I get asked pretty often what sort of tools one should take with them to the cafe/coffee shop for journaling and sketching purposes. Here’s my list: (I have linked to any vendor I know and trust for the various products. If I do not have a vendor directly linked you can assume I picked it up from someplace I cannot remember or Artist and Craftsman in Saugus, MA.)
First get a bag or roll to store your stuff in. I have a repurposed 1980’s (totally vintage) cassette tape softie case- some sort of flammable foam encased in a heavy canvas. If I were to buy a new case (and I’m considering it) I’d get one of these bad boys from JetPens. If you are using nicer (ie expensive) fountain pens you’ll want a wrap inside that case to further protect them from scratches. I bartered a drawing for my current case, but again, Jetpens carries a nice selection of pen and pencil rolls.
As for tools I carry the following and interchange a few things as I see fit:
2 fountain pens, one with a fine nib and one with a medium or bold nib. Right now I’m carrying a TWSBI 540 and a 530. I have them filled with black ink. I alternate these 2 pens with other pens from my collection, most often seen in my kit are a pair of Platinum Preppies, also in fine and medium, also always filled with black ink. (Occasionally I’ll make a choice to fill one with another lighter color- usually a brown or sepia color.) If I'm going ultra lightwight I take just a Kaweco Sport Medium nibbed fountain pen that stows in my pocket.
As for black ink I’d suggest the following: Pelikan Fount India, Platinum Carbon Black or Noodler’s Black. They all show relatively little lift when washed over and are a nice deep black in most pens and look great. Fill the pens before you go.
For other pens I suggest the Uniball Signo line. I’ve got a strong love going for the ultra fine lines made by the Uni Signo Bit 0.18 and the Uni Signo DX in 0.28 and 0.38. I also really like their fine point Jetstream and other pens. Their ink stays put, is fade resistant, waterproof and a nice deep black. You can also get refills for their pens, so they are a little more green than other disposable pens. Another addition that I like quite a lot is the Uniball Signo white pen in broad. I like to use it as a white out ink and to add back in highlights.
For pencils I’m going to harp on the Uniball line again, both the Kuru Toga and the Shift Pipe Lock are awesome pencils. I like a .5 for general sketching and a .7 for sketching with shading. I use either B or 2B lead in mine. I don’t know why you can’t get anything better than HB in the average US office store like Staples, but there are a lot more leads available than just HB. If I’m not in the mood for a mechanical pencil I’ll carry a few pencils with me, specifically an HB, 2B and a 4B. I’ll also carry a pencil sharpener and a click knife.
Brush pens or waterbrushes. I’m a HUGE fan of the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen or PPBP. It’s not overly expensive, readily available, easily converted to eyedropper and looks pretty smart. Once converted to eyedropper you can fill them with any color of ink you want. I have one filled with Pelikan Fount India and another with J. Herbin Gris Nuage.
The journal or sketchbook portion of this is very individual. I like to carry something inexpensive. Lately I’ve been carrying a Canson XL Series Blue Books in pocket size. You can read my full review of this lovely little journal in Put it on Paper. I’ve filled 3 since March of this year. They are pretty much perfect for my current style of sketching and journaling. I also carry my MTNKO. One day I’ll buy the real thing but for now it’s the MTNKO. In it I have crammed a bunch of refills: 2 blank and 1 grid Field Notes, 2 blank handmade notebooks, and one Bandit Apple Carnet. Yeah, I’m using them all. The Gridded Field Notes is all about plans for this blog, Ideas I’m having for classes, thoughts on current classes, YT video ideas and the like. One of the blank Field Notes is for the Experiment the other is for mapping out specific ideas for my YT videos. One of the blank handmade notebooks is for random ideas and to do lists- things like the grocery list, things I need to do around the house, Home Depot shopping lists etc.. The other handmade is for sketching as is the Banditapple Carnet.
I stuff all this into a bag and head for the cafe/coffee shop. I ORDER SOMETHING and I sit in a location where I have a nice view and I start sketching away. If I’m there for over an hour I ORDER SOMETHING ELSE.* After a few instances of going to the same coffee shop you will become a regular, if they have a good barista/bartender they might get to know you, your name and even your drink. They won’t care much about your drawing, or they will take a passing interest.
Next post will be about various bags for using when out sketching. I have many...
I used to be really nervous about drawing and writing in public but the reality is... No one seems to care. Occasionally a kid or fellow artist comes along and wants to chat but 97%** of the time no one talks to me or even looks at my work. The waitress will see what i’m working on but generally it me and my sketches and journaling.
*Look you don’t want to be that jerk who sits in the coffee shop drawing all day and nursing the same luke warm coffee. The baristas will make fun of you, especially if you do it a lot. The baristas could give 2 craps about you sitting there drawing but they and the owners need to make a living, and if you are sitting there sucking up wifi and drinking the same cold coffee for 4 hours you are a jerk. Buy a 2nd cup or something else. Also, protip- eat something, coffee can do horrible things to an empty stomach and the baristas usually have to clean the restroom, be kind. Also if it’s the sort of place where they wait tables, for god’s sake tip well. Bad tippers are remembered. If you take up a table for 2+ hours you are taking money out of the waitress’s pocket, make up for it with a good tip. Good tippers are always treated well, bad tippers are whispered about and possible made fun of. No one wants to wait on a bad tipper. (Spoken as a former sandwich slinging barista.)
**May not be accurate.