I am so excited to share this post about sketching. I get a lot of questions about materials, so I thought a peek at my sketchbook process in South Africa was perfect. (For a closer look, watch my video.)

South Africa sketchbook

Let Your Subject Be Your Guide

Before you choosing materials, think about what you’re going to be sketching.

Are you in the city? You’ll probably want a hardbound landscape sketchbook. Both pages vertically will let you capture skyscrapers. Or, you can sprawl across in landscape orientation.

Will you sit for a long time sketching a serene landscape? You can spread out and set things down. Might as well bring a few pencils, sharpener, and a larger palette.

Do you need to capture movement? Absorbent paper and wide brushes are key.

Sketch Practically

It’s easy to want the best materials or new supplies. I get it! But don’t forget, a skilled artist can still create with the worst supplies. They say, “the best camera is the one you have with you.” Forget beautiful palettes and professional-grade brushes. If they’re too heavy to lug around or too much trouble to use in public, they’re likely to be left home. Even the best supplies are useless if they’re cumbersome or intimidating.

I wasn’t sure what the safari would be like. So, I brought supplies I was comfortable with. I knew this Winsor & Newton Cotman palette was light, had a good assortment, and came with a quality water brush. Unfortunately, unlike the old Cotman, it lacks a second mixing tray and has a weird form. (The bottom isn’t enclosed.) Regardless, I was happy with it on the trip.

Caran d’Ache was my water brush of choice. It has long springy bristles that hold a point. And, it has an extendable reservoir. You can squeeze water at the grip or “syringe” it out.

South Africa Sketchbook - Boulder Beach penguins

Life Doesn’t Stand Still

Unless you catch them sleeping, animals (and most subjects) are constantly moving. So, focus on large shapes and gestures. Don’t agonize over tiny details.

Drawing is part muscle memory. The more you do it, the more you build your visual dictionary. Familiarizing yourself with your subject is helpful. If you paint an apple a hundred times from different angles, I guarantee you’ll be able to sketch it accurately from imagination. (Before safari, I probably could have gone to the zoo…)

Blind contour exercises also help. But, nothing’s as effective as good old-fashioned practice.Field sketching in Cape Town, South Africa

Field sketching or urban sketching is fun. It’s a special and unique way to capture memories. So, don’t waste too much time trying to find the “perfect sketchbook.” (Guilty.) Just get out and sketch. 😉

I hope you liked today’s post and video! Thanks so much for viewing.