Small Setup

My favorite way to draw standing up is to just hold my palette and book. It helps keep my kit as light as possible and it helps me maneuver myself into tight spots in busy places.  So I wanted a setup as close to “nothing” as I could get for my travel-sketching workshop in Oaxaca next week, where we’ll wander around the markets and the streets sketching.  So why a setup? I want to be able to change the angle of my sketchbook easily to let all the participants see what I was doing and when I have no backing board this is hard to do.

So I came up with this and have been working with it for a while to see if it will do what I want it to. It’s super-simple, barely heavier than my ‘nothing’ setup and I think I like it. These two photos are me holding it at home in my studio, there was no one to take photos when I used it on location. standing

So what is it? Just this. A coroplast sheet, small enough to fit into my backpack without folding (less wide than my opened up 8×10 inch sketchbook, but that doesn’t matter), two binder clips to hold my sketchbook open, and two more with magnetic binder clips to hold my palette firmly. That’s it.

This is how it goes together. Two magnets means the palette is very stable: you can bump into it (happens a lot in a busy place) and it won’t fall off easily. My water container usually just sits there on my palette but I’m blu-tacking it down to keep it extra stable. It reduces my mixing space but having all the weight right here in the middle of the board is much more stable than having the water clipped off to the side. My holding arm tires the least with this all-in-one-place setup, and I don’t have to re-learn where to go dip my brush between colors, because this setup is pretty close to where everything is usually.
paletteI’ll let you know how it holds up to sketching in Oaxaca. If it works in the mercados it’ll work almost anywhere…it might even hold up to sketching in the fish markets in India!

I learnt some things in trying to make a setup for myself:
1) It didn’t work to just see someone’s setup online and replicate it, I needed to decide what my needs of my setup were. “Must work in a crowded market” is very important to me, it might not be for you. “Must weigh very little” “no assembly required” and “must fit in my current sketchbag” were also high on the list.
2) It helped to let things be positioned where they usually are when I stand and sketch. When I tried to “better” my setup by clipping the water container to one side, off my palette, I did get back my mixing space, but I am so used to going for the water container where it is that I didn’t like the ‘better’ setup.

Oh, and here’s a closeup of the color palette I’m taking along.

About Suhita Shirodkar

obsessive-sketcher. graphic designer.
This entry was posted in How to, mexico, supplies, Supplies and Materials, teaching, tools, Travel, Workshop and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Small Setup

  1. Laurie Householder says:

    I can’t wait to see your work from Mexico! Your colors and your expressive painting is really cool!


  2. Laurie Householder says:

    Is that a S&B soft cover book?


  3. I’ve just made something similar for myself but I haven’t tried it out yet! I’m looking forward to hearing how it works out for you in Oaxaca!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Carol Davis says:

    A friend of mine lives in Oaxaca…thought you might look her up (Joan’s mother lives in Santa Rosa so she is in CA from time to time.)


  5. Barbara Beynon says:

    Your ability to so clearly describe how you arrived at this setup is impressive. Anyone reading this could recreate what you’ve developed and, if needed, tweak to their own needs. Thanks for your generosity!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh Barbara, thank you. I felt almost silly posting a coroplast board with a few clips… but I think it’s worth considering super-simple setups 🙂


  7. msraaka says:

    This is very helpful, Suhita! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Excellent tips (love the magnet clip idea which solves a problem I’ve had) and wise advice. Thanks for sharing. And have a terrific workshop.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Frankye says:

    Thank you so much for your detailed information. The magnetic clips are a great idea. I love reading, seeing, your regular posts. Your work is energetic, rich, and so nice to experience it over the cyber highway!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Beryl Polin says:

    This is fantastic, I hope to copy this approach. I have the potential to be an “obsessive sketcher” as you describe yourself…but I wonder for myself really, what might the uses be of all the sketching. At my (ahem) age, I shall not likely be turning the sketches into masterpieces, but it is so much fun! Does it become a form of diary then? what

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t turn my sketches into paintings. Most of them are just made for the joy of sketching. They are a journal, but also a way of life: travelling while drawing is a different experience. you see slower but deeper. you see differently. even at home, I find I notice differently because I draw. I sometimes sell my sketches. But really mostly, they are just that. Sketches because I love to sketch. I hope you let yourself get obsessed and see if you like it that way! 🙂


    • Beryl, for me the point, MOSTLY is in the making of them. The process is the reward : I love putting pen to paper, and I love that it helps me see more clearly and deeply. I sell some of my work, I teach sketchbooking and urban sketching… but those are added bonuses


  11. Diane Winters says:

    Very nice, Suhita. But I worried as soon as I saw the photos of you standing with the setup up that a jostle in the market or any small space could send half the contents of that water cup cascading down the page. The must be a special art to optimizing the size of your water supply when painting – enough, not more than enough.
    Say hello to my beloved Oaxaca for me. I long to get back there again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Diane, you are so right (i’m just back from a magical week in Oaxaca) and I did not use this in the market. so much easier to just hold a book and nothing else. (Sketches from Oaxaca coming soon)


  12. Lynn Holbein says:

    This is so helpful, Suhita! Finding a light portable but convenient setup is so hard, and it’s so useful to see yours in detail. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s