January 3, 2011


I like to carry my sketchbook wherever I go. In the past, I would always sketch in pencil but I found myself fixated on rendering and on creating a sketchbook devoid of mistakes or unfinished drawings. Many years ago, when I was in the retail art gallery business, I was fortunate to meet up with James C. Christensen and leaf through his sketchbook. I saw a book filled with many quick figure gestures that would go on to become elements of some of his major paintings. I also saw sketches abandoned or reworked. I saw scribbled text or even notes and reminders of things to get done. In the back of the book were lists of ideas as well as important phone numbers. What struck me the most was that everything was done in ink! When I asked him about this, Jim told me that he worked in ink intentionally so that his sketchbook would be just a collection of ideas and not refined works. If a sketch doesn’t work, he moves on rather than erasing and correcting for the sake of the book. For years after that, I would only carry a fine point marker and occasionally a 20 or 30% cool gray brush pen to indicate some quick shading. I sometimes still do this depending on my mood. Lately though, I’ve started to sketch in color.

About a year ago, I was planning for a relaxing cruise to the Caribbean. I packed a moleskine watercolor book, a mechanical pencil, a Niji waterbrush and a set of Derwent watercolor pencils. I felt I needed to capture the color. Rather than carry around the set of pencils everywhere I created a portable palette. I cut a page out of the moleskine and taped it to the last page in the book creating a gatefold so when not in use it gets tucked neatly into the book and when working the palette is just to the right of the book. The palette is created by laying the pencil down in squares. Now whenever I stop to work, the Niji waterbrush activates the color and allows me to paint my sketches. At the end of the day or whenever it is needed, I can replenish the color on my palette by coloring in the color. So I carry the book, a pencil and the waterbrush only. The waterbrush is just a brush with a reservoir handle. It’s under the 2 ounce air travel rule so you can carry onto the plane and use it in flight too.