Outdoor sketch kit
It is no secret that I love to sketch.
Wandering around with a visual diary & pencil or pen is easy enough. Wandering around with visual diary, pencil or pen AND watercolour set, brushes & water (all hand held) is extremely difficult if not impossible - not enough hands to hold all this stuff AND sketch. I needed to devise a system where I could carry everything hands-free & easily accessible leaving my hands available for sketching.
Previously, I would carry everything in a backpack & take along a small, 3 cornered, fold-up stool with a carry strap. To add watercolour to a sketch, I needed to sit with my supplies on the ground beside me & couldn't always sit at the spot of the initial sketch - among rocks etc. I found this to be a nuisance, preferring to start & finish a sketch on the same spot.
As I am planning to do more outdoor sketching, walking around rather than sitting, I needed to find a solution.
After giving it some thought & trawling the internet to see what was available (nothing suited me), I chose to design & make my own kit. With some temporary fixings in place, I took it for a test run. I packed it in a shoulder bag along with water, small flask of tea & food, slung the little stool over the other shoulder & set off on a 20 minute walk to the Boyne River (Boyne Valley, QLD) to do some sketching. I completed a sketch on the spot, standing on sloping ground amid rocks & concrete. I made a 20 minute pencil sketch then took a short break (cuppa & snack) then 20 minutes to add watercolour & took another short break (another cuppa & snack) & another 20 minutes to add penwork. I took some photos with my phone then packed up & headed home. I was able to comfortably stand (in the sun) for each 20 minute session. The kit was so well balanced & lightweight that it was easy to work with. Because it was a very, hot day (only early spring & so, so hot), I needed to take short breaks to sit in the shade & take in some fluid. The stool was only used for these brief rests. Very happy - a successful outcome
Once home, I needed to design a system for holding the water container - the temporary system was well, ummm, temporary - the damned thing kept falling off. I also needed to permanently attach the straps which had been temporarily attached with safety pins until I was satisfied with their positioning. While designing a system for holding the water bottle I decided that I could use a similar system for a plastic bottle for holding paint brushes.
A description of the design and construction process is provided if you wish to make your own kit. My process is rough but it worked. I could make the excuse that it is a prototype - but, nup - I'm not making another, fancier one. This one works perfectly for me. If anyone likes the idea & wants to make & market beautifully finished kits, you have my permission to use or adapt my design.
Everything that was used to make my kit was either recycled or stuff I had on hand.
For the base I used 3mm thick (very lightweight) ply - an old oil stained piece - cut as follows - whoops, missed a measurement. The centre panel is 31.2cm high.
Lightweight cotton fabric was cut into strips about 4cm wide by the length of the sides (2 pieces) & by the width of base (1 piece). These were used as hinges to allow the sides of the kit to fold down & the base piece to fold up over the tummy - for comfort (& it will hold a pencil if necessary) They were glued (Aquadhere) into place. The side hinges were glued onto the back of the kit (avoid bottom flap) & bottom hinge onto the front of the kit. A piece of the cotton fabric was glued onto the front of the centre section - photo taken after centre fabric glued in place but bottom hinge can be seen through the fabric.
Heavy denim was used to cover the back of the kit & folded over to cover the top of the side panels. The denim was cut to approximately 55cm x 38cm. At this point, I laid the kit centrally on the denim and made slits vertically upwards to correspond with the side panel separation from the bottom flap. Slits were also made at the top - vertically down to where the side panels met the centre panel. The corners were trimmed as shown below. Once these slits were made & corners trimmed the back of the kit (all panels) was spread with Aquadhere glue & the kit placed back onto the denim (same placement as before). The kit was then turned over & the fabric smoothed & pressed down to glue firmly into place.
Once the back was glued to the denim I folded the top & bottom parts of the denim onto the front - including bottom flap - & glued into place.
Now for the pockets - okay, the pockets could have & maybe should have been sewn on before any gluing took place but I couldn't be bothered - so for all those people who don't sew here is an alternative method of attaching pockets - yep, I said this construction was rough. I put 2 pockets on the left side & a small pocket on the right side. They were cut from the selvage edge of the denim - didn't need hemming. The top left pocket is about 10cm wide x 13.5cm high. The bottom left pocket has a pleated bottom (to give more volume to the pocket) & is about 11.5cm wide x 13cm high (actual fabric width is 14.5cm). The bottom right pocket is about 12cm wide x 8cm high. The pockets were glued around the sides & bottoms & pressed onto the denim (remembering to keep the sides of the pleated pocket at right angles to the bottom & parallel to the panel edges). They were then stapled into place using an ordinary paper stapler - reaching was a bit awkward but can be done. With the pockets attached the side denim was folded over the outer panels & glued into place.
The watercolour set was attached with strong adhesive hook & loop. The hook piece was stuck onto the top of the right panel (I should have placed it centrally rather than to the side but it still works okay). The loop piece was stuck onto the bottom of the watercolour set (doesn't interfere with normal use of the set).
A couple of pieces of A4 size paper were held in place with a small bulldog clip - can be used for sketching or for colour & pen testing. A second clip is used to hold folded kitchen paper for wiping brush - initially I used the same clip holding the paper but decided to add the extra clip. The bottom left pocket can hold a phone for taking photos.
The 2 straps crossover at the back. They start about 1/2 way up the outer edges of the side panels & cross over to finish at the inner bottom edge of each opposite panel. Initially attached with safety pins these were later stapled (with a staple gun) into place.
The water bottle is a spherical style, spray bottle minus the sprayer (faulty) & capped with a Coca Cola bottle, screw cap (just right size) A small amount of water in the base of this shape is not easily spilled. The brush container is a conical shaped, spray bottle - again minus its faulty sprayer - this shape helps stop the brushes from falling out too easily.
Metal, screw studs with extension shanks were used as attachment posts for the water & brush containers. Holes were drilled about 15cm up from the bottom of the side panels & the studs pushed through and screwed together.
Metal curtain gather hooks were fitted onto the studs & pressed into place with pliers (so they wouldn't come off by themselves). The looped tail section was opened slightly to allow a swivel, lobster claw clasp to be attached.
Poly twine was hot glued & tied to the tops of each bottle (below cap level on spherical bottle) & then glued & tied to lobster claw clasp - at desired length. Once the glue was dried (& peeled off my fingers) the clasp was attached to the curtain hooks to allow the bottles to hang off the sides of the kit.
Finished - rough but really pleased with it.
Folded for carrying. Easily fits into carry bag with ample, spare space for the water & brush containers & other stuff.
After taking a couple of photos out in the garden, my hubby & I sat on the patio for a cuppa & lunch - near the garden where the photos were taken. All of a sudden a beautiful, red-bellied black snake (poisonous) about 1.2 metres long, appeared no more than 3 metres from where we were standing for the photos. When we first spotted the snake it had its head raised but by the time I manged to get the camera (which was back inside) it had lowered its head. I still managed to a few nice photos.
Until next time
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I have had a lifetime passion for drawing and painting. Realistic with an impressionistic touch is an apt description for my work.
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