Art Bag

Sunday, 19th September 2004
Wild West Yorkshire nature diary

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art bag 'I'd love to know what you use (pen/pencil types, etc.) to create your drawings' writes Joy Rothke. Joy is an American freelance writer who also loves to draw and she's based in Costa Rica. Surprising who you meet on the internet, isn't it?

I've referred to my favourite pens and watercolours in this diary over the years but I thought this was a suitable opportunity to delve into my art bag again and explain its contents.

'Butch Organizer'

This is my favourite art bag at the moment. Barbara spotted it in the National Trust shop at Clumber Park when we took a coffee break there on our journey to Norfolk last May. As it's in drab olive green with black straps there's absolutely no danger of it being mistaken for a handbag. Is there?

'If it comes up as 'handbag' when you enter it on the till I'm not buying it!' I told the assistant when I took it to the counter.

'Let's see', she said as she scanned it, 'Ah, 'Butch Organizer', that's £15 please.'

An A5 sketchbook fits neatly into the main compartment of this 'organizer bag' (to give it its correct description), small pens fit in an upright compartment at the back, larger pens in a horizontal pocket, my watercolour tube (see below) in another smaller pocket and a pod of crayons in the front. There's room for a small bottle of mineral water in the main compartment too. And my cloth sun hat, reading glasses, headache pills, band aids . . . all the stuff you'd normally carry in a handbag, sorry, organizer'

I've even attached a compass and thermometer key fob to one of the zippers.

Art Pen

pen topRotring art pen

nibThe drawing of the bag (above left) was made with my favourite pen, which I've mentioned many times through this diary; a Rotring Art Pen with an extra fine sketch nib. This is a fountain pen which I keep loaded with black ink cartridges and I have another that has a fountain pen filler in it, filled with sepia Manuscript Calligraphy Writing Ink. For some reason the sepia doesn't flow as well as the black (I've tried sepia cartridges too), I'm not sure whether it's due to the ink or that particular pen. It's difficult to use with watercolours as the ink runs when wet but that does mean you can do a quick wash drawing by dabbing the pen line with a wet brush (as in last Wednesday's diary page)

parallel penParallel Pen

art bagAnother drawing of the bag, made with another pen, the Pentel Parallel Pen. The chisel-shaped nib is made of two parallel plates of metal and is designed so that you can use the broad side or the narrow edge.

The non-waterproof ink is available in black and red cartridges. The pen is intended for calligraphy and I find it a bit awkward to draw with but I like the finished effect, which is similar to what you'd get with a bamboo or reed pen, so it's worth the effort from time to time.

Fibre Tipped PensEdding 1800
pensdrawing pen

I've tried numerous fibre tipped pens including the Staedtler Pigment Liner, which I'm currently carrying with me in a 0.5 and 0.3 nib. They're waterproof and reliable but I prefer the Edding 1800 (the blue pen, above right) because it is available in sepia, a useful colour for my natural history work, and it's waterproof so it works well with a watercolour wash over the drawing.fibre tipped pen

Brush Pens

henThis Pentel Brush Pen has been a favourite for years. When I feel I've got too fiddly with my drawing (which is most of the time, if I was being honest) this pen forces me to simplify the drawing and encourages me to work faster.Pentel brush pen

Pentel Color BrushI haven't used the Pentel Color Brush, (right) a similar product which is available in sepia, much yet.

Parker Pen

Parker PenHere's a new addition to my art bag, a comfortable Parker Fountain Pen, with a rubber grip that isn't too chunky. This is strictly for writing with; the words just flow when I'm sitting with this.

Of course, being me, the 'strictly for writing' bit soon got ignored and I've enjoyed drawing with it too. I keep it filled with blue ink.

Disadvantage: it takes only Parker cartridges.


At the moment I happen to have an HB, a B and two 4Bs in the bag but it's very rarely that I use them in my sketchbooks. During the summer I made a start with Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards and, as she suggests drawing with a 4B, something I'd never tried before, I decided to give it a go. As I'm doing the exercises here at home I work on individual sheets of A4 cartridge and keep them in a file envelope.

However, for sketchbook work, I don't think I'll ever move onto pencil; with the rough treatment my sketchbooks get the pencil soon gets smudged.

The old pencil on a string was something I wore around my neck when I was revising Village Walks in West Yorkshire last autumn and winter. There's an advantage of pencil: it's waterproof.


Derwent watercolour crayonsThis useful selection of Derwent Watercolour Crayons comes in a plastic pod. Although you can get a watercolour effect by brushing a watercolour crayon drawing with water, I invariably use them dry, as a quick way of colouring a drawing. Being in a pod I can get them out of the front pocket of my bag even in a confined space, such as at a café table or on a train.

Disadvantage: the plastic lid wasn't up to the rough conditions in my bag and the fastening has broken. I'm now looking for a suitable tin.

Solution: Just realised; the crayons fit neatly into the tin that comes with a Rotring Art Pen.

crayons in Rotring art pen tin


sable brush
watercolour box

watercolour tube box

This Daler Rowney box of Artist's Watercolours folds into a 6½ inch long tube. I've slightly altered the range of colours that comes with it, as I recently explained in a page about working with colour blindness.

I keep a cut down old brush in the box just so I've got one with me. I haven't come up with a way of fitting my best sable brushes into the bag.



water bottlewater brushThis might seem like stating the obvious but don't forget to take some water for the watercolours. The small plastic bottle came from Boots back in the 1970s when I broke a glass jar I used to carry with me.

I've had this Water Brush, another Pentel product, nearly a year now and I wouldn't be without it. You fill the barrel with water, control the flow by squeezing it and clean the brush with a piece of paper towel or tissue, or, if you're using it in a café, as I frequently am, a paper serviette



My current sketchbook is this 6 x 6 inch acid free cartridge with handmade cover from our local sketchbook makers, The Pink Pig. Next Page

Related Links

Previous rummage in my art bag

The Pink Pig



Derwent Pencils

Richard Bell,

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