Period kit

Last week I showed my 1850’s period travel sketching kit to the Fort Curator.  He has approved it for me to use while interpreting this activity at the Fort.  Now I’m ready to share it here.

Most of what I’ve learned and chosen for my kit came from this book:  Cathy Johnson’s Living History: Drawing on the Past.  She is a well know Urban Sketcher and artist who wrote the book and started the blog for the Artist’s Journal Workshop.  I had followed her blog(s) and work for a couple years before I learned about this book from the Curator!  So it was a delight to discover she was also the source for this information.

It is available on Amazon and other places, but I’d recommend buying it directly
from her here.

Though I do own one, rather than carry a heavy wooden lap desk I decided to go with a portfolio to carry paper and support the drawing.  Cathy writes (pg 49) “Portfolios of the kind shown… are still available and will double as a larger working surface.  There is a
painting of Anna Maria Von Puhl, who visited St. Louis in 1818, holding a similar portfolio…”  I haven’t been able to find the painting on the internet.   This portfolio from Cachet looks exactly like Cathy’s drawing.

As seen from this label, I found it at the University of Washington (UW) bookstore.

Inside the portfolio, you see 5×7 sheets of paper. I’m going to start by using this hot press watercolor paper.

Many period travel sketchers used bound journals.  I’ve decided not to do so.  My plan is to donate the finished sketches for sale in the Fort’s gift shop.  Thus, I need single sheets.

Pencil Box

This is a modern pencil box that has the appearance of a period one.  It was a gift from a friend and held colored pencils.  Now it holds pen nibs, the pen nib holder, and a pencil.  I’ll be upgrading the pencil to a period lead holder from Jas Towsend & Son, Inc

I found the most on line image references for the paint palette or painter’s box.  These are from auction sites.

watercolor box from the mid-1800’s

Winsor Newton watercolor box from 1863

portable palette made of tin

I found a craftsperson who could replicate this tin palette.  It’s Hot Dip Tin.     It came with
Reeves watercolor cakes.  Though the maker existed in 1800’s, these are student grade paints available only in the UK.  So I will replace with my own pigments from tubes.  Windsor Newton was making tube watercolors in the 1800’s.  I’ll choose the colors recommended by Cathy.

The Tate in London has one of William Turner’s leather travel palettes.     I thought I might make one but after finding the tin one, decided not to do so.

To have more mixing space, I’ll use a porcelain palette.  A more period looking one is rectangle.  I found one here   However, for now, the Curator said what I have is fine.

I’ll carry ink in a small, ceramic well I purchased at the Fort (at right in this photo).  The small glass bottle in the middle could also hold ink.  The one on the left I intend for rinsing my brush.  The large bottle in the back will hold the water supply.

For now I’ll just carry these few, small, items in a basket.  My plan is sketch from a Fort bench or use a blanket on the ground.

I am now about ready to begin interpreting.  However, I’m awaiting the tailoring of the period clothing I’m to wear.  It comes from the Fort’s collection.  If all goes well, I’ll make my own during this next year.

Once I begin sketching and interpreting, I’ll be sure to post more here.


About redharparts

Born in Michigan. Attended undergrad and graduate universities there. I've lived in England, Germany, Southern California and now Washington (state). I'm a retired Medical Social Worker with a past specialty in Oncology. I've enjoyed exploring historical re-creation through the SCA. I costume in several fandoms. Lately I've returned to Art and have taken up Urban Sketching, a version of en plein air painting.
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7 Responses to Period kit

  1. Fabio says:

    Super! Thank you!

  2. miatagrrl says:

    Your period-correct kit is really cool, Kate! I think you should use it at a Friday USK outing to “practice”! It would put an interesting twist on urban sketching.

  3. Exciting, Kate…and a great adventure for you…and the rest of us vicariously. Thanks!

  4. Love seeing your supplies. I hope someone will take some photos of you while you are sketching there in your period clothing. I am always amazed by some of the beautiful old small palettes that were used by artists in the past.

  5. Peggy says:

    OOohh, this is so cool!

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