I’m on vacation for a few days to visit my brother and his lovely (and pregnant!) wife. While I’m away some of my favourite local artists and bloggers have agreed to do posts for you! Today, Vicky Taylor-Hood (with help from her daughter Katherine) shows you how to put together an awesome art kit. Enjoy!


When I was a little girl, visiting my grandmother, the best visits involved time in her studio. We would break out the paints and paper and she would show me the way in which she could make the picture in her head soar and land on the blank sheet before us, imprinted on paper with pencil or brush. Smelling new, cold-pressed watercolour paper still reminds me of her and those afternoons in her chilly studio working with real artist’s materials.

Maybe that’s why, when Katherine was growing up, I never really used kid materials for her once she was old enough not to eat them. Katherine quickly graduated to Winsor & Newton watercolour paints and used my good (but not best) brushes. We used real watercolour paper, not just white printer paper, whenever possible, even if it wasn’t the really good kind. Pastels, both chaulk and oil, were a messy afternoon of fun. We got Jones Tones Plexi glue everywhere and I learned how to get acrylic paints out of the hair of a four-year-old.

Working with children on a myriad of art projects has taught me many things. I can now grab and keep the attention of a herd of eight-year-olds with the wave of a brush. There’s a magic to art that enthrals them and an exhilaration in being a performing visual artist for a rapt audience. I have also learned that the results of children are dramatically improved when they are provided with decent-quality materials. While you don’t need to have the absolute best of everything (who could afford that?), buy the most decent quality that you can afford, especially of the basics.

Katherine and I have conspired to put together an Emergency Art Kit for you, designed for portability and suitable for any child from age 6 to about 96. Our criteria were that the contents had to be supremely versatile, compact, relatively low-mess and convenient to use when in travel; I often grab a large ziplock of supplies when we head out on a road trip or to the cabin and Katherine and I both use them.

Without further ado, here’s what Katherine thinks every good  Artist’s Kit ought to have for the artist and child in each of us (with my own refinements):

1. Paper. Specifically watercolour and sketching paper. Paper that is heavy enough to withstand glue and water. Paper you can stick things to and scribble on with impunity.

My sketch book, comprised of a combination Strathmore 400 Series Drawing Paper and Arches Cold-Press 300lb watercolour paper

While we often have a small tablet of watercolour paper with us, just as a convenient means of having the paper around, my choice method of making sure I have the right paper is to construct a book, like the one I made above, with removable pages, that contains a customized assortment of the different paper types that you like to use. Make it small enough to be portable and large enough to be a flat surface. You’ll always have the right paper with you, you can take out the sheets if they turn out to be good finished products, AND you can have a whale of a time making the book in the first place!

2. Glue. Practicality dictates a glue-stick, but my personal low-cost preference is for Elmer’s School Glue Gel. It’s blue, but dries clear. It can stick things, but also functions as a resist and a crackling medium in a pinch. If money is less of an object, go straight to the good stuff and buy yourself some Jones Tones Plexi Glue. That is the bee’s knees of PVA and can be used to create an embossed effect, with a little acrylic paint (as you can see in a post here)

3. Watercolour set & brushes. Do yourself a favour. Buy a good set of Cotman paints by Winsor & Newton. I still have and use the set I was given when I was twelve, as well as the set that my grandmother bought in art school in the 1930s. You can see them here:

Grandma’s paint set on left, mine on right.

Watercolours dry fast. They are versatile and compact. While I enjoy acrylics, transporting the results can be problematic, especially while camping.

Also make sure you have sleeves for the brush tips.

4. Watercolour pencils. These can be used as straight colouring pencils or wet and blended for use as a paint. Very handy.

5. Scissors. Just because sometimes things need cutting. I tote along my Leatherman tool (every mother should have one) and there are compact scissors therein.

Glue, pencils, erasers, Micron pigma pens and a newer incarnation of the afore-mentioned watercolour set.

6. Drawing pencils. A small set is fine. Go for graphite instead of charcoal and fixative doesn’t have to be added to your retinue.

7. Eraser. I’m still a fan of the gum eraser.

8. Bottle for water. Since you have watercolour paper, pencils and paint… Don’t use a drinking cup. Watercolour pigments are toxic.

9. Pencil sharpener. Blindingly obvious when you don’t have one and one is required. Pocket knives do not sharpen watercolour pencils well.

10. Pigma Micron pens, in a couple of diameters. These are light-fast and, once dry, waterproof. They’re excellent for sketching, adding text or simply jotting down notes on the fly.

And there you have it. Enough basics to keep creativity and soul together on the fly all compiled into a large ziplock bag.  Throw in a few paper towels and you’re good to go!