I’ve had a few requests for an updated list of supplies. So here it is. I am not a professional artist or anything like that, but I have tried a few different things and I’ve found several supplies that I really like to use. When I started my notebooks, I searched all over to find what other people were using, just to find a place to start, but I had a hard time finding a list like this.
First of all, if you haven’t read Laurie Bestvater’s book, The Living Page, then you should start with that. In her book, she has a list of suggested “keeping” supplies (although mostly generic descriptions and sometimes it’s nice to have a link to something specific) and, I admit, I kind of went wild. But, I think good quality art supplies are the best kind of “toys” or even “educational tools.” I am going to provide links to amazon because it might make things easier for someone who wants to just click and buy. I definitely prefer to support local small businesses, but oh-my-goodness “click and buy” without leaving the house is really helpful for me in my current stage of life. And, just a reminder these are NOT affiliate links. I have absolutely no bias in recommending any of these items.
Nature Notebook Supplies that I Use:
I realize now that my “better quality” supplies probably haven’t improved the quality of my artwork at all, but they HAVE made the process of using them more enjoyable. And, that is worth it to me =). Also, these are just the things that work for me, and even though what I like might not be the best choice for you, it’s possible that reading why I do or don’t like something will be helpful information. I hope so, anyway!
I have tried a variety of paint palettes, but this one is my current favorite. It is not small, but I did not want to use two separate palettes, so this is the one I use at home and also for travel. The palette comes empty and you use tubes of watercolor paint to put the colors where you want them – I suggest you take some time to plan out your colors in a way that makes sense to you before you put any paint down (I wish I had been smarter about my layout). Also, a little bit of watercolor paint goes a really long way, so you don’t need much at all in the palette. If you are doing nature study in a co-op group, you might consider splitting one really nice set of paint tubes between ten or so palettes – you’d probably still have lots leftover. This palette also has a long skinny section that holds a paintbrush or two. It even has a nifty spot to hook your thumb through so you can hold it when you are painting without a table (in my lap!). I bought this inexpensive set of paints and they work for me, but I haven’t tried a lot of brands of paint. Also, my nature journal is kind of bulky, but its beauty makes up for its weight. It is a handcrafted leatherbound watercolor journal from etsy. I can see the appeal of a smaller palette and a smaller journal, but these sizes work for me.
When I started my nature journal, I was frustrated when I tried to add details to my painting. I thought I needed a very small detail brush. I bought about five brushes (less than ten dollars each). Recently, I invested in one real sable brush and I wish I had started with that instead of buying multiple brushes. I personally don’t use more than one brush when I’m painting, so I think it’s best to get one high-quality brush. Also, the sable brush I bought (size 8) is a lot bigger than the small brushes but the bristles come to a point, so you can still paint a nice detail.
I’ve also tried several brands of waterbrushes – it’s a genius idea where the brush holds water in the stick part and you release the water by gently squeezing. But, since I am doing dry brush technique, I use very little water (just a few drops for a whole painting), and these get too wet too easily for my taste – but they aren’t expensive, so try it – you might love it.
Commonplace Book Supplies that I Use:
I bought a leather cover from etsy that holds three moleskine cahier notebooks. I love it! I like that I can take the books in and out easily, although I haven’t needed to yet. I thought I would be filling up a cahier book every month or so, but I write really small and am not even one-third of the way through my first one so far.
Calligraphy Supplies that I Use:
I have ventured into the world of pointed nib dip pen calligraphy. And it is sooooo fun! I bought this book, which has been the perfect guide!
These are my favorite nibs (they’re for manga drawing), but it’s a good idea to try lots of different ones. I also prefer the manga nib holder (because it’s wood and has a cushion at the top — and it’s not any more expensive than the plastic ones). I have several different inks – my favorite is a manga ink, because it’s a very rich dark black (almost shiny), but it’s also the most dangerous because it takes a long time to dry and some parts stay wet even overnight – this means that it is easy to ruin your whole project with one wrong move. It is so hard to do calligraphy without getting ink all over my fingers! I don’t mind ink on my fingers but I do not want it on my paper! =) I also have Speedball super black and also Daler Rowney FW Acrylic Artist ink. I think each ink reacts differently with different nibs and especially on different paper. You really can’t do calligraphy on printer paper. I use smooth bristol board paper.
Mrs. Bestvater suggested a writing desk (on an incline) in her book and I remember hearing how that’s helpful for calligraphy too. I tried a few ideas for making one myself, but I recently bought this one (large size) and I think it’s really great – very sturdy. I struggle with good posture, so having my writing surface higher really helps. I tried this wooden easel first because I like the look of the wood and it’s less expensive, but it is really intended to be used in a more upright angle – when I had it farther back it kept sliding down flat when I put pressure on it (as you do when painting or doing calligraphy). I ended up keeping it though because it really is lovely and it can still be used for upright painting and also for displaying picture study books.
Keeping Supplies that I do NOT recommend:
I bought a white sharpie with oil-based paint in it, that I hoped would allow me to add white dots on top of watercolor, but it isn’t nearly opaque enough. White gouache paint (the kind that comes with most watercolor paint tube sets) applied with a (not very wet) paint brush works much better.
I’ve also bought several sizes of Micron pens, but the super-fine tips seem to break quickly and they are not cheap. When not broken, though, these pens are excellent.
In my opinion, multiple brushes are a waste of money. I don’t want to mess with holding lots of brushes when I’m painting in my lap outside, so I think it’s best to put the same amount of money into one good brush.
I bought this Niji roll, but I don’t trust it to protect the bristles of a fancy sable brush (I just use the plastic sleeve it came in — it’s like stiff plastic tubing — and store the brush inside my plastic paint palette). I do have a few pencils that I like to use but I keep those at home and don’t like to fuss with them “in the field.”