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Sketching: What I Pack in my Travel Art Kit

Take a look at what I pack in my travel art kit when I'm out exploring.

A selection of sketcbooks in sizes A5 and A6, a water brush, tube of paint, bulldog clip and a grey and orange artist roll with wax oil pastels in it alongside some drawing pencils. The text reads What I pack in my Travel Art Kit - Nicola Ellen Illustration

Hello you! Welcome back! In this blog post I am going to show you what I pack in my travel art pack, how I decide what to pack and what I took with me on holiday a couple of weeks ago!

How I pack my art materials day to day

Pack for convenience. If it's too bulky or easily covered up in your bag, it won't encourage you to pick it out!

So day to day, I always carry around a small sketchbook around with me in my bag, along with a fine liner pen and a small pencil. Since February I have had a teeny tiny sketchbook and a 2B pencil in my coat pocket, so that whenever I feel the urge to sketch, I can grab my sketchbook really easily. This comes in very handy as we've been on a lot of very beautiful walks this year and I have wanted to sketch lots. However, my partner and daughter don't like to sit around for long, so I have to do super quick sketches to capture the scene before we carry on walking again.

What I like to pack for a holiday

When we go on holiday I do pack more. I take a number of sketchbooks with me and I pack my artists roll. I have been known to take a3 sketchbooks away with me, but this is partly because we stay in some lovely places so I like to draw from the cottage we are staying in. I do like to take a range of sketchbooks with me though, varying in size, layout and paper. The books have to be able to sit on my bag easily alongside my artist roll, food, a water bottle and a kite (among many other bits and pieces!)

In my artists roll, I carry all the materials I think I will need. Again this varies depending on where we are going. One year we went to the beach and I took a small bottle of ink with me but I forgot to take a paint brush, so I did some lovely ink drawings of the sea and cliffs with a small stick that I had laying about!

A small black sketchbook with a pencil on top, next to it a slightly bigger black sketchbook with a black pen and yellow pencil on top, next to that, a small pile of sketchbooks with a grey artist roll that buckles on top. The text says What I pack in my Travel Art Kit - Nicola Ellen Illustration

So how do I decide what materials to pack?

Pack the materials you love and know will be excited to use. Don't over think it either.

I like to pack colours and materials that will suit where we are visiting. I also consider the weather (ink is no good in the wind and if you can't sit down for a period of time!), what our plans are and that I have a young family to keep entertained!

We usually plan what places we will visit on holiday in advance, which means I can plan ahead accordingly. If we head to North Yorkshire, I know we are likely to be at a beach, a historic building of some sort and often the National Railway Museum, so a range of sea sidey and old building colours are needed, along with a splash of colour for my favourite trains! If we are heading out for a walk into the Peak District, greens, browns and a drawing pencil are perfect.

My advice is to pack the materials you love and know will be excited to use. Don't over think it either. It can be fun to add a couple of extra bits to mix things up, like a bottle of ink or some oil pastels too. You can be playful in your sketchbooks and sometimes adding a splash of colour that isn't true to the scene can also be fun and give you new ideas for when you are back home in your studio!

What I packed this time

Over Easter, we visited the North Yorkshire coast. We spent two days at the beach and took a trip to the National Railway Museum and Rievaulx Abbey. The weather was mixed but mostly wet and cold. I did hope I'd be able to sit outside our cottage of an evening to draw the view but sadly it rained a lot!


  • Teeny tiny Hahnemühle landscape sketchbook

  • A6 Seawhite of Brighton portrait sketchbook with white paper

  • A6 Seawhite of Brighton portrait sketchbook with black paper

  • A5 thin portrait sketchbook

  • A5ish home made sketchbook made from a mix of paper in different sizes, weights and colours


  • Ally Capellino for Tate canvas artist roll

  • Small Windsor and Newton watercolour tray and water pen

  • Vintage watercolour tube by Wallace and Seymour - Ultramarine Pink

  • 10x Neocolor 1 wax oil pastels - mix of colours

  • 1x Neocolor 2 Aquarelle water soluble wax pastel - Veronese Green

  • 1x white pencil crayon

  • A range of Derwent drawing pencils - H, B, 2B, 3B

  • Faber-Castell fine liner pen - Black

  • A pencil sharpener

  • A cotton bud

  • A bulldog clip to keep my paper from blowing about

The funny thing I found this holiday is, apart from at the railway museum, I actually only used my really small sketchbook and 2B pencil. It was too cold, wet and windy to use anything else and draw for a long time!

So it may seem a bit of overkill that I packed everything else, but sometimes I do get chance to sit and add colour to a sketch, or I have time in an evening to draw more but this time I didn't. Also, because I packed small, they didn't take too much space up in my suitcase, so it wasn't a hassle that I didn't use them. It was good to know I had them there should I have had a bit more time to draw though.

I am really enjoying capturing a scene in really quick sketches at the moment and I am learning how best to draw a view in a short time using few lines. It's fun and different to how I normally work and a lot of these sketches are feeding into new canvas paintings.

I have an accompanying video over on my YouTube channel HERE, if you'd like to see more. I am also really close to finishing my tiny sketchbook so look out for a sketchbook tour very soon too!

If you'd like to see more behind the scenes of my work and a free colouring sheet every month, you can sign up to my newsletter below!

Next time I will be taking you through how I made my homemade sketchbook, so keep a look out for that if you are interested in making your own!

Until next time!


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