I love sketchbooks. Somehow, it makes me feel smart carrying one around, and it's a great place to put stickers. I wish I could say I take it with me everywhere, that I'm always ready to sketch at a moments notice, that I'm always sketching a non-stop flow of ideas. But, I'm not. I have to be more proactive, deliberate and intentional. I have a small stack of empty sketchbooks, because every time I'm in an art store I have a hard time resisting them.
A friend recently asked me about my sketches. He said he would really like to start a sketchbook, and asked what I would recommend.
1. Keep it Simple. Less is More.
I've tried carrying around lots of pencils with all the different lead weights, or pens with different thicknesses, watercolors and brushes... It drove me nuts. I couldn't keep track of it all, I lost stuff, dropped stuff, and tripped over stuff.
So now I carry one pen, a Bic ball point. They last forever and are cheap. It's pretty easy to get a range of values, and they're cheap. They're nearly indestructible, and they're cheap. They are universal, like McDonald's. If your pen runs out, chances are you can find one wherever you are.
2. Keep it Accessible.
I keep my sketchbook where I can see it. That way, it can remind me to take it with me. If it's out of sight, then it's out of my mind. It never fails, I'll be stuck somewhere, like getting the car's oil changed, and think "I should've brought my sketchbook!" Maybe I should keep one stashed in the car... I'm doing that one.
3. But what if I want to use Pencil?
Go back to rule #1, Keep it simple. I've tried carrying 5H to 4B pencils with sharpeners, erasers, blending sticks... It was terrible. I felt like the guy on the ski slopes with all the new gear that kept face-planting. I've discovered I can get plenty of values and textures using a mechanical pencil and kneaded eraser.
The mechanical pencil never needs sharpening. Just load it up with lead. I use HB 0.5mm, again universal. The kneaded eraser is awesome at lightening areas, making smudges, and erasing all with the bonus feature of not creating a pile of eraser shrapnel.
My favorite size is the 5x7 sketchbooks, and spiral bound is a must.
That's about it. I would love to hear what works for you and sketching on the go.