Over the last five or six years I’ve been slowly falling down the rabbit hole of watercolour painting. I think what sucked me in was the range that this medium can have. Some of the things that have been catching my attention have been super loose and washy work with a few suggestive strokes to set the scene. Ink and wash urban sketches. Illustrative, photo real work and even mixed media pieces. The scope seems endless and with the advent of watercolour sticks and pencils I’m starting to feel like there is a version of watercolour out there for everyone.
My last post was about my secret sketching adventures while waiting for the train on my commute home. It has become something I look forward to at the end of the day and helps me decompress before I get home AND get in some sketching each day. This, of course, has piqued my interest in urban sketching in a big way and has lead to me taking a small watercolour sketch kit with me on vacations. Just like my secret sketching adventures, I tend to get really excited about something and over do it. Maybe it’s my Italian/Greek heritage. Nothing can be subtle 🙂 In any case, I simplified my sketching supplies and now that’s happening with my watercolour travel kit as well.
So I thought I would take you on a little journey to see where I started with my paint boxes and where I’m currently heading and why.
These were the first two. Both Winsor and Newton and both well used in the studio. Out and about only somewhat.
PROS: The small one on the left, called the Pocket Box,, is nice and small and holds a small collapsing brush that came with it. The palette is plastic and nice and light weight. The one on the right, called the Field Plus, is considerably bigger. It came with a brush also and it has plenty of mixing room as well as a water bottle that nests into the pallete and water cups.
CONS: The Pocket Box only takes Winsor and Newton pans. It’s bit hard to tell but one of the other half pans I bought from a different brand doesn’t fit in. This makes mixing and matching colours a bit of a problem and water needed to be carried separate. Also unless I had a super skinny collapsing brush it didn’t fit in the brush holder part. The Field Plus has many features that the smaller one doesn’t but it ultimately was too bulky and I wanted more room for colours.
Next I moved into the world of metal palettes.
PROS: The large Schminke pallete is awesome and I use it all the time. It’s filled mostly with Schminke pans and a few Windsor and Newton. It fulfilled my need for a good amount of mixing space and the ability to hold a lot of colour (including a variety of brands pans) and the space in the middle holds full size brushes. The smaller palette is very portable. Holds my ideal number of pans and can hold both a small pencil and a collapsable brush in the centre.
CONS: The large palette is just that, large, and way heavier than the plastic palettes. So I rarely ever took it anywhere. The small one has travelled with me many places and is still a favourite but does weigh a fair amount and I find carrying it around with me on a trip when we are out and about does get a bit much along with a sketch book.
My current palette favourites are now are DIY palettes. Most are still a work in progress but I’m getting closer to finding a good combo between weight, variety of colours I can carry, and brush and pen supplies.
The first DIY palette I made was out of a small Altoids tin. I painted the lid interior a gloss white with a metal spray primer from the hardware store. It’s a great surface to clean up when glossy vs matte. Less staining too. The pans have double sided tape on the bottoms and I have a sponge in the base to fill up any holes and keep things from shifting. The tape does give way over time and the depth means I need another piece of sponge to keep things from turning upside down. I also found it hard to find a pencil or collapsing water brush that was small enough to fit in this one.
The most recent version is an old Staedtler pencil tin that when you pull out the inserts hold pans just perfectly. I was very pleased with myself when I figured this out. 🙂 It holds plenty of colour and is super light. I should mention the reason I have stuck with metal tins is that I use clip magnets to attach the palette to my sketch book so I can hold palette and sketch book in one hand and brush in the other. I can also clip a cloth to the top and still have plenty of room for mixing colour. The pans are held in place with a floral adhesive or that gummy poster tack you can find in stores. Works way better than double sided tape and still lets me make additions and subtractions of pans easily. The downside to this palette is that I can’t fit a water brush in when I remove a row of paints cause the palette is too thin.
While this Staedtler tin is pretty great right now it will not be the last DIY palette I make. I have a few other versions waiting in the wings. First is a deeper pencil tin. I was gifted an empty Caran d’ache pencil tin and it is absolutely deep enough for a water brush. I have a few combinations in mind I can try out with this, but it might mean I can get down to the tin with only a pot of water to carry extra if I decide to use a collapsing brush instead of a water brush.
I also plan on turning a gift card tin into a small paint box. This particular tin pictured has a lid that isn’t attached to the base but it would let me carry both a water brush and collapsing brush. I have made a divider out of some scrap foam core board and put a magnet on the bottom so I can adjust the size of the paints section vs brush and pen section on this one. This palette is also a great size for everyday purse travel with a small sketch book.
There it is. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little journey and maybe it’s inspired you to add or subtract something from your own kits. Have a good DIY kit item I haven’t thought of? Want to share it? Let me know in the comments below.