Pocket Sketching for Watercolor: Simple Tools and Tricks

Sketching on location, aka urban sketching — especially what I like to call “pocket sketching” — can be one of the most powerful sources of information, joy and inspiration for an artist. At least pocket sketching is for me.

I love to paint cityscapes — the buildings, roads, cars and people. To collect ideas for my paintings, I just walk around seeking nice views, great light and interesting compositions. And, I carry a small and simple set of tools that allow me to make quick sketches in minutes.

My set of urban sketching pocket tools consists just of six key items:

  • Plastic box with watercolor
  • Moleskine classic pocket sketchbook (3.5 x 5.5 inches)
  • Pen with waterproof ink
  • Waterbrush
  • Piece of paper; napkin
  • Clip

The Benefits of Tiny but Mighty Tool Sets

A small tool set is sufficient for quick sketching. Clip your palette and a small paper napkin (if watercolor sketching) to your sketchbook and keep all this in one hand, while keeping your other hand free to hold your brush, pencil or pen (whatever you work with).

With this minimal amount of equipment, you can stand or sit almost anywhere comfortably and sketch. this means there’s no need for an easel or any other heavy supplies.

Pocket sketching tools and tips from Vladimir Tuporshin, brought to you by Artists Network

Here’s how it all looks working together for when I’m out sketching.

Quick Sketch Examples

Here are a few sketches I made on location. Every sketch took less than 10 minutes. Eventually, some of these sketches became important starters for paintings I created later in my home studio.

Quick watercolor painting sketch; pocket sketching tools and tips from Vladimir Tuporshin, brought to you by Artists Network

Quick watercolor painting sketch; pocket sketching tools and tips from Vladimir Tuporshin, brought to you by Artists Network

Quick watercolor painting sketch.

Quick watercolor painting sketch.

I take reference photos as well, in addition to sketching. I find they are important for details if you want to complete your painting in the studio as I often do. However, nothing can replace the impression and “feeling” you get while exploring, rendering and sketching a place you like.

Leave a comment, and share your best pocket sketching advice.

Article contributions by Vladimir Tuporshin

Go Out and Explore

Ready to start pocket sketching? Discover how to not only capture what you see around you when out-and-about but also the energy of the location you are trying to paint or draw with the Urban Sketching: The Marc Taro Holmes Digital Collection. In this urban sketching bundle, you will learn practical advice and tips for working in the field, choosing the perfect subjects, capturing people in motion and more.

But wait, the sketching fun doesn’t stop there. Artists Network and Sketchbook Skool are thrilled to present SketchKon — a big, unkonventional konvention devoted to drawing, painting, creativity, and friendship with other artists and art-lovers, just like you! For the first time ever, over 500 creative folks — including many top sketchbook artists from across the globe — will gather in sunny Pasadena, California, to celebrate our art for three, fun-packed days, Nov. 2-4, 2018.

SketchKonDuring this one-of-a-kind art-filled event, we’ll share tips, techniques and ideas on drawing people, urban sketching, travel journaling, watercolor, lettering, design and so much more. But most importantly, we’ll draw together, laugh together, eat and drink together and leave filled with new ideas and creative inspiration! Limited tickets are available, so secure your spot today!