Sunday, September 29, 2013

Inexpensive Tools for Outdoor Painting and Sketching

A new hobby means new tools - and that is certainly true for my new hobby of sketching and painting.  A friend and I have gone on a few outings to take photos and do some art.  I love those days.  I love exploring new areas and capturing them with my camera and now through art.

I have started to gather together a collection of portable tools that I need to sketch and do watercolour painting so they are handy and ready to go.  I don't want to spend a fortune on the tools I need so I have found some objects around the house that I can use and I thought I would share.  

Starting from the top going clockwise:

My friend made me a spit box (which you can see in more detail in the photo below).  What is a spit box (and why is it called that), you ask?  A spit box is a portable watercolour paint kit and it is called a spit box because if you don't have any water ... well, I'm sure you can figure out the rest. Don't worry, we use water from our water bottles or the lake so there is no spitting involved with our spit boxes.

My friend used a Dentyne gum package after she emptied the gum out (which she gave to me in a baggie).  She said you could also use a daily pill dispenser or an old make-up container or any other container with lots of little compartments.  

The spit box is made using water colour paints that come in tubes.  You fill each section of the container about half full with paint and then add another quarter with boiled water (so you don't grow mold) that has cooled. Then you use a tooth pick or other small implement and gently stir the paint and water so that it is completely blended. Stirring in a figure 8 helps avoid splashing. Let the paint dry completely and you have a travel-size paint container.  

My friend recommended that you include the three primary colors (blue, red, and yellow) and possibly some secondary colours (orange, green, purple) although they can be made by mixing the primary colours together.  In addition, you might want to include a few types of each of the primary colours, such as:

  • Blue: French ultramarine and cobalt blue
  • Red: cadmium red and alizarin crimson
  • Yellow: cadmium lemon yellow and cadmium yellow deep

And finally she suggested including burnt umber as it is a very useful colour on its own and works to create a "black" when mixed with other colours. 

If there is a place to mix colours on the lid of the container then you can fill all the slots with paint, but if there isn't a place to mix (like with mine) then you need to leave some parts of the tray open so they can be used for mixing colours.  My spit box has orange, brown, green, red, yellow, and blue (not sure of the exact shades of each).

My friend suggested you may want to use a #4 round brush, but you can choose whatever type feels most comfortable. She also suggested that you can break the brush's handle in half so that it is about the same size as your spit box and thus easier to fit in your bag.  You can sand the end so that it doesn't cause any damage.  Of course, the bristles are the most important part of a paint brush and are at risk of being damaged when you put them in a bag.  A great way to protect the bristles is to store the end of the brush in one of those little vials that you put on the stem of a single blossom.  I didn't even take the round lid off the brush when I was painting as I didn't want to lose it and then the brush was ready to be stored again afterward.

I've been on a sketching-with-an-ultra-fine-Sharpie kick. I like how it looks like an ink drawing and you can paint over the Sharpie without the ink running.  I have yet to use my pencil to sketch.  For that matter I have yet to get a proper sketching pencil(s).

I use a cottage cheese container lid (although you can use any shape or size that you want) to draw circles that I use to frame my sketches.  I already owned a large-size sketch book that I wanted to use, but the pages seemed too big for one sketch.  By drawing 2 or 3 circles on a page I can sketch/paint several smaller pictures (you can see some examples at the end of the post).  I think they look like portholes or binoculars looking at a scene.

Look for a container that has a low profile so it fits into your bag without being lumpy.  Mine is a dog food container and is about an inch high and fairly sturdy so it won't get crushed in the bag. 

I would like to get a smaller sketch pad and some sketching pencils. Anyone have any other suggestions?  I'm new to this so let me know if you have a great travel art tool.

My friend and I went to Toronto Island this weekend and did some exploring and sketching and painting.  I really enjoy it even though I'm just learning.

It has been years decades since I last visited Toronto Island and I had never been to the residential areas. It was so much fun walking around and checking out all the adorable cottages and homes. I'm working on a post to show you some of them.


  1. This is a really good little kit, I only wish I could paint!

  2. Watercolors frustrate me. I do want to get better at sketching. I'm going to start drawing more in art class, I think. You are inspiring me!

  3. Love your kit and sketches! Kit

  4. I love your sketches! You must have been painting for years to get that good. What? You only just started? I'm flabbergasted.