Mission Statement

This blog journals my quest of art, whether it is a piece of work that is inherent in nature or one created by artists known or unknown or that I created myself. During this search, I have come to appreciate the magnificence and generosity of God who in his infinite wisdom surrounded us with exquisiteness everyday...everywhere and inspired our human spirit to create beauty that feeds our bodies and souls. Come join me on my journey to find art through my travels and my own creative endeavors. Maraming salamat.

All rights to all posts and contents on this blog, including photos and artwork are reserved by jojo sabalvaro tan.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Want to start your own watercolor travel journal?

Basic starter watercolor kit
Camera phone, sketchbook, watercolors, water container, brushes, pen, pencil and eraser
When I started travel watercolor sketching and journaling, I used to carry all the supplies I could think of that I might need, just in case. My stuff literally occupied a huge section of my suitcase. Nowadays, I keep my supplies to a minimum. My motto, 'The lighter, the better," especially with the limitations and rising cost the airlines have placed on baggage these days.

So in my bag, I stash the following:
(I have attached links for some of my favorite items)
  • Bag for my painting supplies
Pick a bag that is lightweight and water-resistant to protect the contents from getting wet. This bag should be small enough that it can be stashed in whatever day bag or backpack you would be using during your travels. I use a 12" x 8" x 11 1/2" mesh nylon zippered bag which allows me to see the contents but, a Ziploc bag works just as well.
  • Sketchbook
One could easily sketch on any kind of paper but for the best results, using paper that will stand the wet watercolor medium is important. You will find a variety of sketchbook journals for sale at art supply stores. My favorites are the ones that have 140# cold pressed watercolor paper such as Strathmore 400 Series field watercolor sketchbook (also has the bonus of  drawing paper sheets in between watercolor paper) but I also like the traditional Moleskin sketchbooks . I also prefer wire bound books since the lay flat when open. Moleskin books are not wire bound which gives you the advantage of painting panoramic scenes across two pages without the wires getting in the way. I also throw in a couple of hair ties (they are sturdier than ordinary rubber bands or binder clips to help hold down the pages while I paint
  • Pencil
A good drawing pencil is important. I usually use the Faber Castell brand because they keep their point and are easy to erase. And speaking of erasers, I prefer kneaded erasers since they leave the surface clean. You can also dab them on the pencil line to keep the sketch lines light. I would also take a pencil sharpener to keep my lead sharp. Nowadays, for travel, I just carry a cheap mechanical pen which is always sharp. You just have to make sure you have enough supply of lead refills.
  • Pen
On suggestion by a friend I met in Paris who also keeps a watercolor travel journal, I started using a pen when I sketch. Some people exclusively sketch with pens only but I mostly use them to go over my preliminary pencil sketch. I think my sketching skills markedly improved since I started using a pen. In choosing a pen, make sure it is waterproof and smudge-proof since you will be painting with wet water color over it. My favorite pens are fine point black in pens such as Faber Castell Pitt artist pens in small and extra small sizes and Sakura Pigma Micron size .005 and .003.
  • Round Brushes
I normally bring two round brushes, a large one (Size 10 or 8) for skies and washes and a smaller one (Size 4) for finer detail work. The best brushes for watercolor are made with Kolinsky sable hair but they are expensive so I leave those at home for fear of losing them. Artist grade synthetic brushes such as those of the Blick Master series work fine for me. I also sometimes bring along a couple of Niji watercolor brushes which already have a reservoir of water in its handle.
  • Watercolors
For watercolors, I prefer artist or professional grade paint such as Winsor Newton, Sennelier, Daniel Smith, Schminke or Holbein. On trips, I take along my Winsor Newton half pan metal palette which contains eight basic colors. It's compact 2" x 3" x 1/2" size makes it easy to carry. I leave my tube paints at home since I carry-on my painting supplies and the tube paints count towards your carry-on liquid allowance limit. I no longer carry watercolor pencils in the spirit of minimizing my travel sketching supplies. Artist grade watercolors could be pricey, so a beginner may opt to use one of the nicer student grades like Winsor Newton Cotman set.
My Winsor Newton Watercolor set for travel sketching
  • Paper towel sheet
Used for dabbing excess paint and clean up, paper towels are essential. I like the Viva brand. High end hotels and restaurants also equip their restrooms with great paper towels, just n case you need one in a squeeze.
  • Water container
My favorite is the Faber Castell collapsible water cup because it is small enough to fit in my travel sketching kit bag. Bottled water is available everywhere and it does double duty for use with watercolors as well.
  • Small Camera
When travelling, sometimes it is hard to find time to do more than a quick rough sketch or even sketch at all, especially if you are part of an organized tour where time is regimented. On these occasions, I try to capture as much information in my mind, mostly what it is that made me want to sketch the particular subject or scene in the first place and how I felt at that moment and then I would take a photo that I would later use as reference when I find the time to sit down and sketch, either at the hotel or at my studio. Most cellphones have good cameras nowadays, so you can substitute your phone for a camera.

Some paint manufacturers have come out with a complete travel watercolor sketch kit, such as the Winsor Newton Sketcher's set. It comes complete with paints, brushes, water bottle, sketchbook among others all packed in a bag for one stop shopping. But I find the thrill of the hunt for my supplies exciting and trying out the materials and seeing which one suits me best satisfying.

If I have one final advise it would be to buy the best quality you can afford - it does make a difference in your work.

Come explore the world with a watercolor journal with me! Happy painting!!!

One of my earlier travel sketches of our trip to Venice. I found this rifling through the pages of my old sketchbook. I do have to say that even in its unfinished state, it still evokes vivid memories of that trip. I do not recall why I never completed it. Well, another UFO (unfinished object) to add to my to do list.

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