Art Toolkit Unboxing and Review on The Nature Journal Show

In this week’s video, Marley tests out a new field kit from Art Toolkit, a supplies company created by Maria Coryell-Martin.  Marley previously interviewed Maria on the Nature Journal Show about her expeditionary art.

Checking Out the New Tools

After looking through his knife collection and selecting a huge cleaver, Marley opens the package.  Inside is the art toolkit containing: a sturdy zippable nylon kit pouch, pocket mister, Moleskine watercolor sketchbook, fine-tip Sharpie marker, medium waterbrush, binder clips, ruler, and waterbrush refill syringe.  Some of the tools are a bit different from what Marley normally uses, but he is open to experimentation.  Being flexible that way is a great practice for any nature journaler to have.

Marley examines the Art Toolkit he received in the mail.

Testing a New Palette

Next, Marley decides to test out a free palette Art Toolkit sent him.  The palette contains some watercolors Marley has not used before, as well as some old standbys.  Maria uses a revolutionary system of magnetic pans, meaning you can easily switch out one paint pan with another, whether for custom field trips or different pan sizes, and ultimately control the layout of your palette. When you are testing out a new palette, remember the following tips:

  • Always start a new palette by making a full color chart.  By doing this, you will know your supplies and be more comfortable with what they can do – before you go into the field.
  • Be honest about the colors you don’t love.  They are taking up valuable palette space and can be vacated for other preferred colors.
  • Test the full range of each color.  When you are painting a swatch, start on one end with the color at full strength.  Then, clean off your brush a bit and continue painting the same swatch, so you can see what the color looks like when it is diluted.
  • List or label your colors.  Better yet: keep them on the same page as your chart.  Know what you have!
  • Keep notes on what you observe.  Does this paint lift out?  Does it granulate? How does it compare to other paints in your palette, in hue, constitution etc.?
  • Experiment!!
Marley does a color chart of his palette; it is important for nature journalers to know their palettes before they go in the field.

Color chart done, Marley heads to dinner.  When he comes back, he might be able to see other changes in his swatches that will give him even more information.  As naturalists, it’s important to continually evaluate our field kits.

Want to try this kit out yourself?

You can try this art toolkit without even buying one for yourself. (Which is good because sometimes we buy something to test it out and then realize it is not the best for us anyways.) Guess what? Members of the Nature Journal Show Patreon get access to this community kit as it gets mailed from one member to the next! You can find out more about the other benefits of supporting Marley’s work on the Nature Journal Show Patreon page.

Are you completely new to nature journaling?

If so, then this post has the basics : How to Nature Journal in 10 Steps

Do you need help choosing nature journaling supplies? In that case check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not

Best Watercolor Palette

A good watercolor palette is one of the best art investments you can make so I am going to show you my favorite palette and four reasons why it is the best!

When you are nature journaling or even urban sketching you can produce more compelling sketches faster if you have watercolor. As it turns out there are tons of watercolor and palette options out there. However, finding a good portable palette and choosing watercolors that work well is a daunting task. You could spend all your time looking for the right supplies and not have any time left over for making art! Therefore, I’m gonna help you avoid that problem by showing you the best watercolor palette I have found. Let’s get into it. Cue the drum roll!

The best watercolor palette for nature sketching and journaling is the customized palette by John Muir Laws!

You can buy one of these palettes on his website here. But be warned, these palettes are hand made and often run out of stuck so be sure to get yours first. Or you can even make your own from John Muir Laws’ instructions because he is such an amazing and generous guys (more details on how to make your own palette below).

Using the JML watercolor palette in the field
Me using the John Muir Laws watercolor palette for nature journaling.

4 Reasons it is the Best Watercolor Palette

  1. You are going to save so much money! Because this one art tool can eliminate the need for hundreds and hundreds of dollars of other art supplies. You can make so many combinations with the 32 watercolors included in this palette. Also, watercolors are so concentrated they will last a long time.
  2. Excellent Color Choices! Because a professional illustrator and naturalist has carefully chosen all 32 colors you can avoid the guesswork. Therefore you can focus on making the art and learning how to use the colors in your paintings. Most of the colors come from Daniel Smith Fine Watercolors, a small company based in the US that still cares about quality art supplies.
  3. So Organized and Compact! From the arrangement of the colors to the clear labeling on the outside this watercolor kit is dialed in! There are also mixing areas in all the right places. You don’t have to experiment over and over again to find a system because John Muir Laws has done it for you. The kit is also compact enough to fit in your purse or back pocket. That’s a lot of art power in your pocket!
  4.  Field-Tested and Child Approved! Finally, this watercolor palette has been tested by many artists in some of the most challenging field painting conditions! John Muir Laws and myself have both used this palette in places such as British Columbia, the Amazon Jungle, the Serengeti, Rwanda, the Sierra Nevada mountains, and the Ecuadorean Cloud Forest. This palette is tough and has stood the test of time.

Ok, One More Reason To get this Watercolor Kit

Last but certainly not least. This watercolor palette is the best because John Muir Laws shares the entire process of how to make it for FREE on his website! Just follow this link. That proves that he believes in this palette so much he would rather share how to make it than just try to make money. What a great guy!

Look at all the colors you can make with this kit! Here is a chart that I made showing all the combinations.

What about a watercolor palette for the studio?

If you want to get some more ideas about what would work good for the studio check out this video

But what paper should I use?

Now that you know the best palette for nature journaling you might want help choosing the best sketchbook. Check out this post where I share all the criteria you need to know to choose the best sketchbook for you!