Travel Sketching Essentials

Stephanie Bower is one of the Urban Sketchers I most admire.  She presented her “Travel Sketching Essentials” demo at Daniel Smith yesterday.

This is the demo I wish I could have attended when I first got involved with Urban Sketchers about 4 years ago!  She described all the bits of kit needed to start location sketching.  We had the benefit of her having “bought everything” and trying it all.  She gave her recommendations for the best items to choose based on her experience.  Her emphasis is quality, size and weight.

Stephanie only takes one bag on her sketching travels, even overseas.  It is just right to hold her stool, tripod, clothes and other essentials.  She also takes a backpack when traveling by air.

She uses an easel to sketch on location.  It is an En Pein Air Pro, though she cut it down to fit in her backpack.  Sony VCT-R100 Lightweight compact tripod with 3 way tilt head

Here is an example of her set up.  She’s sketching at Swanson’s Nursery, December 2015.

These are two examples of stools.  Her preferred one is the one on the left, the Tribe Provisions Ultralight compact portable adventure field stool ($30).  It IS very light.  I use a 1 pound REI stool and Stephanie’s is even lighter.

One of her preferred papers is this long block by Fluid (8″x16″).  Her preferred sketchbook is the Pentalic Aqua Journal (5″x8″).  I use the latter and it is an excellent hardbound sketchbook with 140# 100% cotton watercolor paper. The only place I’ve found it locally and consistently is the University of Washington bookstores.  You can see it online at   It also comes in a pocket size.  Both are the same size as the Moleskine but much better paper!

She uses Coroplast (corrugated plastic; often used to make yard signs) to make a palette holder.  She clips on the small plastic Windsor Newton Pocket box and inserts a small pill bottle for water into a hole cut for it.  She uses the plastic palette because it is lighter than metal ones.

Here is my current set up.  I use a larger Coroplast sheet on which I tape my 5″x8″ paper, clip my palette and also insert a pill bottle for water.  Binder clips hold the palette and can also be used to hold brushes!  I use a blue shop towel for wiping.  It can be rinsed and reused many times before throwing out so is more economical and ecological than paper towels.

Brushes:  Escoda Reserva Kolinsky Sable travel brush, size 10 and 12 round (Daniel Smith stores have it).  Pictured here is the 1 inch angled brush.  Below are the narrow and wide marks she can make with it.

She finished the presentation with a painting demo.

All photos here

More places to find Stephanie: 




Craftsy class “Perspective for Sketchers” which is on sale right now.

She is also the author of the upcoming 4th book in the Urban Sketching Handbook series:
Understanding Perspective.  It will be released on June 15.  I have actually previewed a draft.  Even if you can attend one of her in-person “Good Bones” workshops or take her Craftsy class, this book will be an essential companion to which I think you will refer again and again!  I can’t wait to get the published version.

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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4 Responses to Travel Sketching Essentials

  1. Kate, thanks for such a thorough synopsis of Stephanie’s demo and the photos to go with the items!

  2. Debbie Southerland says:

    Thanks so much the details of Stephanie’s demo. I had planned to attend, but was unable to, so I really appreciate the information. See you at a Tacoma Urban Sketcher’s outing soon!

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