Your travel size paint set will most likely come with a paintbrush that is actually quite serviceable for the travel sketcher. Artists tend to love their brushes, some to the point of compulsiveness. There is nothing wrong with that that, however for the travel sketcher there are three considerations that may need to temper your thinking:
- Risk of damaging an expensive brushes in a bag
- The need to have a water container and water available
Thus the water-brush is the travel sketchers go-to tool. Now, before all the bristle brush advocates chime in about quality, keep in mind that we are travel sketching not painting for the Prada. Of course when I do studio work I have more brushes than I ever use, and some are quite nice. I do even have a bristle travel brush, which for the life of me I cannot find at the moment. It was expensive and nice enough, but the convenience of a water-brush is hard to beat.
Travel brushes come in a variety of sizes, I have a fine and a medium, the fine gets used the most due to the smaller format I tend to use most, and to my style of painting. The “handle” is hollow and filled with water, thus you are ready to paint any time and any place, there is no need to carry and/or juggle a water cup. As a side benefit they are extremely easy to clean, squeeze a little water out, wipe off with a paper towel and you are done.
For sketchpads I find that Moleskines work well, I use a Pocket (3.5” x 5.5”) most often. Yet when I am on a serious trip I use the Large (5” x 8.25”). There are other brands that do well, but I have been a Moleskine user for many years.
It is a good idea to keep a paper towel in your bag, there have been many times I wanted to sketch and ended up wiping a brush on my jeans, I know, I know… but “desperate times call for…”
A zippered pencil case holds all of this quite well, if it is large enough even the sketchpad, though mine is not that big. Then all you need to do is grab the bag, the pad, and you are off. I try to never use travel tools while in the studio so that the travel kit is always ready to go, and nothing is missing.
Travel sketching is about capturing a moment, and thankfully the tools are relatively simple and affordable.