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If you’ve been reading along this year, you’ve seen my little art kit in just about every post since our Isle Royale Trip. It is now considered an essential piece of gear and comes along on every trip. It is lightweight, simple and organized, and so easy to bring along.  This post gets into the nitty gritty of my tested materials, specific colors in my palette, why I paint on (and off) the trail and how you can too!

My pocket sketchbook is typically a daily diary of what I am seeing and feeling on trips, and highlights the moments I want to remember. Whether I am sitting in the dirt, on the shore of a lake or painting in the passenger seat of a moving car – my field art kit has given me reason to pause and go deeper into the moments that I love most when I am outside.

This post is dedicated to my beloved little art kit and all the joy it’s brought me this year – I hope it inspires you to make one of your own and bring a new dimension of creativity to your adventures!

Why I bring an art kit, and you can too.

Watercolor is a fresh joy that allows me to slow down, observe and engage with my surroundings in a new and present way. 

I’m typically a “go go go” type of personality, so, shifting gears to sketch and paint on and off the trail has been good for my mind and allows me to engage in the ‘here and now’ in a deeper way instead of just focusing on what’s next. Photos are great, but having a sketchbook and hand drawn or written record of an adventure is a unique way to capture the memories from a trip that is a gift to your future self and loved ones! Everyone has an inner artist, so, in case you need to hear this: you are absolutely qualified to sketch, draw and write whatever you like! Don’t wait!

There are several reasons you may enjoy keeping a trail journal or field art kit. In addition to slowing my mind, connecting with my creator by creating in creation (that’s a lot of c’s!) and nurturing my imagination have had lasting benefits that I carry into my off-trail life. I especially enjoy the magical feeling of watercolor painting with the wild water from rivers, lakes and puddles. The idea that these natural elements are connected and living in my paintings lights up my imagination and makes them even more special to me. Its always a treat to paint with Lake Superior water, but another highlight this summer was painting a portrait of Sacajawea on our trip to Idaho, with the water from her birthplace, the Lemhi River.

A few more of my favorite places to paint this year were Isle Royale National Park, our family road trip out West, Lake Superior’s North Shore and Minnesota’s beautiful State Parks. Check out my Artwork category for a collection of posts that feature paintings from the trail, including recently painting with cheap alcohol to keep my brushes from freezing on a winter camping trip!

The Wandering Pine Field Art Kit

There are many different kits to choose from, but this handy list details the ingredients of my DIY watercolor field kit, including my specific paint palette and how you can make one too. I hope it inspires you to paint on the trail and customize your own. Lets go!

Note: Purchasing through the custom links below helps support website operating costs at no additional cost to you and lets me know you find value in my work. Thank you so much! <3

Paint Box/Kit – this can be as large or small as you like, but I enjoy the compact size of a mint container, there’s always room for it to come along and it weighs very little.

  • Koi Pocket field sketch box :  this is the pre made kit I started with before I made my own, it has great colors and is a nice option if you want something pre-assembled
  • DIY Field Paint Kit
    • Small container with a lid -I use a mint container like Altoids, the top is my mixing area
    • Empty half pans or Pre-filled half pans – Pans of paint (the little containers) can be purchased empty or pre-filled. Empty pans can be filled and re-filled with your favorite liquid watercolor
    • Adhesive Magnets -I like the adhesive backed magnets, they are easy to cut to size and stick the bottom of your paint pans so you can rearrange your colors in a metal tin.
  • Art Toolkit: *update* I’ve also been using this palette recently. I love that it is lightweight, customizable, holds my full palette and is woman owned. Check em out!

Brushes & Supplies– resist the urge to bring more than you need, I have to weed my kit out periodically because…how many pens and pencils do I need?

Color Palette: Here’s a list of my my essential colors for outdoor painting. I especially like the quality, texture and vibrancy of Daniel Smith Watercolor Pigments and they last a very long time. They may cost a little more up front, but I’ve used less than 1/3 of a 5ml tube in almost a year of painting with them so I think they are worth it.

Note: These colors are listed left to right, top top bottom in the order that they are arranged in my kit. It is important to separate warm (w) and cool (c) primary colors to retain vibrancy and adding magnets to the bottom of your pans allows you to move them around and adjust as needed.

  1. Pyrol Scarlet- (w) Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors
  2. New Gamboge– (w) Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors
  3. French Ultramarine Blue– (w) Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors
  4. Lunar Black- Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors (for dark mixes)
  5. Quinacridone Rose– (c) Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors
  6. Hansa Yellow Light- (c) Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors
  7. Pthalo Blue (GS) – (c) Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors
  8. Permanent White Guache– Windsor Newton (for milky colors)
  9. Burnt Sienna– (w) Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors
  10. Yellow Ochre– (w) Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors
  11. Cerulean Blue– (c) Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors (essential for skies)
  12. Green Apatite,Undersea Green or Olive– (w) Daniel Smith

Daniel Smith Essentials Set– this set includes 6 of the primary colors above (1,2,3,5,6,7) and is a great place to start. You can basically mix any color out of these 6 and add more colors later.

If you are looking for something that is not on this list, head on over to the Wandering Pine Gear Shop or my custom Blick Art Materials and Utrecht Art Supplies links. Shopping though these links helps keep this page running at no additional cost to you- and it is so appreciated!

Final Thoughts

We are currently in our first snow storm of the season and I can’t wait to gather with the Women Who Hike Minnesota crew for our annual Ugly Sweater hike! Let it snow!

Winter is also a great time to refocus and start to dream about new adventures for the coming year. My friend calls it “Planuary”! Where do you want to adventure next year? Have you been dreaming of painting, drawing or another creative pursuit? Perhaps its been a while? I hope this post encourages you to try new things, step out of your comfort zone and give yourself the liberating gift of creative expression! What are you waiting for? ❤️

Thanks for reading and give me a shout below, I’d love to hear from you!

Happy trails!

~ WP



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4 thoughts on “What’s in My Field Art Kit and How to Build Your Own!

  1. Nice update. I tried some art several decades ago -water colors, acrylics, and charcoal… took several classes at the UofM, while studying architecture/urban planning. Was enjoyable, but I didn’t stick with it over the years. My wife has started water colors in recent months. Enjoy the upcoming winter season! My snowshoes are ready to go!

  2. I suggest checking out @arttoolkit for one of the best palettes for on-the-go. The pans are magnetised, and there’s a mixing tray. Occasionally one can purchase the palettes filled with paint. However, they are generally empty and easy to fill with Daniel Smith watercolors.

    1. Hi Mary-Agreed, these look like great palettes. Do you have one? I’ve thought about trying one but I already have mine set up. I’d love to hear what you think about yours. Thanks for the note!

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