Saturday, January 22, 2011

Out and About

Sometimes in the field you see something unique to draw that is not really uncommon at all but represents a great swath of people.

You need only get out of the house - open the door a crack. Yes, a crack. And draw what you see.

If she only knew.

This was a quick sketch while I was sitting at a Target with my wife and son. I colored it yesterday.

Here is a page from my Moleskine. Not untypical. Three opportunities to sketch. Three unwilling - or at least unwitting - subjects. I colored these yesterday as well, and then decided to try and unite them with a background (something new for me). In my mind they are three members of a family, or three characters in a story, and some drama is afoot. You might notice a fourth figure as well. The yellow is much more subtle than is shown; for some reason, the scanner magnifies the color's intensity.

Some of you have asked what I carry around in order to sketch/paint in public. I will share this because you ask, not because I in any way believe that this is the way to do it. I have seen a great many other options in artists' blogs online.

My wife bought me a flexible 6" x 9-1/2" case at Barnes & Nobles that says "Sketch" on it. I like to think that it looks like one of those cases stuffed with money for a sizeable bank deposit. Only without the money. I have much more in the case than I ever use. I carry whatever pad I am drawing on separately, and usually keep my pens in my pocket. It's not that they wouldn't fit, but I never want to be caught anywhere without my pad and my pens.

Here are all the supplies laid out on the table, more than I ever take out. Here are the extras: I have more brushes than I ever need. I figure you never know when you want a certain size, but the truth is that I never use more than 1 or 2 in a sitting, so it is sort of silly carting all of these around. I've just begun bringing a pencil or charcoal pencil with me. I worship pens so these are largely ignored. I have a waterbrush that I never use, and sometimes I have a cotton ball or gauze. Sometimes I carry pages of watercolor paper in a tiny manilla folder that I cut down to size.

Now, the essentials, aside from 1 or 2 brushes: There is my travel palette in a green carrying case I got at the Army-Navy store. I cut the bottom off of a water bottle that makes a nice flexible container for the water I dip the brush into. I have a flat tray for mixing that I bought for $1 and that I prefer to using the case itself (I have never used the case). I have a white piece of paper so I can test colors, a napkin or paper towel, and a watertight container with water in it. One great advantage is that I often sketch in eating establishments so water and napkins are plentiful and free.

Here is my palette. For now, I use Winsor & Newton Artists' Watercolors, and the colors I take with me are: Cadmium Lemon, Transparent Yellow, New Gamboge, Winsor Orange, Cadmium Red, Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna, Indian Red, Permanent Magenta, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Manganese Blue, Cobalt Blue, French Ultramarine, Viridian, Permanent Sap Green, Ivory Black (virtually never used), Winsor Violet (virtually never used), Payne's Gray, Rose Madder Genuine, and Brown Madder (Great for skin tones). I need a darker red.  [IMPORTANT UPDATE:  I have removed Rose Madder Genuine and Burnt Sienna from the palette because I have learned that these are fugitive colors.  I have replaced them with Permanent Rose and Perylene Maroon.]

I have this palette because the colors were among those recommended in the book Exploring Color by Nita Leland.

Most are half-pan, but after a discussion online about the fact that you can mix more with tube colors, I started buying tubes. So the pans on the right are filled with paint squeezed from tubes.

Happy sketching!


  1. Whoo Hoo! A Dan post and I'm FIRST. (Not that I'm competitive or anything.)
    You CRACK me up!!! (I slay myself.)
    Love, love, love your sketches. I love them!
    Thanks for the tips. I sketched a profile at work today--- wowsie! Inspired by you no less.

  2. Dan, you just crack me up!!! Thats just too funny of story and great sketch, I just told a few friends of mine what I saw in the store yesterday and I just have to draw/paint it, I will do it and post it later (so wish I had my camera with me)... I like your portable art stuff, thats kind of what I have with me where ever I go (also carry stuff I dont use, just like to know I have them on hand in case I want too).

    Still laughing about your sketch!

  3. Great post Dan,love the first sketch. (I'm not going to crack any jokes!)

  4. Well, I need to crack open my door and get out more often. I have not yet sketched in public; maybe because I live in a small town and know most of the restaurant people. You seem well-equipped; I didn't know you could put tube watercolor into pans. Just add water when they dry out? That makes sense; I learn something new every day. I, too, love the top sketch.

  5. Add me to your list of fans... you crack us ALL up... thanks for sharing your sketch kit... I love pictures like this... ok so Brown Madder for skin tones... I have some brown Madder somewhere.. I did not know it was good for that all you use, or do you mix something in with it to make skin... what colors do you use for black people, I have never been able to get the color right on black people, or white people either... I guess skin color is still a big mystery to me.

  6. Well, I am certainly smiling, too, enjoying your keen observations of the "great swath" of humanity. Heh, heh. And I love that you shared your travel kit with us. There are so many great ideas there!

  7. You are such a wise-'crack'. I laughed out loud when I saw the little icon of this drawing in the blogger:dashboard. And, to hear that it was drawn at a Target snack bar is just perfect.

    The fourth figure in your 'family' piece is cool. Is it a long-lost relative? Or maybe somebody who came between these two sisters in the past? The red color makes me lean towards my second thought...

    I like your portable kit. Thanks for sharing. As for brushes, I have WAY too many and find myself using the same 5 or 6. I've learned to keep my favorites nearby and the others stored safely for when I do want to use them.

    Happy Creating!


  8. Hi Dan, Fun posting; some people just like to crack other people up, I gather! So expertly drawing; how long do you sit there? I enjoy reading what other people take with them; get's the ideas flowing!

  9. You immortalized the crack woman! If only she knew! I can't believe people don't feel a breeze when their nether regions are Well, you do carry a lot of things. I like to have quite a few supplies with me at all times I have taken to carrying this big tote bag. I can really get away with this as I am female! However, I do think D is beginning to wonder about my sanity...because it has just a little of the "bag lady" look--it's probably a little big. Do you have another overall pillow case to carry it all together?
    Love the sketches...and yeah, the background unifies!

  10. You're so right about many things. Other than an awesome bag of drawing tools and colors, you also need a lot of courage and fuel to sketch in public(what great looking sketches those are)... and you need time too which I don't have. You know that's just an excuse, and you're right about it again..I need to spend more time outside and less time with my PlayStation3 :p

  11. Thanks for sharing this! As a deadly curious person, I always enjoy looking other artists over the shoulder. :)
    I really need to get a little braver and sketch living subjects. And not cop out in the last second and sketch my shoes again. *hem* Getting out more often might help, too, I guess. ;D Thanks for always being so inspirational!

  12. How I laughed! I dare not attempt a pun ....

    I do hope that nobody else mistakes your 'Sketch' case for something filled with money and makes away with it!

    Great sketches, as always.

  13. Another great post, hope she never reads your blog!

  14. As always, I'm the last to post, good job I'm not competitive like Pamo.

    Interesting post and great sketch.

  15. How funny, yesterday I was at the Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge (it's a Barnes and Noble in disguise) and I saw the sketch pouches and moleskins! I considered buying one too, but the reality for me is I don't do well going out and about sketching. You're sketches are so fun, and I love the spontaneity of your drawings.

  16. No puns from me ... but, I do really like your sketches as always, and I love seeing what other artists carry with them. I always have a sketchbook and pen with me, but don't always have my traveling paint supplies. I'll check out the brown madder - your "skins" always look right on! nancy

  17. Well, of course, a wisecrack remark came to mind when I saw your Target lady but by the time I got to the comments practically everything had been used ;). Not only do I enjoy seeing your sketches but I am always happy when an artist lets me 'look into their kitchen'.

  18. Wow! You're one well-equipped walkabout artist! At least art is easier to equip oneself for than scuba diving is! Imagine lugging all THAT stuff about!

    The lady in the first one looks so melancholy...

  19. Thanks for sharing. I think its fun to see where people develop their palettes from.

    Somehow I don't think that woman would be too pleased with her likeness in that first pic, lol. You are doing a great job with drawing people.

  20. Hi Dan! What a timely post, as this will be my first week in drawing class where I have to go out to sketch and paint in public. Fortunately we are not doing people at this point, but even objects seem scary under public scrutiny. Love that you can capture people without their knowledge. Brave man, cause she looks like she could have hurt you!

  21. Found your blog through my friend, DJ. I have to say, your "lady at Target" is THE BOMB! I'm just learning to draw (taking a class, as apparently i forgot how somewhere along my life...) and I want to go to a big box store and draw, draw, draw! I love your use of color and will have to work on that. I'm blithering, but I love "the bomb!"

  22. Awesome! Love the first one, so funny! When I was teaching, I used to keep a tub of 'crack spackle' at the front of my class to remind them that I do NOT want to see their cracks! I had huge lectures the first day of school devoted to the topic. They all know that it shows, and believe it or not, the girls usually think they look sexy like that!

    PS Great setup you have there. Amazing how different our palettes are! Most of mine just came with the sets, so there wasn't much of a choice.

  23. I thought I was going to be so original and say how you "crack me up." But I see that I have many like-minded friends here. Neat sketches and just the very best way to build your art skills.

    Thanks for sharing your have sketch kit, will travel setup.

  24. Excellent= all the jokes have been made already, but really, nice catch. I love seeing what other people carry around in order to sketch. You are much more organized than I am. You inspire me to start going out and sketch in public again. I just wish we had Target in France.....

  25. Now that's weird...I know I posted a comment here a couple of days ago. I wonder where it went. Hmmm... Anyway, I like your display of art supplies and love your bag. Love the drawing of the lady too! I just always wonder why they can't feel the cool air hitting their skin. Odd. Great job Dan...and brave!

  26. I love all of your comments - thanks so much - they are so fun and interesting!!

    Hallie - I see absolutely no difference between the colors I put in empty pans from tubes and the pan colors. Both work the same way - I dampen them when I need them and that is all. The difference I was told about (which makes sense) is that when doing larger works, since you can squeeze out more pigment from a tube, you can make a larger quantity of paint to work on the larger surface.

    Captain Elaine - Check out my post at where I state three different ways I created skin tones. Lately I've been using the brown madder plus raw sienna with a touch of cobalt blue, alot. For African Americans you can start with the Caucasian skin tone - this can be highlights, and then add something like burnt umber and other lighter browns for middle tones.

    Peggy - I don't know how long I sit there - varies from drawing to drawing, and I am in a different timeless zone anyway. Not long. Could be 5 minutes, 10 or 20 if they stick around - dunno.

    Celeste - I do not see you as a bag lady! But I did have one - only one - girl look askance at me - I could read her mind - she was wondering if I had a clutch purse. Jeeeez. If most people looked at me that way I'd ditch the whole thing.

    Alex - They are excuses! I venture to say that I have less time than almost anybody! I sketch or paint while I eat on my lunch break usually.

    Cheryl - Good for you!! It's addictive!

    MHH - Thanks for coming and for thinking that my lady is the BOMB!

    Raena - What a riot - crack spackle! Too funny! What is most amazing about our different pallets on the same page is the colors end up looking exactly the same anyway!

    Ellen - I seem to remember your comment too. It is not brave to do what I do. Brave is walking up to someone and saying "Can I draw you?" like Wil does in Canada. That is brave! I prefer my cowardly approach. I don't care if someone sees me sketching another. They become my partner in crime. God forbid my target sees me though. lol.

    Nancy - I don't always bring my paints with me either. I usually either sketch, or paint. I bring both when I don't know what I want to do that day.

  27. Pretty good... the sketches and the post.. and thanks for posting a pic of your paint set too.. this is a nice idea; keeping the labels of the paints against their positions!

  28. Love this post, Dan!
    Thanks so much for sharing with us

  29. Love your sketches of people.

    I also love to see people's tools.

  30. funny sketch of the lade. And very interesting and informative to see and read what you carry around.

  31. Great post. Thanks for sending me to it!