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Ten Arty Items I couldn't be without

I'm about to go on holiday, so all I can think about right now is tropical sunshine, afternoon drinking and how to fit my entire collection of art supplies into one small suitcase. Who needs shoes on holiday anyway, right? But this dilemma got me thinking, if the plane crashed and I somehow survived, and if I also somehow managed to make it unmolested by sharks to a hitherto unknown Island, and if ten of my art items somehow washed up on the soft sandy beach beside me...which ten items would I want them to be?

Before I get into it I want you to know that curtailing this list was bloody difficult! I grouped all my supplies into categories, and in each category there were some very close calls. Frankly, I could do a whole other list of 'close, but no banana'. There are a few items that I wouldn't miss at all (I'm looking at you oil pastels) and some that were so eye-wateringly expensive I have some residual attachment to, not to mention resentment. But in the end, I opted for the things I love and use most in my daily doings as an artist.

With that in mind, and setting aside the fact that most items would either sink or be completely ruined by submersion in salt water, here's the ten arty items I would want washed up on the beach with me.

1 - A Sketchbook

My top item, the one I definitely couldn't be without, is a sketchbook. I have multiple, but I do have preferences as to which one depending on the medium. I use sketchbooks as a place to splurge ideas, to practice my drawing skills, to doodle or make lists, to follow art prompts and swatch paints and generally just have fun in. When drawing commissions, I found it helpful to warm up each day in my sketchbook. This particular one is the A5 Watercolour Book by Hahnemuhle. At around £16 it's not the cheapest, it's not 100% cotton paper either, but it's a perfect size to not be overwhelmingly large. I've been steadily filling it with mainly gouache practice, and I'm excited to have nearly finished all 60 pages.

2 - Mechanical Pencil

I'm not actually all that fussy about which mechanical pencil I use, but I do prefer them to regular pencils. I like the blue ones, which are by Staedtler and have been around since the 80's at least. These are 2mm leads which you can sharpen in the end-cap, which is kinda awesome. There's no eraser though. The 0.5mm Derwent Precision is a good all-rounder, very similar to most others on the market. The metal ones are Pentel Graphgear 1000 and are probably my favourite because they're heavy and feel great in my hand. I've got HB leads in a 0.3 and 0.5mm. The 0.3 is more prone to breaking, but they've got a cool design where the pen clip, when pressed at the top, retracts the lead, so it can be safely stored in your bag or wherever. Ranging from £10 to £17 each, they're more on the expensive side, and honestly, the cheaper ones work just as well.

3 - Tombow Mono Zero Eraser

No essentials list would be complete without this magic item. I reckon it could erase my chequered past if I tried! The itty-bitty round one is slightly more useful than the bigger square one, but both have benefits. For really tiny edits, you can trim the eraser into a specific shape. I picked this over my kneaded eraser because of it's performance on a small scale, but for larger erasions* the kneaded version would win.

4 - Derwent Chromaflow Pencils

No list from me would be complete with out some coloured pencils now, would it. These are genuinely my go-to pencil for sketching, colouring, illustrating, and fun projects where I don't want or need to use my Lightfast. I've written before about these awesome additions to the Derwent coloured pencil range, and I stand by my recommendation. They're super pigmented, soft cored, easy to blend and can withstand a heavy hand. Go have a read of my review and tell me what you think of these pencils in the comments. They're on sale right now!

5 - Daylight Company DuoLamp

Good lighting is essential for making art, taking photos of art, making TikToks and Reels and YouTube, even for online meetings and workshops its important to eliminate shadows where you can. But if, like me, you don't have the room (or money) for a pair of giant softboxes, this double LED light has been an absolute godsend. Each side is individually adjustable. There's 3 levels of brightness and the cool light is daylight-y enough. At around £35 it's not too costly. I use this every day.

6 - Paper Scorer

Ever wondered why your home-made greeting cards never fold nicely? I did, until I watched a short but informative video about using a paper scorer, and it changed my whole business model. I went from paying print companies up to and over £1 per card to being able to make them just as professionally at home. This thing is very fast becoming my favourite thing ever. Mine is the Vaessen Creative Easy Scoring Board, which is currently on Amazon UK for about £16. If you make cards yourself, you gotta get one. It's a game-changer.

7 - Derwent Inktense Paint Pan Studio Set

This item was in fierce competition with my collection of Winsor & Newton Designers Gouache, but as it counts as a single item it won. In case you don't know, the Inktense range is hugely popular and really versatile. This pan set has 24 vibrant colours. There are two smaller 12-pan versions also available. The paint is similar in feel to pan gouache, in that it layers well, can be used thick or thin, and is a matte finish, but unlike gouache it is permanent when dry, so it doesn't reactivate. It's quite expensive at £52 on the Derwent website, but you can get them for around £32 elsewhere.

8 - Silicone brush cleaner thingummy

This squishy little knobbly thing that attaches to the bottom of your water glass is a thing to rival to the best thing ever! There's lots of versions about. Mine is by PaintPuck and its actually called a silicone brush cleaner. For painters like me, who brutalise their brushes on the bottom of the water jar, this is for you. You're welcome.

9 - Washi Tape

Stick things to other things with it. Create borders for paintings and drawings. A small business packaging essential. Looks pretty too. Not much I can say about washi tape, except that collecting it can quickly escalate into an obsession. It comes in a variety of widths to suit any occasion, a million and one patterns to suit your style, the season, this month's trends. Being low-tac is one of its things, and so its great for masking borders. What else can I say, I'm hooked.

10 - Scrawlrbox

I'm really stretching the plane-crash scenario with this last one, how would they know where to deliver if I was on an unknown island? Anyway, Scrawlrbox has been part of my creativity since I returned to art in 2017, and I just can't imagine not having that little box of unknown, untried and often unexpected art supplies plop onto my doormat each month. Last month it was oil pastels. I never liked oil pastels when I was younger, and now I know that I still don't like them. Hahah. The prices have risen recently thanks to shipping price rises, and the general state of the economy, but they do have sales on regularly and if you like the idea of a mini art challenge every month, then definitely consider subscribing.

And there you have it. Ten arty items I would want to wash up on the beach with me. I would love to know what items would be on your list? Let me know in the comments below.

Note: This list doesn't negate the need for essentials, such as Chicken Crisps, Tangfastics, Wine, and I would seriously consider looking for quilted toilet paper and somewhere to get a pizza too.

*erasions - apparently this isn't a real word. It totally should be though, don't you think?

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Mar 02, 2023

“I reckon it could erase my checkered past” 😂😂😂 a I’m definitely going to start using the word erasions now!


Sep 02, 2022

Great insight into your top 10 items Helen. Fun read. Whilst I am not arty in any way shape or form, I'll have a think about what items (I'm not sure I'll have 10 though), that I would like to wash up with me should I ever be marooned on a desert island. 😁

Helen Carter
Helen Carter
Sep 02, 2022
Replying to

Hahaha, thankyou! It's interesting to know what ten things you would want washed up...arty or otherwise. My 'otherwise' number 1 would probably be mozzie repellent. 😛

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