What goes into my art bag? That’s the question I’ve been asking myself this week because I bought a new art bag. It’s really just a regular bag but I want to stock it with art supplies and such for when I’m commuting. Maybe I’ll carry it other times but I usually don’t carry a bag.

My old bag is an actual art bag. It’s a Just-Stow-It art bag and it’s served me well. It’s a big bag too. It was made to fit 14×17 inch pads of paper. Some days it’s a little too big. It’s also falling apart a bit. The nylon near where the shoulder straps attach is tearing. I already sewed them but they might need some reenforcing with canvas. They’re going to tear off eventually if I do nothing.

I packed and unpacked that bag every day when I commuted. In went my iPad, my sketchbook, maybe a book to read, my camera, food for the day, drawing utensils, thumb drive, phone, and probably a few other things I’m forgetting. That was a little too much packing and unpacking. I’m trying to eliminate some of it by having dedicated art bag stuff.

I think the easiest thing to do is use duplicates of my common tools. For instance I would put two sign pens and a mechanical pencil into my bag every day. And then take them out. I’ve got enough pens and pencils to keep some in the bag. I’ll use a smaller art supply bag and keep that in my new art bag. I’ve already got a couple of smaller bags to keep in my new bag so I have some choices. I’ll have to drop my sketchbook in and then take it out but that’s not hard. I’ve got spare erasers and art card paper to go in there too.

My art supply bags are also my photo bags too. When I go into the city to shoot my street photos I bring one of my art bags. I’m only shooting with a single camera with no extra lenses so I don’t need an official photo bag stuffed with photo equipment like I used to carry. I stick my Canon SX60 in the bottom of the bag. It’s clunky and bulky down there but as soon as I get into the city it’s always in my hand. I carried it every time I commuted in this past fall so I could shoot photos on my way to work. I also have a smaller pocket camera but that one is not a suitable for street photos. That one is a Canon Powershot S95. It’s nine years old now and I think I want to replace it with a pocket one with a larger zoom.

There are a lot of pockets in my new art bag and I’m looking to fill them up. With light stuff preferably. I’ve already stuck a couple of photo things in there that can stay there. One is a small tripod. I have a few small tripods and this one is an octopus tripod. I never use it because I always choose my slightly larger and heavier small tripod when I need one but I don’t carry that one with me. I figure I’ll use the octopus one if I have it with me.

The second photo thing I stuck in there is a handle/tripod mount for a smartphone. It just plastic that clamps around a phone and has a tripod mount on the bottom. It comes with a plastic handle to stick in the mount of you can attach it to a tripod. I figure I have a better chance of using it if I have it with me in my bag rather than if it’s sitting at home.

I’ve also been looking for tools to stick in my art bag too. Sometimes I get portable tools but I never use them because I’ve got full sized tools to use around the house. The first thing I stuck in was a small flashlight that I just got for Christmas. I put it on my wish list because there were a few times I was walking back to the unlit parking lot by the train station where I really could have used a flashlight. I stuck that one in the outside pocket meant for a phone. I want to be able to get to it quickly and I’m too wary of thieves to keep my phone in that easily accessible pocket.

In that same pocket I also stuck a small Swiss Army type knife. It’s a cheap giveaway knockoff with someone’s website on the side but it’s light and was getting no use sitting on a shelf. I also stuck a small bicycle multi-tool in that pocket. I’ve got a fancy bike multi-tool in a pouch on my bike so the unfancy one was getting no use. It’s got some screwdrivers and Allen wrenches on it so maybe it’ll come in handy. The knows when I’ll need an Allen wrench when I’m out.

I have a pretty nice Leatherman multi-tool but I actually use that one around the studio. Since I’m looking for stuff I can stick in the bag and not take out that one doesn’t make the cut. I don’t want to have to go into my bag every time I want to use it. So that one will still sit on its usual shelf.

My new art bag is a canvas bag so I’m going to have to get some waterproofing spray for it. Last November as I was walking to the Penn Station in NYC I got caught in the rain. It was a downpour I was out in for twenty minutes. I was carrying my big black nylon art bag which is as waterproof as it gets but still this downpour was too much for it. Nothing got soaked in the bag but my sketchbook that was in the outside pocket got a little bit wet. The book was only about one percent ruined but If I was caught in that rain with my non-waterproof canvas bag it would have been a disaster. I don’t want that to happen.

One thing I haven’t worked out yet is what sketchbooks or notebooks to keep in the bag if any. Usually it’s my inkbook sketchbook that I work in when commuting. This one I’ll move in and out of the bag but should I keep another there all the time. I’ve got plenty of unused sketchbooks but I’m not sure which one to keep in the bag if any. I’ll have to see.

For the next few days I’ll be looking around for more stuff to put in my new art bag. I don’t want to weigh it down too much but I also want to be prepared. You’ve always go to be prepared for art.