UPDATE: At the bottom of this post, I mention that my Stillman & Birn Delta pocket sketchbook cracked and tore at each signature as soon as I opened it to those pages. It was suggested I contact the company, since apparently there’d been a defective run of sketchbooks, and some stores didn’t return their stock when it was recalled. The Sillman & Birn customer service rep sent out a replacement and a Gamma sketchbook to try. I’ll try them both over the weekend and report.

And now, back to the old post:

Today is the last of my 5-day reprieve from counting the days of the month for 8-9 hours a day (literally, not figuratively–I’m proofreading calendars. Go ahead, ask me what day of the week Waitangi Day 2018 is and when all the Queen’s Birthdays are). I should be being productive today, should mail out bill payments, finish other freelancing. But instead I’m being unproductive. I’m eating dark chocolate with oranges and almonds and playing with art stuff ^_^

Since I spend so many waking hours away from the house, I’ve been carrying my art supplies with me everywhere. The bare minimum gear is an 11×17 or 11×14 drawing pad for the comic, a notebook to work out plot and dialogue, a metal ruler, and a pen roll like this one or one of these. But also I like to take along a sketchbook for doodles and warmups, a roll of colour pencils, the Hobonichi I’d otherwise forget I have, my Peerless palette, and maybe some Copics. Now that I’ve been digging out the old-school watercolours too, the bag is getting crowded and heavy and people are giving it the side-eye. And I keep losing my wallet and Metrocard in there and missing the train.

Many days I end up with no time for drawing unless I break out the supplies while commuting. Big palettes are unwieldy when everyone’s elbows and knees are poking into everyone else’s. At the office where I freelance, it’s a little conspicuous to pull out a big metal tin of fancy paints, especially at a company that deals with so many lovely art books and clever craft books (and pretty calendars); it’s intimidating and looks weird. I’m not sure I can handle being stared at on the train, but I wanted to find a way to be inconspicuous during lunch break or curled into a corner at the nearest Starbucks. It would also be helpful to have more compact supplies to fit into the art space at Carmine Street Comics.

A lot of people buy or make mini travel palettes for their plein air painting and urban sketchbooking. I have the usual thousand empty Altoid tins lying around in various corners of the house, so I gave it a try:


  • Altoids tin that still smells like cinnamon
  • adhesive applicator I picked up a couple of years ago for the Hobonichi, to stick the pans in place
  • variety of empty half pans scavenged from cheap paint sets acquired to use at children’s workshops–plus some sturdy Schmincke pans that turn out to fit better
  • Artist Trading Card in a plastic sleeve cut down to fit the lid, as a mixing area; some people add a coat of enamel to the lid but I decided to try to make this kit from only whatever was within arm’s reach because of 1. the challenge, and 2. not really a challenge, all my junk is crowded into a small space that I sorta huddle in the middle of, and 3. if the tin rusts I have about 50,000 other empty Altoids tins lying around
  • little ceramic water dish from one of those cheap paint sets; I prefer ceramic to mixing on plastic or enamel-metal palettes, which sometimes have to be abraded so the paint doesn’t bead up, and often stain
  • a silly little bit of sponge and/or folded up kitchen paper towel for cleaning the brush (a square sponge should be just the ticket)


To get the lid to snap closed on each side with the mixing dish inside, I’ll have to swap in slightly less tall Schmincke pans like the ones in the top row. For now, I don’t mind using a hair tie to make sure it stays closed. That also conveniently holds the water brush.

Although Stillman & Birn sketchbooks were recommended–for good paper and for a reputation for being able to open flat or even bend back without a problem–and the pocket size is just right to go along with a mini-palette, the Delta sketchbook cracked and ripped at the gluing between signatures as soon as I opened to the page, as you can see below. I still have have an unused Stillman & Birn Alpha pocket sketchbook, which I’ll at least give a try, but unless the Alpha books are constructed differently, a brand that can’t withstand sketching on the couch is a fail for sketching on the go.

Good thing I have three drawers full of blank or nearly blank sketchbooks to try….