pencil caseThe absolute best way to improve your drawing is to practice, anywhere and everywhere you can but I’m very guilty of limiting my sketching to my house because it’s so much more convenient and warm!

Sketching out and about is something I haven’t done for that long.
It’s taken me quite a while to pluck up courage to draw in public. I don’t know what I thought would happen, people are usually interested to see others drawing and supportive, or being ‘British’, ignore you and pretend they haven’t seen.
Nobody has ever stopped, had a look and launched into a criticism of my drawing, or shouted at me for sketching them!

I travelled by train to visit my son in Plymouth last week. I like to travel as light as possible on the train partly because I use a stick so only have one hand free and partly because there never seems to be enough space on the train for bags, particularly if you like to keep them nearby. It’s not really that hard to grab a small selection of art materials even if you’re travelling light. I took mine in my handbag so I could use them on the train if any sketching opportunities arose. I packed:

  • Pencil case including pencils, biro (also for crossword!), eraser, pencil sharpener and waterbrushes
  • Small A5 sketchbook with paper thick enough to take watercolour
  • Small box watercolour paints (9 pan-set of white nights watercolours)

Other good things to take might be promarkers or felt pens, neocolor crayons, or watercolour pencils.

man on train in biroI still feel self-conscious about getting my paints out on the train (I should really have left the paints in my case) so I used a biro to draw a fellow traveller who was keeping nice and still with his headphones on.

Biros are useful for sketching. Their advantages are that you’re likely to be carrying one, they are pressure-sensitive so your line can vary in width and lightness, but you can’t rub them out so you need to build up lightly. Some would say it’s much better for you to have no eraser!

plymouth view

Once we got to our hotel room I was able to use my waterbrushes to paint a view from the window.

Waterbrushes are fantastic for sketching, they have their own reservoir of water and you just brush them over the paint pan and then use like a felt tip pen, squeezing if you need more water or to ‘clean’ the brush. I wrote a review of waterbrushes in a previous blog post.

I didn’t sketch for as long as would have liked, but it’s nice to be able to improve a plain pencil sketch with some colour, and gives you a better memory of the area.

I did a few more pencil sketches during our stay, I love an opportunity to sketch people other than myself and my husband!



I’m glad I did dare to take my materials out with me because it helps train my eye to draw more quickly and accurately (time is limited by weather, subjects who move and location), gives me interesting views that I wouldn’t see in my lounge, acts as a souvenir of a holiday or day out and passes the time in a more productive way than scrolling on my phone. If you haven’t tried it already, you definitely should.

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