Portable Painter Watercolor Palette
(colors shown are not included, they are Winsor & Newton half pans)
I read quite a few reviews on this palette before buying it. The idea looked simple enough and was interesting. But I didn't know that I really needed it until one reviewer mentioned it fits Winsor & Newton half pans perfectly.
This tipped the balance. I had a 12 color Winsor & Newton Artists' Field Box that I loved to pieces - literally, the hinge broke on the poor thing and it's no longer so portable as it was. I needed to have something else to put those 12 lovely artist grade colors in, so I finally got the Portable Painter palette. By comparison, there's one thing this one doesn't have - the water bottle that was included in the Field Box, or any place to put the small sponge.
However, the size 4 travel brush is generous sized compared to most of these pocket brushes and big enough for comfortable journaling, unlike the very tiny detail brush from the W/N Field Box. That made up for a lot.
I also had some doubts about whether it'd fit over my leg. Was this designed only for slender people? Not to worry, despite overdeveloped legs due to skeletal crookedness, it fit comfortably over my thigh and it wasn't hard finding a good spot where it stayed balanced. The water dishes on the side are deep enough that it really doesn't tilt when it's on my lap like that.
white cosmos painting 3" x 5"
watercolor and some iridescent watercolor glaze on the white petals
Painting with it became interesting. Keeping my leg steady was something I hadn't expected to need to worry about but there it was - I couldn't really move that leg or fidget as much as usual. This will take some work getting used to it. But that did leave both hands free, one to hold the journal and the other to hold the brush. The advantage is a good one, I just need to make sure I've got a chair that's at a good height for me.
Like any change in habits, it also took a bit of a mental shift to get used to the water being down there on my leg instead of up near my work. Having two deep water cups was great though. I was able to reach in easily and rinse the brush thoroughly between colors.
Assembling it is easy. The cups slide on pegs at the sides and stay put once assembled, the whole thing doesn't rock and it is also stable if set on a table. It came with empty half pans in it that had fairly thin sides but would be good if I wanted to switch out these Winsor & Newtons for tube watercolors of any kind. I kept those aside in a box in case I do want to switch.
I've heard that some brands' half pans don't fit well because manufacturers vary slightly in their dimensions and size, but Winsor & Newton ones do fit well. So save those once they're used up, they can always be refilled after they're completely empty.
The aluminum clip that holds the two water cups together as the case might be easy to mislay. Keep track of that or rubber band it to one of the water cups while it's in use. It does come with a big fat rubber band as well.
Overall I like it. If I brought along a bottle of drinking water on an outing, that'd be enough to fill the water cups and they are big, there's no need to get frugal with how much water I use. Big washes are easy and so is keeping one of them as clean water to mix into pans instead of wash water. I'd recommend keeping it in a travel sketching kit, so the aluminum clip can go into the bag while you're working and a rag or paper napkin to wipe out the water cups after use is handy.
It's a good product. Definitely does keep my hands free, the size is convenient and the brush included is good quality. I had no problem getting either fine details or fairly loose washes with that brush.
Six Tikky mechanical pencils, violet, light blue, light green, yellow, orange, pink.
Tikky Mechanical Pencil
I bought this last fall, it was in Blick's Fall catalog and intrigued me. I'd been looking for a good mechanical pencil for undersketching. Not so much for serious pencil drawing, for that I prefer lead holders and broader leads. More for the type of under drawing that I'd either use a cheap mechanical pencil or a No. 2 pencil on it - something that would not need sharpening, would not run out of short leads as the disposable cheap ones do, and feel nice in my hand.
This comes in six bright colors but the design doesn't look too "cute" or anything, just artistic. The black grips set off the fluorescent barrels well. I'm always a sucker for the spectrum, so recently I bought all the other colors of it too. My first was a light blue and I wound up carrying that thing with me everywhere. If I misplaced it I'd get annoyed and tear up all my stuff till I found it again. It has a good weight in the hand and synthetic HB leads that are very fine - and don't need sharpening. Exactly what I bought it for, replaceable very fine HB leads that felt good in the hand.
Everyone's hand is different. What pencil gives you the best results for what task may vary a lot. My granddaughter likes wooden No. 2 pencils and sharpens them with a knife because she does serious pencil drawing with them and likes to control the point shape with her knife. These Tikky pencils are a little heavy compared to the cheap mechanical pencils and that affects the angle I hold them, my hand fatigue - a big thing for anyone with fibromyalgia or carpal tunnel or any hand problems, everything. They are the best mechanical pencil for clean fine lines to paint over that I've used at all.
I have no examples of drawings with them because every time I use them, I go over it with pen or watercolor or both and erase the pencil lines. Happily these synthetic leads erase easily. That was another factor in itself. I bought it on impulse but kept using it so often that I stopped using any other HB pencils for underdrawing.
Jaguar in Winsor & Newton Artist's Watercolor
painted with Portable Painter Palette over Tikky mechanical pencil underdrawing
I painted this jaguar for an art challenge at WetCanvas.com in the Animals & Wildlife forum using the Portable Painter Palette and one of my Tikky mechanical pencils for the underdrawing. It erased clean but I was able to get great detail with it, could just as easily have been for pen drawing or anything else. There is a difference between leads that's subtle - the Tikky smears a little less and erases clean, as opposed to scraping the paper or staining it with graphite.
I recommend these wholeheartedly. Try one. If it gets as addictive as it did for me, get a bunch of them and make sure there's one in every pocket kit. That's eventually what I did, just to stop worrying about where I last left it! Price is five dollars and change at Blick.