In my last post, I shared what I packed in my Duotone Desert Art Toolkit—now for something completely different: this desert girl went on a road trip to visit family in Ohio, and of course, my art supplies had to come with me.
I’m used to the sunny, arid conditions at Big Bend National Park, and I really looked forward to seeing how my paints played in a cooler, damper climate. Our family goes camping every summer at a lake in Pennsylvania, so I packed with that area and climate in mind.
Before leaving home in Austin, Texas, I spent quite some time pouring over photos of the areas I’d be visiting, trying to decide what to bring. This is always the hardest part for me — sometimes it keeps me awake at night!
Then I packed up my trusty Royal Blue A5 Art Toolkit with the following:
Pieces of Arches cold press paper, torn to roughly 5'' square from a full sheet
Fountain pens loaded with Black, Blue, Grey and Red Grey Document Inks, plus a dip pen and a technical pen
A mechanical pencil and kneaded eraser
A pocket knife for scratching the paper
I also packed 4 palettes — because you can never have too many palettes, am I right? I brought a Demi Palette that I always keep as a minimal sketch kit in my pack, a Folio Palette for using in camp, a Folio Palette filled with only mixing pans, and a Pocket Palette for day hikes.
They all have the same core colors that I can’t do without: Hansa Yellow Medium, Yellow Ochre or Raw Sienna, Ultramarine Blue, Quinacridone Magenta or Quinacridone Rose, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Teal Blue and Transparent Red Oxide.
To the larger palettes, I also added Quinacridone Gold, Phthalo Green, Phthalo Blue, Cobalt Blue, Quinacridone Coral, Quinacridone Burnt Scarlet, Van Dyck Brown, Lavender, Indanthrone Blue, and Bloodstone Genuine. I’ve had the Bloodstone Genuine sitting in a drawer for years, and I’ve really enjoyed playing with it on this trip!
I made a little cheat sheet of some mixes I thought I’d be using on the trip, and it really came in handy — especially when it came to the greens, as they’re so different than the desert greens that I’m used to. I found Quinacridone Gold mixed with Phthalo Blue to be a wonderful summer green. Now let’s have a look at a few of my favorite sketches!
Belted Kingfisher Alarm Clock
A chattering belted kingfisher woke us up first thing in the morning (they’re so funny!), so I had to sketch one!
I used Black, Blue Grey, and Red Grey Document Inks and added watercolor after it was dry—which took way longer than I’m used to in the desert! I love that spiky hairdo!
Seagull Gesture Sketches
Next, I did some quick gesture sketches of some seagulls that came through camp.
I loved watching their comical expressions and trying to capture them on paper. One even tried to steal some kindling that was in the fire pit from the previous campers!
The trick with gesture sketches is not to overthink it: just make quick drawings and move on to the next one if your subject moves.
Lakeside Studies in Camp
Now for some lakeside studies on Arches cold press paper. I had so much more working time at the lake compared to what I’m used to in the arid desert.
I played with scratching waves using a pocket knife that I keep in my Toolkit—so fun! This can be harder to do in the desert because everything dries super fast.
I really enjoyed the extra working time that this more humid environment allowed. I’m used to having to race the clock and plan my moves out in advance. Here, I was able to relax and experiment.
Sketching from a Kayak
I rented a kayak and just had to try my hand at sketching out in the middle of the lake. I brought along a Demi Palette, a Sharpie, Water Brush (which I refilled from the lake, what a first for me!), and a shop towel.
The wind kicked up, and things got choppy—so I didn’t feel safe taking my phone out of the protective Ziplock bag, which made all of my photos slightly out of focus, darn! It also made the kayak rock like crazy and made it super hard to paint.
But I didn’t care—I had a blast anyhow! And I have a new respect for artists who sketch on rocking boats. Once we were back at camp, I did some quick sketches in my sketchbook while things were fresh in my mind.
All in all, this desert girl had a blast sketching at the lake. I can’t wait to sketch in snow someday and channel my inner Max Romey!
Whether you’re sketching in your own backyard or a totally new location, don’t be afraid to try something new! Try experimenting with new techniques like using a pocket knife to scratch in details, or try new color combinations. Make a little cheat sheet to take with you on a trip for the color mixes you think you’ll use. Most of all, enjoy the process and have fun because that’s what it’s all about.
All images courtesy of Lisa Spangler.