Art, Bookbinding, equipment, Landscape, Portland, Sketching, Urban Landscape, watercolor

Sketching Downtown Portland plus my sketch kit

I buddy of mine and I went to the East Side Esplanade on Portland’s waterfront to sketch today. It was cloudy and threatened rain but was warm and pleasant otherwise. I realized, after I’d started drawing, I’d forgotten to bring some paper towels for watercolor but I think I’m just as happy I didn’t color this sketch of the Portland Skyline.

Portland skyline from East Bank Esplanade

Hawthorne Bridge and Portland Skyline pen and ink in 8″ x 5″ sketchbook

We moved down the way a bit toward the Burnside Bridge. I’ve drawn this one before. I like the Drawbridge Tender’s building. My friend pointed out that it looks kind of medieval with the buttresses under it. Actually I guess they’re not buttresses when they’re holding something up like this. Anyone know what they’re called?

Burnside Bridge detail

Burnside Bridge ink and watercolor in 8″ x 5″ sketchbook.


This sketchbook is just about full and I was stitching up a new one last night. Even though I have gotten some books and found other online references on binding projects like this, I found my self back at Trumpetvine Travels re-reading Martha’s most excellent book binding instructions. Hers are the most clear and detailed I’ve found.

I noticed that Martha recently wrote a post showing her entire sketching kit. If you’re interested in sketching make sure to check out Martha’s beautiful and extremely informative blog, Trumpetvine Travels.

I thought I would show my sketch kit here as well because I always enjoy a peak into other artist’s tools and techniques and, although it’s very similar to Martha’s, I’ve found one thing that I really love that makes the whole thing really easy for me to carry with me and therefore makes me more likely to sketch.

I tried using a map case that Russell Stutler wrote about on his blog, here. but I found it a bit clumsy to open and close and it also, if not balanced exactly right, would hang awkwardly.

This is something I found at an REI store but I don’t see it on their website. It’s a nylon zippered book cover designed for camping and outdoor stuff but I find that it’s the perfect size for a Moleskine sized sketchbook with room to carry a small watercolor box and a couple of drawing utensils.

Sketch Kit 1 Sketch Kit 2 Sketch Kit 3

Everything I need fits in this zipped up little package. It even has a ring so you can clip it on a backpack if you want. Other than at REI, I’m not sure where to find it. It’s labeled as being made by ‘Warp Corp Seattle WA’ but I Googled them and didn’t see anything like this on their site. Maybe other outdoor gear stores would carry it too.

Allana wrote in a comment that she found it on REIs website here.

23 thoughts on “Sketching Downtown Portland plus my sketch kit”

  1. What wonderful sketches. I have such a hard time with buildings and admire someone who can render them so well. And thank you for sharing your sketch kit as well. It’s fun to see what others use! As for Martha at Trumpet Vine…I too have found her detailed instructions the best…even after gleeming through several of my own bookbinding books. Enjoyed my visit!


  2. I saw your post on tagsurfer under watercolor. Your sketches are wondefu! I am very glad you didn’t color the Portland skyline as it is absolutely wonderful the way it is. Happy sketching!


  3. That’s such a wonderful sketch and bridge painting. I’ve seen that bridge in person when I visited Portland and was also attracted to that portion of it. I love your little sketching setup. It looks nice and lightweight too. I recently got one of those viewfinders and haven’t had a chance to use it out in the field yet.


  4. Bill, I love your sketches and thanks for the post about yoru travel gear. I LOVE posts like this.
    I’m always teasing my husband that men need purses…..I’ll have to show him your art “purse”.


  5. Bill — Enjoyed looking at your sketches. I used to live in Seattle, but unfortunately, Portland is a town I’ve only visited fleetingly. I understand it’s a great place and hope to visit and explore more some time.

    I see our kits are pretty similar! That’s a neat case you use. I may look into it. Does the nylon make it water resistant? Also, do you use the same fountain pen as Martha?


  6. alanna, thanks for finding it. I searched their website but didn’t think of googling the description of it.


  7. Jana, Portland has some really great bridges. Of course they don’t compare to the Golden Gate bridge although, the St John’s bridge was designed by the same designer as the Golden Gate bridge.


  8. Lindsay, I wish you hadn’t said that about the purse. I do find that as I get older I have more things to cart around with me but my wife obliges me and carries my glasses – when I remember to bring them.


  9. Hi Lee-Roy,

    The case is water resistant (important in Portland). I’m afraid my fountain pen as nice as Martha’s. I think the Sailor’s start at a couple hundred dollars. The one in the photo is a Waterman Phileas – only about $40 dollars. It does not have a very fine nib but the lines it makes have a lot of character. I also have a Lamy Safari ($19) and a Rotring Cor Technor ($9.99). I bought all three at I enjoy using the Waterman much more than the others. A friend recently gave me a Pilot Fountain Pen that she got in Japan which I like but it’s a lot more slender and I prefer the way the Waterman feels in my hand. I’d love to have one like Martha’s. It’s on my Christmas list.

    Thanks for visiting!


  10. I love boththe sketches…love the ink sketch just as is. I have a bad habit ofalways wanting to put in colour and afterwards I regret is, because sometimes a sketch asks just for inklines or even just pencil! and you’re right, the burnside bridge does look medieval…beautiful, I love it.
    Great having a peek into your sketch tools too!


  11. The sketches are gorgeous! On more than one occasion when I have forgotten my paper towel I have used my jeans! Some colors wash out and some don’t. But that’s the price you pay, I guess.

    Thank you for the peek at your kit. That case looks spiffy indeed. I gather that when you sketch you just keep the book in there? It’s easy to hold while standing?


  12. Thanks Ronell and Chris.

    Hi Martha,

    I used to keep the sketchbook in the cover when I sketched but I found that, with the watercolor box and other things in there, the cover of the sketchbook got deformed so now I put the closed sketchbook in one side of the cover just to carry it and take it out when I sketch.

    I hardly ever stand when I sketch. If I used the smaller sized sketchbook, like you do, it would probably be easier to hold standing up.


  13. Hello, what is the name of the squared crystal?, do they sell it in any place?
    Jose Luis, Spain.


  14. I am re-branding my photography business and came across your sketch while researching bridges and the likes.

    Would you allow the purchase of a copy of this sketch? It would potentially cropped and a portion of it used for my new logo.

    Thought it never hurts to ask…

    Thank you very much for your consideration!!


  15. Hi Bill,

    I find myself returning to your blog quite often – especially now that I’m binding my own sketchbooks using Martha’s wonderful instructions at Like you, I also prefer a larger 8×5 sketchbook. I recently purchased the moleskine folio at, which is a cover made especially for moleskine large sketchbooks. Although a bit pricey at $50, it is absolutely perfect for this size book. I use it for both work and fun.


  16. Hi Bill, I just happened upon your blog…wonderful sketches and watercoloring! I noticed in your photo above with your sketchbook, what is the name of the rule-of-thirds tool in the photo? Is that something you made yourself, or is it commercially available?


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