Brian Ramsey is a prolific and dynamic urban sketcher, who in 2018 reached the semi-final of Sky Arts’ Landscape Artist of the Year. I ask Brian if he would mind giving us a little tour of his favourite art materials in photos. Here’s what he sent us.
By Brian Ramsey
The temptation is always to have lots of kit. I took a huge amount of material with me for both the heat and the semi-final of Landscape Artist of the Year. I ended up using no more than the kit I normally take with me for a sketching trip plus some large sheets of paper!
List of favourite materials:
0.9mm Pentel mechanical pencil with 2B leads
2mm Koh-I-Noor clutch pencil with HB leads
5.6mm Koh-I-Noor clutch pencil with 2B leads
Koh-I-Noor graphite stick
Lamy Scribble clutch pencil with 6B leads
Firstly, I have to stand up and confess, my name is Brian Ramsey and I have an addiction to pens!
My favourite pen is my clear Kaweco Sports fountain pen with Kaweco water-soluble ink cartridges.
My second favourite is my Mont Blanc Meisterstuck fountain pen, decadent but beautiful.
In addition to my Kaweco, my stock drawing pen is the Uni Pin fine line pen in black and dark grey. Mainly dark grey at the moment. The black Uni Pins are available in a range of 0.03 to 0.8, but the dark grey is only available in 0.1 and 0.5mm nibs.
I use the Uni Pin’s in industrial quantities, but I don’t throw any of them away until they will absolutely make no mark at all! I usually identify particular pens which make really interesting marks and lines by wrapping them with masking tape.
I love drawing with nibbed pens as well as fineliners, especially those with interesting nibs which can make interesting marks. The nibbed pens which are my favourites after the Kaweco and Mont Blanc are:
Platinum Preppy, a good value and incredibly tough fountain pen
Pentel parallel pens in three widths which can produce fantastic variation in line
Platinum Fude 55 is another pen which gives the opportunity for huge variation in line
Platinum Carbon Ink fountain pens in fine and medium can give you a line similar to using Chinese ink with a sharpened stick, fabulous!
Lamy Safari. I may be stuck off the urban sketchers register for saying this, but I’m not a fan of this pen for drawing because it doesn’t put up a fight with me and my lines end up quite dull.
The last batch; I have no idea who makes them, but I found a box of them in a teacher’s draw when clearing a school for demolition. They are cheap and cheerful but I use them with my Kaweco water-soluble inks and use them so roughly, but they just keep going!
I like using Copic markers in a range of greys in conjunction with other pens and watercolour washes. They are especially good for gritty, dismal urban landscapes. Just avoid them in your sketchbooks because they bleed through the page, unless you want to use the happy accidents on the other side of the page for something else!
I use lots of Uni pens of various types but the Poscas in slate grey, black and white are really good for quick, expressive sketches. I use these a lot for my little postcard pieces of Tiree and the Western Isles. They are great fun and dry quickly before putting watercolour over. Be careful of drips when they get old unlike the Molotow drip pen, which you expect to drip. Don’t expect it to do what you want it to. That pen simply has a mind of its own.
Honourable mention for the Molotow Liquid Chrome. I use this pen very sparingly for added bling!
I have used the power of social media and lockdown to try something new. There are some great artists on Instagram willing to share their lessons learned from years of practice. Liz Steele is one such artist who recently shared her palette on Instagram. Jackson’s had all of Liz’s watercolours, mainly Daniel Smith, in stock and delivered to me in double quick time. I’m going to try this group of colours as a new studio palette and as a travelling palette.
My current travel palette comprises Daniel Smith ‘Serene to Dramatic’ set of 6 blue half pans supplemented by additional pans filled with Quinacridone Gold, New Gamboge, Undersea Green, Green Apatite Genuine and Green Gold and Pyrrol Scarlet. ‘Q Gold’ is the one tube of paint I cannot live without. It is just as well it is part of Liz’s palette!
I also have a tiny tin of Italian liquorice which holds six half pans which get swapped out as an when I fancy.
My other regular palette is a Kremer Pigments palette of 14 monochrome colours ranging from Titanium White to Furnace Black for my black and white days.
I’m not a fan of the plastic palettes Daniel Smith use for their watercolour sets. They are a little flimsy. I replace them with the 12 half pan metal palettes from Jackson’s. I find the 24 half pan plates too big for a travel palette.
You might have noticed how dirty my palettes are. One of the things I like to encourage people to do in my workshops is to not clean their palettes. It never ceases to amaze me how many times I see people literally washing money down the sink. DON’T CLEAN YOUR PALETTES!
I was and probably always will be a dedicated Moleskine sketchbook person. However, I have recently bought some Etchr A5 sketchbooks in both hot and cold press paper and I’m looking forward to using them for the next few months.
Studio paper tends to be whatever takes my fancy in the big stockpile of papers I have, whether it be newsprint, Bristol board, Yupo or cold, hot or rough watercolour paper. My absolute favourite paper is the Arches Aquarelle 300lb Rough I used at Inveraray for LAOTY.
I’m not a fan of waterbrushes. I have them, I appreciate the convenience, but I don’t like how I paint with them. I prefer to carry a small range of Sable brushes and a small jar of water when I’m painting outside. In the studio I have a huge selection of brushes. Like my Uni Pin’s I don’t throw them away.
Bags & cases:
I don’t go on any trip without my Billingham bag. It carries my sketchbooks, camera and my new acquisition. I’ve just bought an Etchr field case which carries pretty much everything I use to draw and other stuff besides. It needs roughing up a bit but I can already tell it’s going to get lots of use.
Links to products
Pentel Mechanical Pencils
Koh I Noor Clutch Pencils
Uni Pin Sketching Pens
Copic Ciao Markers
Molotow Liquid Chrome Markers
Daniel Smith Serene to Dramatic Watercolour set
Daniel Smith Watercolours (Individual colours)
Jackson’s Empty Metal Watercolour box for 12 half pans
To view more of Brian Ramsey’s work visit