My New (Budget-Friendly) Portable Art Studio

I’ve been wanting to get out of the house more, though health issues have been preventing me from being active and going much of anywhere. That said, getting out to a coffee shop or something where I could curl up and draw for a couple of hours while sipping on a mocha doesn’t really take much beyond getting there and back…providing I have the stuff with me to draw.

I had hoped to find a smallish bag that would easily organize a sketchbook or clipboard, pencils/pens, colored pencils, and my 8-inch Android tablet with its upgraded stylus and Bluetooth keyboard. Room for a pencil sharpener, tablet charging cable, and graphics tablet glove were must-haves, as well. It’d be nice if it had room for me to add a sketching pencil set or chalk/charcoal and some oil pastels down the line, but that’s a lot to ask for. I’d also like to put a planner in it. I used to have a messenger bag that would have done brilliantly, but it got borrowed by a friend and never returned, so that was out. Looking online for something that would suit this admittedly odd list of requirements pretty much suggested I’d be looking at the $140+ range for something that suits my needs, which is outside my budget for now.

Since that was out of the question, I started mentally putting together a picture of something to sew for myself, using a binder or a clipboard and pockets to hold the paper and planner. I’d need to put a bunch of pockets in it to organize the art supplies and a padded pocket to hold my tablet. I’ve got some twill in a plum color and a black/white swirl printed duck that would make it look lovely, as well as a bit of silver-grey chamois, and a black zipper isn’t difficult to find. It would just be a case of digging out all the fabric and leather and the sewing machine and notions totes, but that’s a “down-the-line” thing when the sleep apnea is more under control and my back isn’t hurting so much.

Then I found an old zippered student binder that my son chose not to use. It’s nothing gorgeous–black textured plastic and oyster twill, with a reasonably large black mesh pocket on the front. But it was designed with a removable 1.5″ ring binder that slides into the back, and had pen loops and a couple of pockets on the inside left, so it had potential. Removing the binder allowed me to take a heavy-duty friction-clamp type report cover, stick some Bristol board into it, and slide the back cover in place of the binder. I’ve got room to slide an 8.5×11 planner in behind it (when I order/print one). So that part’s covered.

Storing the tablet and all of the art supplies was the next trick–the three pen loops got designated for my 3 most frequently used drawing tools (a mechanical pencil, black ink pen, and Sharpie). I worried about filling the small pocket later on, as it’s pretty small, around the size of a phone or large deck of cards. My tablet in its case was a really tight squeeze in the bottom pocket, though, and only held the bottom 1.5″ of it. That wasn’t going to work. But it’s a binder I’ve had for a couple of years and not used, so who cares about that pocket? A quick cut with my sharp-pointed embroidery scissors, and it became a strap. I took the magnetic Bluetooth keyboard off the tablet case and slid the keyboard section under the new strap, put the keyboard back in place with the strap between the two, folded the tablet down over the top and latched the case closed. Tablet solved. 36 colored pencils, a few more pens and markers, including a gold gel pen and silver Sharpie all fit in the front pocket, along with the charging plug for my tablet. The cord went in the small inner pocket along with a small protractor and flat safety compass/ruler combo. A few minutes later, I realized I hadn’t put anything in to protect my work from smudges and stray marks, so one of the old favorite worn-out socks with the heel and toe cut out got tucked into the front pocket. My pencil sharpener has gone missing, so I’ll need to put that in the front when I find it, or just buy one specifically to use in this kit.

Here are a few photos of the kit now that it’s all put together. It’s not really inspiring for me as an artist–no rich colors or textures–but it holds enough basic supplies to draw on paper or paint on the tablet, and with about 30 sheets of Bristol in the report cover, I could probably take this with me for a several-day trip and be nearly as productive as at home. I’ll probably still make the custom one out of the plum and black/white fabrics at some point, because this kit doesn’t have any room for expansion, but it will do decently until I can manage to get the exhaustion under control.

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