Early last year my urban sketcher friend Cecilia Simonyi from Hungary asked me to test a prototype for a sketching bag and was it great to see her selling the final product at the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Amsterdam in July. I wasn’t able to review the final version at the time, so Cecilia kindly sent me four different versions to test. I’m still in the process of testing all four Walkit bags to find which works the best for me, but I can tell you straight away that I absolutely love them!
Note: I prepared this article a few weeks ago and have decided to publish it now as it was written. Although I’m not out sketching and needing to use this sketching bag for its intended purpose, I am using it at home. And I’m reminded of the wonderful global community of Urban Sketchers to whom I feel closer to than normal at the moment as we go through lockdowns, self isolation and social distancing. I also like doing my bit to promote fellow small business owners, especially in uncertain times as we are facing at the moment.
So this is what I wrote a few weeks ago:
Last month I taught a 3-day workshop and each day I loaded up a different Walkit bag to test. It was so convenient to have all my tools by my side and to have them so easily accessible. I wore the Walkit all day with my usual blue cross body bag over the top. All my tools felt secure whether I was sketching, walking around or catching public transport.
Although I use the front pocket of my Hedgren bag in a similar way, the Walkit was a more convenient and organised way of holding my kit. It also meant that I didn’t need to carry my bag while I went around the group giving one on one sessions. So the Walkit was perfect for teaching.
The bags are top quality and I really love the designs and colours. I love the hand stamped patterns on two of the bags I tested – you can read about the inspiration of each on the site. Ultimately I think that I will use the plain darker one for my next big sketching trip as I think it will show the dirt less.
Here are a few photos showing the various bags and what I fitted into them.
Small bag: 16.5cm wide x 21cm tall
Large bag: 21cm wide x 24cm tall
This is how I filled one of the larger bags:
- Front pocket: Travel brushes and short pencils
- Second pocket: Water container (I actually can fit two of my small water containers in this section)
- Blue Pockets: My Faber Castell Sharpener, TSWBI Eco pens (how’s that for colour coordination?) and my paint tin (perfect fit!) Note: if you had a tall water container it would work well in one of these blue pockets.
- Rear pocket: My other (longer) fountain pens, while gel pen, watercolour pencils (if I carry them at all), toothbrush holder containing my dagger brush).
Note: I pulled all the pens etc out of the pockets a little for this photo so that you can see them more clearly. But you can see in the photo below what they were like when I was using the bag.
This is the Balaton walkit bag in large size: 21cm wide x 24cm tall
My local sketching friend Yvonne has kindly written a review of her Walkit bag and so I’ll let her tell you more about the bag.
Small size: 165 x 210mm
REVIEWED BY YVONNE FRINDLE
When it comes to urban sketching, I put bags into two main categories: 1. the regular bag (work, casual or dressy) that will happily hold a minimalist art kit for spontaneous daily sketching, and 2. the bag for dedicated sketching excursions, comfortable and light on the body, and ideally with external pockets that can be used in situ without unloading. This second one is something of a holy grail!
Then there’s a third kind of bag – let’s call it the tool holster. Hairdressers and carpenters will know this well. But until Hungarian artist Cecilia Simonyi developed her Walkit “bag for sketchers”, nobody seems to have devised anything like this specifically for outdoor artists. It’s a smart combination of flat and gusseted pockets combined with sturdy elastic looping inside to hold individual pens and pencils.
When I first saw a Walkit – in social media posts from the 2019 Amsterdam Symposium – I knew I had to try it! I opted for the smaller of the two sizes (165mm W x 210mm H) – I like to travel light and I didn’t want a wider bag that would encourage me to fill it with more than I really needed as an urban sketcher working in ink and watercolour.
The Walkit in action
As a public transport user, I carry my loaded Walkit in my main sketching bag, together with bulkier things such as my sketchbook, water containers, clipboard and so on. I then put it on when I get to my destination. The shoulder strap is adjustable and long enough to be worn crossbody style, and while the design isn’t symmetrical, it can be carried to the left or right.
When worn, it’s light, compact and doesn’t get in the way, whether I’m sitting or standing. Everything I might want is immediately to hand, which is great if I’m wearing a backpack or if I’m resting my sketchbook on my main bag while sitting. I especially like that I can move around between sketches without having to pack everything away, and it’s good from a security point of view, since my main bag can stay completely zipped up while I focus on sketching.
I was curious about the elastic loop on the side of the bag, which wasn’t mentioned on Cecilia’s website. It turns out this is to allow you to roll the filled bag and secure it when travelling. I can see how this might work with the wider bag if filled with pencils, but it’s not as useful on the small bag, especially if you have anything wide in there. That said, the loop could be useful as a lanyard for attaching a name tag or any small tool with a loop or hole in it.
Design and worksmanship
The Walkit has been designed by a working artist and it shows – there’s no feeling of compromise and every feature is useful. Perhaps my only criticism is that it could do with a few more of the slightly looser elastic loops, big enough for fountain pens. The fabrics are sturdy and everything is cleanly stitched and finished. And it looks beautiful!
Will it hold a sketchbook?
One of the first questions I’m usually asked is whether my small Walkit will hold a sketchbook. Yes and no. An A5 sketchbook up to 18mm thick and no more than 148mm wide on the outside (think Leuchtturm1917) will fit in the back pocket, protruding just slightly over the top edge, but it will reduce your ability to make use of more than a few of the elastic loops inside that pocket. I don’t try to carry a sketchbook in mine because I see the Walkit as something to hold my tools while sketching.
At the moment I’m carrying:
- Front pocket loops (behind the angled front panel): two fountain pens, three fineliners, a white gel pen and three travel brushes. I don’t carry anything loose in that frontmost pocket.
- Front straight pocket: ViewCatcher (for framing compositions and checking values).
- Middle gusseted pockets: sheets of kitchen towel in an old Kleenex wallet, propelling eraser and (not pictured) small spritzer.
- Rear pocket loops: a mechanical pencil and a clutch pencil, grey watercolour pencil, water-soluble graphite pencil, white chinagraph pencil, waterbrush.
- Rear pocket: Japanese “handkerchief” (one side linen, one side towelling), folding ruler.
[supplied flat photo shows all the above items except the spritzer]
Loaded in this way it’s certainly not chock-a-block full. There would be room for five or six more pencils at the back and a few more travel brushes or shorter pens or pencils in the front. I can also fit a classic 12-halfpan tin watercolour palette in the larger of the gusseted pockets, but I prefer to carry my palette horizontally in my main bag. So even the small bag holds a good deal.
The Walkit won’t hold your sketchbook, nor your wallet, phone, drink bottle or lunch. In that respect it’s not a bag, but it is a fantastic artist’s holster. If you’ve been looking for something that will keep your tools conveniently to hand during extended sketching sessions then this is worth your attention.
I wouldn’t recommend the small Walkit for artists who work mostly with markers or want to carry a lot of fat pens, as most of the loops are sized for pencils (thicker Albrecht-Durer pencils are fine). Also, you’ll need to look elsewhere if you’re hoping for a bag or holster that will carry your working water pot on your body à la French sketcher “White Rabbit”.
My summary: This is a fantastic bag to wear either cross body our around your waist which keeps all your sketching tools handy and organised. I love many of the design features and the overall quality and colours of the bags. Highly recommended. Check out more here.
And finally, here is a photo of my Walkit yesterday. I have taken the strap off and I’m using the bag to keep my usual sketching kit in place as I sketch at different locations around my home. My art tools always seem to spread all over the place at home so I’m looking forward to being more organised in the coming weeks. Using my Walkit is also a constant reminder of all my Urban Sketchers friends around the world – stay safe!