Sketchbooks come in all different styles, sizes and prices, and you need to choose the ones that suit you best. I have a large collection of half-used books because I sometimes forget to take one with me on holiday, and end up buying yet another book!
Choose the sketchbook that you feel happy with. It may be a small book that you can fit into your pocket or handbag, or you may prefer a larger design if you naturally draw large pictures.
I've shown several types here in the picture:
A - a square format book that opens up to form a double page rectangular format for longer landscapes. This one has thick cartridge paper in it.
B - a small watercolour pad which is good for watercolour sketching as the paper doesn't soak up the paint as quickly as cartridge paper.
C- A spiral bound cartridge pad that opens completely
D - A home-made pad of paper folded in half, that fits easily into a pocket. You can staple it or sew the pages together down the middle fold if you like.
Remember - sketchbooks are for your own use. You are not trying to produce complete works of art in them that you can one day hang on the wall. They are there for you to capture a moment in time, to make notes in, to scribble in and to use for your purposes. Beware the feeling that you need to draw something that you can show others.
Clips and bands
Have you ever been out sketching on a windy day? It can be very annoying to say the least and disastrous at worst, when a gust of wind flaps your pages around.
Here are two easy solutions to this problem. Use a bulldog clip to hold your pages together (shown here top left), or loop a rubber band around the pages (see right). Easy!
It is worth having two or three pencils of various hardness with you when you go out sketching. I generally use a 2B for line drawing and a 6B for shading, but the choice is yours. An eraser can be handy, but try not to use it too much. Remember, we are not aiming for perfect pictures, but to capture the essence of the scene in front of us. Too much erasing and redrawing will lose the feeling of spontaneity and will remove the life from the sketch.
Here are some of my pencils:
A - a short 2B pencil that is easy to fit into a pocket and allows me to draw in a more flexible way than a long handled pencil. Try it and see!
B - a fine popper pencil that doesn't need to be resharpened and is good for drawing details. This one has an eraser on the end as well.
C - a 6B pencil for shading (this soft lead lets you produce good deep blacks, and stops you fiddling with details).
D - a knife for sharpening. A knife is better than a pencil sharpener because you can create a chisel edge to the lead and so can draw both fine and thick lines with the same pencil.
Water soluble pencils
These are useful if you want to create soft colours or greys. Just draw or shade in with the pencil and then wash over with a damp paintbrush.
A - a water soluble pencil.
B - water soluble coloured pencils.
Pens are fun to draw with, because you can't erase your lines and so just have to take a deep breath and go for it! They produce much darker lines than a pencil which is very satisfying. To create shading either cross hatch areas with lines of ink, or iuse water soluble pens and a wet paintbrush. Here are a few of my pens:
A - A black water soluble fine liner pen
B - a black waterproof fine liner pen
C - a blue water soluble pen. Try different colour pens that are water soluble and see what colours are created when you wash over your drawing with a wet brush. Browns and greens can produce surprising results!
D - A small italic felt pen, which gives both thin and thick lines.
You can also use fountain pens, biros and large marker pens - in fact anything that will give you lines!
This has to be my favourite piece of equipment for easy and lightweight sketching! This brush has a hollow barrel for a handle that can be unscrewed and filled with water. The brush is then always damp and is great for washing over pen lines for shading, or even dipping into watercolour paint. If you squeeze the barrel you can get more water into the brush. A very clever invention indeed, and available from all good art stores!