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  • Writer's pictureClaire Baldwin

What I Learned About Building the Perfect Travel Sketchbook Kit in Spain

Updated: May 16

On my last international trip, to Denmark and Portugal, I brought tons of art supplies - and barely touched them. So when I went to Spain this winter, I packed a compact kit that made it easy to get playful with my sketchbook.

At Park Guell, a beautiful Gaudi-designed garden in Barcelona

(now the ears of my ears awake and

now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

~ e. e. cummings

Those lines were on my mind was I wandered around the crooked, colorful alleys of Barcelona and Malaga this December, ecstatically taking in every detail. I was so grateful for the creative reset and chance to walk my butt off - it was the perfect antidote for sitting and slamming deadlines for so many weeks on end.

Boqueria Market, Barcelona

Catedral de la Encarnación de Málaga

Grilled Sardines on the beach in Malaga

I love painting from life, but on my last big international trip, I'd barely touched my sketchbook. The problem: I'd packed too many (bulky) art supplies! My art kit was a heavy grab-bag that I couldn't balance on my lap when I was painting on the fly in parks, cafes, and trains. So this time, I came up with a strategic supply kit, and created a sort of pad-folio with heavyweight paper and packing tape. I want to keep testing out this pad-folio prototype until it's perfect, and then work with a craftsperson to create a more durable version with waterproof fabric and zippers and such.

Here are my favorite supplies - which I'm not sponsored or paid in any way to share:

  • The Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. This was an instant MVP! The brush has a super fine tip, nice flex, and most importantly, the ink dries super fast and is waterproof AND holds up to eraser. Obsessed.

  • The Art Toolkit Travel Palette - I like how this thing folds down super thin. However, the palette doesn't hold much liquid - so I might keep looking for other options. Recommendations welcome!

  • Caran D'Ache Watercolor Pencils - when I was working quickly and waiting for a layer of watercolor paint to dry, I used these pencils to add more details and cross-hatching. I could use water to blend them in, or leave them dry for a more textured effect.

  • A sturdy mechanical pencil - I'm going to get super light graphite for better sketching next time. The graphite I had was way too dark (5b!) and added an extra step of needing to erase it out after I'd added ink. Not ideal when you're squeezing in sketches between family excursions and so on.

  • Staedtler polymer eraser

  • A tiny jar for water - you really don't need very much

  • A water-filled travel brush: I used this to blend in the watercolor pencils without having to fumble with a jar of water- it was ideal for working fast.

What are your favorite art supplies to use in your travel sketchbook? I'd love to hear from you - let me know in the comments!

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