Getting Ready for Sketching at the Minnesota State Fair—Gear and a Bag

July 27, 2015

090904HGuineaFowlLeft: Here's a little blast from the past, a Guinea Fowl sketch I made at the 2009 MN State Fair. I'd taken a limited range of watersoluble color pencils. I mostly used them dry as in this example. I worked on 8 x 10 inch journal cards made of 300 lb. Fabriano Artistico, Hot Press watercolor paper. Click on the image to view and enlargement.

One of the most important things I think you can do to get ready at to go sketching at the Minnesota Fair (or any Fair or Royal Show you live near) is to get your gear together.

For me gear almost always includes pens and watercolors, so that means palettes and waterbrushes, some paper towels, and a journal that will take wet media.

But there are also other items that every sketcher needs to stay comfortable and work efficiently throughout a long day of sketching.

In my August 15, 2009 blog post, "Minnesota State Fair Prep—Part 4: 'Travel' Essentials for Sketchers" I show you my pack and my essential gear.

I think this same gear can be used for any other day-trips or sketching vacations (though for the latter you'll need to take additional supplies in your luggage to avoid running out of art materials).

I can't remember when I got my blue fanny back from MountainSmith. I know I was using it in the 1990s. It replaced other packs that were less comfortable, or simply worn out. I've been using it for almost 20 years. During part of that 20 year period that pack was also the "bag" I carried daily, as I ran my errands around town. But around 2010 I stopped carrying it daily because I was looking to lighten my daily load. I have a smaller fanny packs and other bags to use for daily jaunts. This has been a fantastic fanny pack and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I even bought another MountainSmith pack last year. It's vertical and holds about the same materials, but is more accepting of some journal formats. I think I might just have to get another one of these horizontal packs before they stop making them!

The Bagalini shown in the other post is no longer with me, it really didn't hold up to the demands of constant hard use, but I did tend to over-fill it, as it was just a little too small. A host of other bags have auditioned for its role over the years.

Finding exactly the right bag is difficult. I recommend you take your current bag and all your sketching gear with you when you are shopping. Fill the candidate bag up and put it on. Jump up and down and walk a bit in that area of the store. See how it feels.

Wear similar clothing to what you'll wear on the day, when testing a bag. This is particularly important if you are going for a full back pack and intend to wear a wide-brimmed hat that extends backwards. The last thing you want is for the brim of your hat to hit the topmost extension of your back pack all day long, while you try to sketch live subjects darting all about!

Store trial is much more efficient than buying a bag and taking it home, only to return it. Some bags "look" big enough or just right, but a zipper lining turns out not to accommodate a sketchbook or brush box, and it can be immediately ruled out.

Even after you have purchased it I still recommend you take it for a sketching test drive to a short event, like a 2-hour trip to the zoo. This will help you work out all the organizational glitches with a new bag, and help you learn your new storage system, so that you'll be able to work effortlessly at the Fair.

Oh, and before I leave the topic of gear bags I should mention that some of my friends use photographer's or hunter's vest's. The large array of pockets helps you stow a lot of gear. I don't care to wear these (I tried one out in the field when I was tracking with the girls). I find that all that weight on my shoulders pulls me down, and greatly diminishes my ability to sketch for long periods of time. But everyone has different tolerances and they might be just the thing you're looking for. Find them at any large hunting or camping store. Be sure to allow enough room beneath them, for the layers of clothing you'll wear on the day. (For instance on sunny days I wear a t-shirt AND a light weight "sunscreen" shirt. Those shirts can also be purchased at camping and hunting supply stores.)

The Fair starts August 27. The Seventh Minnesota State Fair Sketch Out is on Tuesday, Sept. 1. That doesn't leave you a whole lot of time to sort out your gear if you aren't already prepared.

Take some time this week to get organized, so you can test your media and tool selection on a trip to the zoo or other sketching outing. Then you'll be all set to hit the ground sketching, at the Minnesota State Fair.

    • Ulla
    • July 27, 2015

    I’m in your 30 day class and loving it. I just got the two kids pallets from wetpaint, and now I am trying to find the link to which watercolors you use in these tiny ones. Do you mind re-posting it here?

  1. Reply

    Here you go Ulla
    Azo Yellow (MG), Gamboge (either), Phthalo Turquoise, Indanthrone Blue, Nap. Maroon, Quin Pink, Perylene Red, Quin Sienna, Quin Gold, Buff Titanium, Titanium White, Calligraphy Gold Gouache (Schmincke)

    MG is MGraham, all non-specified are Daniel Smith. If you can’t get MG or DS where you are, go to those company sites and look up the pigment used in each of these and find a brand of paint you like that has that pigment and you’ll be close, different working capabilities in different paints, but close. Avoid Holbein. Way different working.

    Have Fun.

    • Chris
    • July 28, 2015

    Do you have a portable stool? If so which one do you like?

    • Ulla
    • July 28, 2015


  2. Reply

    Hi Roz,

    I was traveling and missed the registration cut-off for your class. So sad! Do you think you’ll be offering it again? Also I signed up for the email a couple of weeks ago, but haven’t received anything. I’m not sure how often you send one.


  3. Reply

    Karen Sorry you missed the registration cut off, but I hope you had a great trip.

    Did you sign in for the mailing list below the “Classes-Gull-Image”? If so then you should get future updates, but things didn’t go out for this class via email lists because they were all screwy.

    I hope to offer the class again, though I’m not sure when. Sometime next year probably.

    Thanks for your interest in classes.

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