Back to ATC / ACEO format
I've been playing with the 2.5 X 3.5 inch (64 X 89 mm) trading card format again. This is the size of Artist Trading Cards (ATC) and Art Cards, Editions and Originals (ACEO). For the past few years, I've been sketching in various other sizes -- all pocket size -- such as Moleskine and Stillman and Birn sketchbooks, no-name spiral bound sketchbooks, and 3X5 inch pages in a 6-ring binder.
I rely on the subways and trains in Japan to get around, and therefore must carry everything I will need for the day in my pockets or a bag, so I prefer a small format.
The smallest format I can use for sketching is Japanese meishi (business card) size sketch cards. The reason I switched from the trading card format to Japanese business card size several years ago was the abundance of storage and display items and accessories (OK, toys) available in Japan where I live.
But I have come to appreciate the fact that the trading card format is a universal standard since it is the size of baseball cards, and game related cards -- including Japanese games and anime, so it is just as easy to find trading card binders and storage boxes even in Japan, usually right next to the business card items in most shops.
As you can see from the photo below, Trading cards have a more square area than Japanese business cards (meishi pronounced MAY-SHEE), so you have a little more freedom in choosing subject matter.
All my sketch tools are small enough to go everywhere in my shirt pocket.
I'm using the same meishi case palette from before, and keep my cards in a vinyl card carrier with a small clip so it can double as a clipboard when I open it. I always have one card clipped to it, ready for sketching at a moment's notice. I'm still using rings of tissue paper around my thumb to quickly wipe paint as I sketch.
The brush is the Blue Heron Arts piston waterbrush. They come in two sizes, and the smaller size (model number A10) is perfect for small sketches when you want to capture small detail.
I also have several of larger size on hand (model number A20). These waterbrushes in both sizes hold enough water for one or two trading card-size sketches, and I carry a few extra of these brushes in my bag. I ordered several of each, since they are inexpensive and it's good to have a few in my bag.
Both sizes come to a fine point (the brush in the photo is resting with the hairs spread out against the palettte).
The mechanical pencil is the Pentel Orenz Ultra Fine with 0.2mm lead.. The lead is extremely thin, and breaks easily. When I first got this pencil, the lead was constantly breaking, which was very annoying. But I have learned to draw with a lighter touch, and I have discovered that this size is perfect for details such as fingers. For sketching on such small cards, this is the only pencil I will use now.
I also keep a small binder in my back pocket for showing off my more successful sketches. At the school where I teach, students are always asking to see my latest sketches. To my surprise, a woman at the PTA bazaar told me recently that she was standing near me on the subway a few weeks ago when I was sketching a high school girl, and I was able to show her the finished sketch then and there:
Here are two more recent trading card-size sketches from my eveing subway ride (the morning ride is too crowded to sketch anything).
The models above were standing at a comfortable distance, but often I don't have the luxury when the train is a little crowded, and have to sketch a model who is much closer, as you can tell from the position of the legs:
But the most common problem is that the model is either soon blocked by another person, or sits down when another commuter leaves, or simply gets off the subway soon after I start the sketch. The next pose was so good that I went ahead and colored it even thought I could only get down a few pencil scribbles in less than a minute:
I've also gone back to sketching outdoors on my days off (I've sketched these same iconic landmarks many times in the past). These sketches are small enough that I don't need to find a place to sit, but can stand for the entire sketch and can finish before my short attention span runs out:
This is the Kaminari Mon (Thunder Gate) in Asakusa, Tokyo's old neighborhood with the "samurai" feeling still in the air.
Here is the same Kaminari Mon from a different angle.
This is Tatsumi Turret which sits on the wall of the Edo Castle grounds overlooking the moat. It's probably the most photographed building in the area.
This is Holy Resurrection Cathedral, a.k.a. "Nikolai-do" which is the cathdedral for the Russian Orthodox Church in Tokyo.