching kit, perhaps it will all go into a wallet and fit into my pocket. My growing collection of art-bags tend to flop around the studio, usually getting parked on a chair, so I’ve attached a hook to the wall and hung them there, ready to grab one depending on exactly where I’m heading;

  • A National Trust organiser bag in natural canvas is ideal for what I intend to be my natural history sketchbook, an A5 landscape format spiral bound Pink Pig.
  • The black Timberland backpack, a birthday present from a friend last week, is the one that I’d use for more ambitious outings, perhaps to draw whole landscapes rather than smaller details. The bag is designed to hold a laptop, so there’s plenty of room for my A4 landscape format sketchbook and it has extra compartments so that I have the option to include some more ambitious media, dip pen and bottle of ink rather than my habitual fountain pen for instance.
  • Finally, hanging like a shadow behind the National Trust organiser in my sketch, there’s the black shoulder bag (described as a ‘fisherman’s bag’) that I bought at Marks & Spencer’s in Glasgow last year. This is my sketchcrawl around town bag, probably the one that I’ll take most on my errands and book deliveries. This fits my new square 8 by 8 inch holly green Pink Pig like a glove.

But the square page of the holly green sketchbook doesn’t accommodate long thin drawings; that’s why my A5 bag ended up hanging out of frame off the bottom of the page! (Pink Pig do some quirky long thin sizes, perhaps I should go for one of them for tall, thin subjects).

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  1. Richard, have you seen this Winsor-Newton travel kit?

    An A6 size sketchbook fits nicely in the pocket, though it may come with more stuff than you need (a small Cotman paintbox, water bottle, pencil, eraser, brush). And there’s not much room for other stuff, except a small pencil sharpener, a couple watercolour postcards, and a kitchen towel or two. I have trouble sketching in a small A6 sketchbook, but a bigger sketchbook means a bigger bag, and being more conspicuous sketching in a cafe than I’d like!

    1. That looks like the minimum size possible for a sketching kit, so that would fit the bill nicely. I’ll take a look at one when I’m next in an art shop. Tempting. I always think that I should be going for artists watercolours rather than Cotmans but I’ve tried them and they’d be fine for the sort of sketches that I do.

  2. In reference to monochrome used for colorful objects – sometimes more detail is apparent in black and white studies. After all, some of the best films were made long ago in black and white:)

    1. And you get the best pictures when you listen to a play on the radio. Perhaps all I need is a talk-book.

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