To join me on a virtual sketching trip, download a travel sketch-journal here.
I add tutorials to them so you can learn the techniques and details you see in the sketchbooks.

My former workshop students asked me to upload my workshop workbooks to make them available to everyone. So you can also download a workbook and give yourself a workshop! Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Packing for a Jungle Sketching Trip #4

Finally, the last item on my packing list, the sketching kit, which as you recall, is in the medium sized bag in the picture at right, packed with all of my sketching gear. Its contents are listed here on a PDF.

This type of bag (below) is called a sling bag, and it fits nicely over the shoulder and across your back and chest, taking the weight off your arms and leaving your hands completely free. You can lob it around to the back if it gets in your way.

It's amazing how much stuff can be put in there without crowding or immobilizing the entire thing.

There are 3 pockets. The main large one (the top zipper), a smaller separate pocket (lower zipper) and a small velcroed pocket up on the strap that is intended for a cellphone. Since there is no point in carrying a cellphone in the jungle, this can be used for other important things.

The Large Pocket: I cut the sealing mechanism off the top of a large ziplock bag and lined this large pocket with the remainder of the bag (I couldn't cram it in with the ziplock part intact, but without it, it fits perfectly). This will keep things dry unless the bag "goes overboard." I put a layer of two folded plastic grocery bags in the bottom which pads the end of the sketchpad, and the entire bag can be popped into one of the grocery bags for protection if it's really wet. Here's what's in the big pocket:
  • The sitting pad of ¼" thick closed-cell foam (it keeps your bottom dry because it won't soak up water), is folded in half and fits upright in the back.
  • The sketchpad is next, coil edge up
  • a ballpoint pen with a clasp is inserted into the coil
  • The watercolor pencil pouch containing 36 watercolor pencils is actually short enough to fit sideways in the bag.
That's all I put in the large pocket, making it simple to get the main items in and out.

In the Cellphone Pocket are things I might want to trot out to use on a moment's notice:
  • my folded reading glasses in a little crocheted pouch (which I custom-made to fit and protect them)
  • my magnifying glass with a long, colorful string to make it hard to lose
  • half-a-dozen business cards
  • a small bottle of aspirin
  • several wrapped hard candies to keep my stomach happy when I need to concentrate. (oops! those didn't get in the picture!)

In the Lower Pocket are the rest of the items, helter-skelter, but the pocket is so small that everything is visible and accessible when the zipper is opened. It contains:
  • extra ballpoint pen/s
  • 2 or more waterbrushes ~ take two in case one fails. You might want a couple of sizes.
  • a couple of rags to wipe the ballpoint pen on (I often use the inside of my pants cuff or shoe), and to wipe up with the waterbrush which is used for wetting the watercolorpencil drawings.
  • a small closed-container pencil sharpener for the watercolor pencils. A closed container is essential, since bits of watercolor pencil will stain magnificently if they get wet (which they almost certainly would).
  • a mechanical pencil loaded with #2 leads
  • a kneaded eraser
  • clear tape ~ make a plastic guard to keep it from getting trashed in the pocket
  • a small bottle of glue ~ this might have to be put in the liquids bag if noticed.
  • blunt scissors ~ sharp ones won't make it through the check-in line.
  • a dispenser of plastic toothpicks. These are sold in drugstores, and are useful for lots of things. Especially if you forget to brush your teeth.
Inside the cover of the Sketchpad I have glued a photocopy of a ruler so I can measure things I sketch and a business card in case I lose the sketchbook (heaven forbid!). A plastic pocket is taped in, with the open side toward the coil, so I can tuck things in that I might want to glue in later and they won't fall out.

Although I don't show it or list it in my packing list, it occurred to me that I should attach my tiny key ring thermometer to my sling bag so I will know the temperature. In Peru they measure the temperature in Celsius units, so I've glued in a Celsius/Fahrenheit converter just for the heck of it.

On the front of the journal is a map which shows both the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica where I'll be going first, then the Upper Reaches of the Amazon in Darkest Peru where I'll be staying for the rest of the time. I plan to glue in a closer view when I get to the right point in my journal, so I'll tuck that map into the sketchbook for later.

I do almost all of my drawing with ballpoint pens. Pencils are useless in the moist tropics because they don't mark well unless you really press hard, then they indent the paper so that you can't make corrections. Even if you press hard, the line doesn't register well, so since you can't redo it anyway, you might as well use a ballpoint. If you pick a good one that doesn't blob, it makes a wonderful drawing tool. I use an ordinary medium point Bic pen, costing less than a dollar. Works great. Here's a picture of me sketching a sea turtle on one of my sketching trips, just to keep in focus what this is all about (grin).

I used to teach a workshop on Sketch Journaling. If you want more information like that, you might want to download Nature & Travel Sketch Journaling for more details.

So there it is. Now that I have all this out of the way, everything packed and ready to go a full month ahead of time and the housesitter arranged for, I can start preparing for my Second Annual Art Show and Studio Sale, which will be in Ashland, Oregon, at the Shakespeare Great Hall on Main Street (just below the Shakespeare Theater) on Friday, December 10 (4-8pm) and Saturday, December 11 (11am to 5pm). You're invited! Here's what it looked like last year.

Guess I'd better get started! Hope you enjoyed this little exercise in packing. I sure did. Thanks for stopping by.


Elizabeth said...

Irene - thank you for posting this, and for the details!

You have some great tips for travel supplies, and I like the idea of photocopying a ruler to tape to the inside of the sketchbook.

I've been trying to lighten my load - but it's hard to let go of some of my art materials!

Irene said...

oh yes! I certainly know what you mean about giving the art materials a pass. Still, if you don't consistently use them when you go out ~ that's what I base my goodies list on...since I enjoy finishing up sketchbook entries later, it makes sense to leave most of the painting supplies at home. And not having to carry them along sure improves my stamina!

Debo Boddiford said...

At least you know someone in Costa Rica...that makes me feel better...stay safe!! Glad you got some good tips from the website (and you now have a doorstop)...I have never packed that light, but learned about this website from a FLickr friend a few months ago. The video there showing all the ways to fold a square wrap/banadana into a bag, hat, etc... is so interesting!! Don't forget to take some small ziploc bags for collecting leaves, dead bugs, shells, etc.. to take back to your lodge each night to sketch. I was recently talking to an art friend who tavels to foreign locations to paint each year. She always types up specific art and travel questions/phrases in that language to take with her (laminate it). While she may not totally understand the answer...natives can at least point her in the right direction of what she needs. On a recent trip to NC, I saw some of those travel underwear that you mentioned and I wondered if you knew about it was funny to come home and see on your Blog that you already had some...I am glad to know that you are "taking two"!! LOL

Irene said...

Thanks so much for your concern, Debo! I have always had wonderful experiences traveling in Latin America and I don't expect S. America to be different. If one is friendly and courteous (despite being clueless) people take pity and help one out wonderfully. A good phrase to know: Puede ayudarme? translating to: Can you help me?
It works every time!

I'll check out the bandana -- I have my own trick with that, so I'll see if they know it, and if they don't, I'll put it on my next blog.

And thanks for the reminder about baggies and plastic containers. I just stuck in a little stack of them. They don't weigh anything at all, so they're like freebies. Film cannisters work great, although they're not making them much anymore.

And typing up useful foreign phrases ahead of time -- great idea!

Thanks so much -- you are a fountain of knowledge!


Anonymous said...

Irene, I love this post and all the wonderful info on supplies and packing, so very helpful!!

Do you know the name of the maker of the sling bag you have? It looks like a great grab and go bag.

Renie said...

Thanks! I hoped that would be the case. As for the bag, I got mine in Hawaii, but you can apparently get them online here: And yes, it is a GREAT grab and go bag!

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