Making a Simple Brush Holder for Your Travel Brushes

September 4, 2017
My friend Terri Wentzka took this photo of me as I sketched a turkey at the Fair, using my portable “table.” The entire table is attached to a monopod. The brush holder is in the top right corner of the table.

This year at the Fair I wanted to use real brushes with water, not water brushes, when painting. 

Since I stand when I sketch it meant I had to have a way to put all my supplies and journal on one work surface. Dick and I made up a prototype “travel table” using plastic corrugated board and a monopod. I’ll have more to say about this stand which I used for three nine-hour days to test it during the Fair, when we start making the final version. 

In the meantime I wanted to show you the simple brush holder I created so that my travel brushes could be right at hand, and in no danger of falling in the various waste materials on the barn floors at the Fair.

I have been working on live streaming and so today I made a live stream of the instructions on  how to make this holder. If you go to this link you’ll be able to watch the short video on my process.

There are still some bugs to work out with my live streaming set up. There are some lighting issues and I have to remember to send different views and cameras to the live stream so you don’t just have a view of me talking. I also shouldn’t talk while I make the transitions because it seems that does something to the audio. 

Something that didn’t happen today was comments. My husband couldn’t see how to leave one so I’m not sure if that was working or not. I hope that going forward I can work that bug out. Of course it will be great if I can also work out scheduling and let you know in advance!

In the meantime I hope that you find this short video helpful. 

I have to say that it was so much fun to have real brushes to work with at this Fair instead of the Niji or Pentel Waterbrushes. There’s just a different flow you can get with the paint.

The biggest benefit of the portable work surface was that I was able to stand for 9 hours each of the three days I attended, sketch, and return home with absolutely no aches or pains. This is because when assembled the table is lightweight and easy to hold (even over your head when moving through crowds). And because I had some place for my journal and my palette etc. to all rest I didn’t have to hold everything tight to my body, putting stress on my shoulders. I walked taller and felt great. 

We are definitely going forward with the final version as soon as we can.




    • Tina Koyama
    • September 4, 2017

    You are so inventive and creative with your tools! I’m going to go view your video now.

    – Tina

    1. Reply

      Tina, hope you found it interesting. I am so excited about this new stand and the new possibilities it gives me as I keep standing and sketching. It was so fantastic to come home and not have any shoulder pain or hand stiffness from trying to hold everything in position before my chest and sketch.

  1. Reply

    Great video, I just bought some foam sheets from Michaels to attempt making a brush holder… you’ve given me some great ideas on construction. I was going to hot glue the brush slots, now sure if the foam would hold up for sewing. What is a monopod? you don’t appear to be holding your table with your left hand so it is attached how to the monopod (a tripod with one leg maybe?).

    1. Reply

      Elaine, glad you enjoyed the video. Look forward to hearing more about your foam sheet brush holder.

      A monopod is essentially a collapsible pole with a camera mount on one end. So it looks not unlike one leg of a tripod. They can be very lightweight (as this one is). Also this one has a ball-head mount on it so that I could actually tilt the table towards me. There was a hand cord at the top of the monopod, used for general carrying. I took a lanyard on day 2 and attached it there so I could actually look it around my hand as I worked in case someone bumped me. The thing could be knocked over, but it would still be pivoted on my left hand and thus saved from the muck. (You can google the vast variety of these, which are available from very cheap to very high end. Manfrotto is a good brand. Some have little stabilizing feet on the bottom end that are a “tripod” but mine doesn’t, it’s the simple monopod.)

      Dick put a mounting screw thing (I don’t know what they are called, in a piece of wood on the back of my prototype and this allowed me to screw the monopod head to the table.

      While it may not look like I’m holding it with my left hand, I am balancing it with that hand. There is only one leg and if you don’t balance it it will just fall over.

      But the beauty of all this was that it was so light and easy to balance you didn’t feel any effort. I would literally raise it above my head with one hand like a large umbrella, to get it way above the 6 foot tall crowd members and then just weave my way through the crowd on my way to the next animal I wanted to sketch. I had absolutely no discomfort or any soreness the next day. I’m so excited about this as I was very despondent about my shoulder issues and my ability to keep sketching standing up. I believe this adds another 10 years to my standing sketching life. I couldn’t be happier. I only wish Dick had less “duties” right now so that he could drop everything and work on the final version.

    • Paul
    • September 5, 2017

    That looks like a very workable set-up Roz. That modified palette looks lovely in action but that seems like a very small water container for so much colour and that many brushes? The use of a single signature for sketching is a great weight saving idea! Looking forward to your final evaluation of this set-up and whether you think that many brushes are really needed for field sketching? Thanks for sharing. You know I’m already making plans for my own portable sketching table😀with monopod for urban sketching and tripod for landscapes……perhaps a folding version that I can pack in my shoulder bag or backpack for lap use…so many possibilities!

    1. Reply

      Finding the right water container is still a work in progress. I emptied it out several times (carried a bottle for waste water) so it worked find. And watercolor sediment tends to settle so you can still get OK mixes with slightly dirty water. The 3rd day of the Fair I used a double jar system—same small containers but they were on one metal piece. We are looking for ways to solve this issue in the final version. It’s important to have something that can be easily capped when you are walking from subject to subject. And I want something ultimately that I can carry ink and dip pen with—because that’s really what this is all about. What it’s always been about. Keep me posted on your prototypes!

      Oh as to that many brushes being needed. When testing I always take more than I need because I want to try out different combos in one trip. I think in different circumstances I would have used the scrubber more. (It was too humid for scrubbing the paper.) I tended to use the mop a lot because it is so amazingly fun and I couldn’t believe I had one to use!!! But I used all of them and know that depending on which circumstance I’m in all would be necessary. The great thing is that they are contained so there is no reason to not take them all.

        • Paul
        • September 5, 2017

        Thanks for your thorough reply Roz. As to my prototypes, I will wait to see your “final” version…why reinvent the wheel😉. BTW, someone manufactures a plastic version of those caped clip-on wells which would be lighter but may not be as serviceable, I haven’t tried them (yet).

        1. Reply

          Paul, I think the wheels you invent are pretty cool. I will keep a look out for plastic wells with caps. I have one I used that was single and had no clip, and I could attach it with velcro. But I’m really liking the urine specimen bottle someone suggested!!! Of course I don’t want too much water in case someone bumps me. We’ll see.

            • Dana Burrell
            • September 8, 2017

            Roz and Paul, I think we all should try my friend Bobbie’s idea. She uses an inexpensive clip-on double metal palette cup like this one on Michael’s website and inserts capped 35mm film containers to hold the water. They’re easily capped when moving around and if you have extras they can even be switched out for cleaner water.


            I have used a specimen jar because they seal so well and are easy for traveling but it’s a bit larger than the palette cups and harder to attach to the coroplast board. I’ve used velcro but it’s a bit wobbly and I haven’t been brave enough to take it to the fair!

            I have this vision of you winding your way though the fair holding the monopod above your head like an umbrella… love it!!!

          1. Dana, the double metal cup system (they are made for oil and medium to clip on the oil painter’s palette) is what I used, on my second and third outings. It works pretty well because you can keep one clean and one dirty and that makes the water last longer. I’d like them to be a little bigger and the brand I have is a little bigger than the ones you have found at Michael’s.

            My problem with the specimen jar is that it will stick up so much from the surface of the board. I’ll have to find out from Dick how he intends to attach things on the final version. I wouldn’t care for it to be wobbly.

            I wish we had taken a photo of me walking through the crowd, and all the stares. This is not for the faint of heart and for those who feel shy about sketching in public!!!!! I felt quite comfortable with it as I already look odd. And I don’t care.

            • Dana Burrell
            • September 8, 2017

            … and I bet this would work with one of the single clip-on cups and a film canister filled with the india ink & bandage gauze method I’ve heard about. I just googled and found this complete with photos.


          2. Cathy Johnson (painter/author) suggested something like this several years ago. She was basing her suggestions on a Japanese tool for carrying ink. The Yatate. You can see a video about it. (and they sure didn’t want the ink to spill on their silk clothing!!!!

    2. Reply

      I didn’t address the pamphlet issue. When I go to the Fair I am often looking at ways to minimize what can get dumped on the ground and ruined. I typically take journal cards to the Fair for instance. Because I wanted to take FA paper and not cards this solution seemed the easiest for me. It meant that I took only 3 signatures each day (typically filling only 2, but having the extra just in case) and that in itself was lessening the weight of my kit. Also it made it easy to balance things on the table. This prototype would not have been as stable with a heavy 6 or more signature book.

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