a few notes on my materials...


Various people have asked me questions about my materials, and I've tried to answer questions as I go along, but answers are dispersed across various comment threads. It seemed as if it might be useful to pull the notes together in one place.

When I began to learn to draw, I got myself a small-sized black Moleskine sketchbook because it felt like a special thing to have and I knew it would give me pleasure to use it every day. I chose to use black ink in it, as I knew that if I had a chance to erase, I would fuss with the drawings too much. The pens I used were usually fine point technical pens: Staedtler or Micron. (More recently I've been using either a Pilot Hi-Tec C .025, or a fountain pen with Noodler's black ink in it.)

After nearly a month, I wanted to use color, and my sister introduced me to Caran d'Ache Neocolor II water-soluble crayons. I found that with a Niji brand waterbrush (which holds water in the plastic body of the brush handle) I could get watercolor effects while keeping my equipment very portable. This was a real breakthrough discovery for me. Once I had a way to carry water for painting in my pencil case, with no risk of leaks or spills, I felt free to paint anywhere, anytime.

As I continued to experiment, I found that the Moleskine sketchbook paper resisted or reacted oddly with most wet media, like regular watercolors or ink washes, but that when I washed water over watercolor crayon, the color blended well and stuck to the page.

Over the course of my first year of drawing, I filled nine notebooks. (I've pulled selected drawings from that year, and combined them with the corresponding blog entries, to make a 52-page book: Selected Days 2005: images from www.elizabethperry.com. You can order copies online for $19.95.)


For my second year, as the project continued, I began to look for sketchbooks which would work better with a wider variety of media. I wanted something pocket-sized, with heavy paper, and a sewn binding, so that I could draw across a two-page spread. Affordable alternatives were hard to find. In reading Gwen Diehn's book, The Decorated Journal, I came across her chapter, "The reluctant bookbinder," in which she had instructions for a "two-hour journal," stitched on cords. I tried it, and though my first attempt took more than three hours, I was pleased with the result.

binding1.jpg binding2.jpg

binding3.jpg binding4.jpg

As a holiday project, I decided to bind 12 books for 2006, one for each month. The covers are made of lightweight calfskin, and the paper is a printmaking paper, Lenox 100. The twelve finished books looked like this:


Once I began using paper on which I could paint, I got some wonderful gouache colors. If you are not familiar with it, gouache is an opaque relation of watercolor. The artist Roz Stendahl has a lot of good advice on her site, and it was from her that I got the idea of re-using a child's party-favor paintbox, by rinsing out the old colors and squeezing in small bits of gouache and letting it dry. I use my Niji waterbrush to rewet the colors, and depending on the amount of water used, can vary the effect from opaque to transparent. I have had good luck with M. Graham brand of gouache, but the chief thing I've been told is to get artist grade gouache if you are interested in learning about color, as the student grades don't mix well.


Here is a snapshot of my party favor set with eight colors. You can see how small it is next to the waterbrush - it is really about the size of a pair of postage stamps.

Someone on Russ Stutler's Sketching Discussion List described using polymer clay, like Fimo, to make paint wells in a mint tin in a wonderful long thread on sketchboxes.

altoids1.jpg     altoids2.jpg

I had a mini-Altoids tin I'd been saving, and used the eraser end of a pencil to make little wells in the clay. The finished paintbox is heavier than the party favor set, but now I have room for twelve colors.

I also carry a Kuretake brush pen, which takes cartridges like a fountain pen, but has a brush instead of a pen nib. The ink is water-soluble, so I can make washes if I use the Niji waterbrush with it.

Occasionally, I will use water-soluble oil pastels. Portfolio is the brand, and because they are intended for school children, a set of 24 is very reasonably priced.

So that's a summary of the materials I am using the most these days.

For many more wonderful resources on drawing and materials, visit the Everyday Matters site maintained by Danny Gregory, and please consider joining the affiliated Yahoo discussion group.


Thanks for much for posting this. I'm going to gift Michelle with many of your suggestions, this Christmas (including your book!). Woolgathering!!!



Thanks so much for posting this, having read through and followed while you were making these book and the paint tins, I have a pond kinship with them. It is great to see what the finished product looks like. The Kuretake brush looks VERY interesting. Best get that book of yours ready for the Christmas orders!

that is so clever! i am going to need to make a little portable tin like that, as well. oh my. so clever. i am freaking out. you know, i am thinking that those day of the week divided pill containers would work super well for that, also. they make ones with a few compartments and ones that hold 7 days, more, less. hm. i am so excited that i found your blog! i don't know a lot of local artists anymore. yay!

Thank you for sharing all these tips!

I saw the altoid tin link also and made one for myself last week, but have not photographed it... here's the link to the site I found on the idelminutes site: http://www.idleminutes.com/index.php/2006/05/20/make-a-mini-watercolor-palette/

I also found several cool bookbinding links several months ago & sewed one book but didn't finish...I'll post some good links on my blog today so people can have a look...

Love your artwork, thanks for sharing!

Thank you all, and thanks for the link, Jessica.

Due to an onslaught of spammers, I've temporarily closed comments on this post, sorry. Please feel free to email me with questions... I will open the thread again when things calm down.

what a cool idea for a portable watercolor box in the altoid tin - with the fimo clay for color wells. I am going to try that myself to add to my travel sketching kit.

I found your blog through notebookism. Nice feature on your sketches. I'm glad to have landed here. Thank you for posting your thoughts about materials you use. I don't have my own computer at the moment - mine just recently died and i'm waiting to be able to buy a new one, but when I do get back to blogging and reading others blogs regularly, I'll definitely be back to yours.

on flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/montanaraven/sets

hey Elizabeth, I wondered how you bind sketchbooks. Does it save money? My email address is, well you know! I would like for you to email me how to do it!
Thanks for inspiring!
Kenz :)



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