Art Toolkit by Expeditionary Art Review Lead Image

REVIEW: Art Toolkit By Expeditionary Art

In her own words, Maria Coryell-Martin is “an expeditionary artist with a focus on polar and glacier science, and to inspire environmental awareness in audiences of all ages.” Along the way, she’s developed an art toolkit, a rugged cover that holds all the necessary items, including a palette of her own devising.

Maria has given me one of her demi-palettes and five extra mini-pans for a giveaway! See the end of this post to learn how to enter and get a special discount code for art toolkit. 

The Art Toolkit Interior View

While The Art Toolkit is built to be compact, easy to carry and to withstand extreme conditions, I’m self-quarantined and mostly using it to sit in my recliner while I paint.  The kit keeps everything organized, close to hand, and I know it will hold up to every day and repeated use.  And when I do take it out for a plein air session, I’ll know I can drop it in puddles, wet sand and dirt, pile stuff on top of it and just generally give it a bad time – it’s tough enuff to use however you need to use it.

The Art Toolkit – Specs


  • Fabric: Weather-resistant 1000d Cordura Nylon
  • Closure: zipper
  • Features: exterior gear loops, nine tool pockets, two large sketchbook sized pockets
  • Size: 6-1/2″ x 10″ closed, 12″ x 10″ opened (cover is soft-sided, so size is approximate)
  • Covers come in:
    • black
    • gray with blue trim
    • gray with red trim
    • gray with purple trim


  • Moleskine 8-1/4″ x 5″ (21cm x 13cm) landscape watercolor sketchbook
  • Pocket Palette – 3 5/8″ x 2 2/2″ x 1/4″ (92mm x 64mm x 7mm)
  • Waterbrush
  • Sharpie waterproof fine pen
  • Golden Bear No. 2 pencil
  • 6″ flexible metric/English ruler
  • Two binder clips
  • Waterbrush refill syringe
  • Pocket spray mister
  • Four-sided insert with sketching tips and techniques

The Cover and the Palette can be purchased individually.


REVIEW: Art Toolkit By Expeditionary ArtThe Cover

Art Toolkit Cover View

The Art Toolkit cover is 6-1/2″ x 10″ when closed. The fabric does allow a slight amount of stretch, so when full it may be slightly larger.

A Denier is a unit of measure for the linear mass density of fibers, is the mass in grams per 9000 meters of the fiber.  I tell you this so you’ll better appreciate what a 1000 denier Cordura nylon cover is.  You can see in the above photo.  I was going to reword this, but the blurb on the site says it so well:

Custom sewn in Seattle, the Art Toolkit features a 1000 denier Cordura nylon cover, guaranteed not to rot, mildew or tear. We designed this kit to hold up to the rigors of sketching on Arctic sea ice, and the mountains, beaches, and rainforests of the Pacific Northwest.”

Possibly more than the average person needs.  Then again maybe not.  I know I can go to the beach and not worry if I drop it in in the wet sand, or spill something on it while eating or drinking on a plein air trip or catch it on something.

Zipper Detail

It has a heavy-duty zipper.

The Art Toolkit Interior Details

Fine but sturdy stitching.

Seam and stitching details of artist travel bag

A gear loop at each end lets you attach your Art Toolkit to other luggage, backpack or belt.

The Art Toolkit full interior view

When open, the kit is approximately 12″ x 10″.

It has nine pockets for tools, …

Interior pockets detail

… and two large interior pockets that will hold a sketchbook and other tools of your choosing.

The covers come in black, gray with blue trim, gray with red trim, and gray with purple trim. They can be purchased separately without any of the contents.

Art Toolkit Contents

The Art Toolkit Pencil Rule Water Brush Pockets

The Art Toolkit comes with several tools.  On the left four-pocket side there is a …

Watercolor Water Brush

… Pentel medium waterbrush, …

Sharpie Pen Photo

… a Sharpie waterproof fine pen, …

Golden Bear No. 2 pencil

… a Golden Bear No. 2 pencil, ….

6″ transparent metric/English ruler

… a 6″ transparent metric/English ruler, and …

mini binder clips

and two mini binder clips.

The Art Toolkit Additional Pockets Detail Photo

The left interior pocket holds an 8-1/4″ x 5″ Moleskine landscape watercolor sketchbook.

On the right five pocket side, there is …

refill syringe for filling the waterbrush

… a refill syringe for filling the waterbrush, …

spray mister, to wet the pages or moisten the paints

… a spray mister, to wet the pages or moisten the paints, …

Pocket Palette drawstring pouch

… a drawstring pouch for carrying the paint palette outside of the cover and …

… the Pocket Palette.

The right side large interior pocket contains a four-page insert with tips and techniques for plein air sketching.

The tool pockets are tight enough to keep your items snug and secure. You might struggle to pull them out, but I found that if I pushed from the bottom first, it was easy to remove them.

There is room for customization. One tool pocket is left empty for a tool of your choice and there is room in the large interior pockets. I’ve been able to slide 3 travel brushes, a masking fluid pen, and a white gel pen into the pockets, next to the items included in the kit.  In the interior pocket, I’ve added an extra palette, a collapsible water container, an eraser, masking tape, a masking fluid eraser, and a small tin of salt.

I’m sure you want to know more about that Moleskine and Pocket Palette.


Moleskine Watercolor Sketchbook included with Art Toolkit

The Moleskine watercolor sketchbook included in the kit is 8-1/4″ x 5″ (21cm x 13cm) with a landscape orientation. The paper cold-pressed, acid-free and 135 lb (200 g/m). There are 72 pages.

Moleskine watercolor sketchbook detail

It is formulated for line and wash – that is, smooth enough ink, but durable enough for watercolor washes. It has a hardcover with edges that are almost flush to paper.  The sewn binding is well-stitched and even.

Detail of Moleskine watercolor sketchbook elastic closure string

It has an elastic band for closure that is inset into the back cover.

Moleskine Watercolor Book Interior View

The pages lie flat.

Moleskine Watercolor Sketchbook Interior Pocket

There is a large, expandable pocket on the inside of the back cover.

Watercolor Painting Example by Sandra Strait
Krimml Waterfalls Austria Reference Photo courtesy of Lars_Nissen on Pixabay

I didn’t go to my usual extremes of testing the paper while painting this, because the Moleskine isn’t the focus of this review.  I did however overwork this painting to check out the basics. I used the Sharpie pen and waterbrush that came with the kit.

Pen went down smoothly on the cold-pressed paper.  It held up well to washes, though I didn’t get much of a drippy effect. Color lifted well, though not as much as I personally like.  It did allow me to paint over the lifted areas well, and there was no immediate pilling.

The paper curled.  Using the paper clips would have stopped that, but I wanted to see what it did without them.

It’s good watercolor paper.  The paper in most watercolor books is usually formulated for quick sketches, lighter washes and little fussing.  I’d say this paper is formulated to be middle-of-the-road in the way of technique, but better than most in handling heavier applications of paint and fussing.

Cold-pressed paper is much-loved for painting both urban sketches and nature studies, so this will be a great book for almost any plein air painter.

Pocket Palette

Pocket Palette Exterior View Expeditionary Art

The pocket palette is 3 5/8″ x 2 2/2″ x 1/4″ (~92mm x 64mm x 7mm).

Art Toolkit Pocket Palette Interior View With Paint

It’s the size of a business card.  The hinged case is made from rust-proof aluminum.

Pocket Palette With Magnetic Metal Pans from The Art Toolkit

The pans are corrosion-resistant stainless steel. The kit includes 14 standard pans, sized 26mm x 13mm x 3mm, with a paint capacity of 2.5 ml. For over 10 years, Maria has experimented with spray coating, magnet-responsiveness and rust-resistant to come up with this pocket palette. It isn’t the result of lab experiments – it’s been up close and well-tested in field conditions as has the entire kit.

There are different size pans available.  With the smallest size, the mini-pans, this palette can hold up to 28 colors.

Empty Pocket Palette

The bottom of the palette is a strong magnet, to hold your pans securely, but allowing them to be removed with ease.  The mixing surface has been developed to be waterproof and easy to clean.

Magnetic Watercolor Pans and Pocket Palette from The Art Toolkit

You can change the layout of the pans.  If you decide to purchase pans of different sizes, you have a great deal of flexibility in your set-up. I won’t go into great detail about the other size pans, because this is a review of the kit itself, but I do recommend checking them out if you are interested in the kit.

Watercolor Pans Closeup Filled With Paint

The case has sidewalls to keep the pans from sliding out, and provide barriers for the paint.  They also add strength to the entire case.

Watercolor Metal Full Pans Closeup The Art Toolkit Pocket Palette

There is a lip at the bottom edge.  The pans can partially slide under this, but the magnet will keep them from doing so unless you push them underneath. There is enough room in the palette to keep all the pans fully exposed.  This is extremely helpful, because if you are taking pans out or rearranging, you slide the bottom pans down and that gives you room to easily pick up the ones you are after.

The Art Toolkit Pocket Palette Interior Closeup

You are probably wondering if it is difficult to work with such small pans. The size and shape of your brush makes a difference. If you are using the waterbrush included in the kit there isn’t much of a problem.  Larger brushes or ones with specialty shapes require more care.

I’ve used a size 10 round, a size 8 dagger shape and 1/2 inch flat.  I tend to be fast and sloppy when loading my brushes with paint.  I had no problem with that when using the waterbrush but had to slow down and think about how I was moving my brush with the larger sizes.  After a short while, I got into the groove, and had no further trouble.

And I will say, this is an issue with most small palettes and the smaller it is, the more care needed.  You also need to be extra careful about how much water you put in a pan, to avoid it puddling into the colors next to it.  Using the waterbrush mostly eliminates that problem.

Maria has been developing this palette and pans for over 10 years, calling on her experience in the field.

The pocket palette is available in both silver and black. You can choose which you prefer for your kit.  I added my own paint, but you can choose one pre-filled for a slightly higher price.

Pocket palettes can be purchased separately either empty, with different types of pans, or pre-filled.  There are also demi-palettes that are half the size! Yes, half the size of a business card, measuring 2 3/16″ by 1 3/4″ x 1/4″ (~55mm x 45mm x 7mm).

Art Toolkit – Overall

The Art Toolkit is one rugged set-up.  Designed to be waterproof, rot-proof, mildew-proof, tear-proof – it’s everything-proof, I think! It’s been tested in the field under extreme conditions, it’s compact, easily carried and hard to damage.  It has almost all the tools necessary for outdoors painting and room for you to customize.

Is it tougher than you need? If you’re using it for around the home, it keeps things together, organized and should last a lifetime. I’ve had similarly priced kits with straps and zippers that broke within weeks and allowed items to slide and fall out of their pockets.  Preferences differ, but I’ve found this to be just the right size and hold just what I need most.  I’m using it daily at home. I’ll be heading out for some solo painting adventures when the weather warms up and I know I won’t need anything but my kit and some water.

If this kit is too big for you, the Art Toolkit website also offers a Pocket Art Toolkit that is approximately 5″ x 7-1/2″ when closed, and 10″ x 7-1/2″ when opened, and a demi-palette that is half the size of a business card.

If you make a purchase between now and April 30th, 2020, be sure to use the coupon code, DOODLE31 good for 15% off.


I’m giving away one of the Expeditionary Art demi-palettes with a side of 5 extra mini pans so you can switch out some colors if you wish. The demi-palette is not included in the Art Toolkit.  For instructions on entering this giveaway, and a video showing the demi-palette, visit Life Imitates Doodles.

Where Can I Find More Information?


I bought the Art Toolkit and decided to review it without being asked.  Maria Coryell-Martin supplied the demi-palette, 5 mini-pans that I’m giving away, and offered the discount code.  I received no other considerations, though this post may contain affiliate links which help support Doodlewash. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Recommended6 recommendationsPublished in Art Supply Reviews

34 thoughts on “REVIEW: Art Toolkit By Expeditionary Art

      1. I’m glad to hear it. Definitely adding it to my wishlist. I’ve gotten into the habit of using pen in the field and then adding color when I get home. I think this would make it much easier to do everything in the field. Thank you again!

  1. Great review Sandra! I’ve wondered if they were worth buying. Hard to justify right now as I just spent a chunk of change on two online classes and supplies. Glad I did now we can’t leave home. Having exhibits canceled hurts so trying to put spending on hold and see how the summer plays out. Stay safe!

  2. Really great review.

    I have an Expeditionary Art palette with Greenleaf and Blueberry paint (limited edition) and really like it. I’ve taken it out more than once and really enjoyed using it.

    Now that Accurasee seems to have discontinued my beloved sketch caddie I’ve been reviewing other options and this has now gone to top of my list. I love zippers as things tend to fall out if I can’t zip around three sides. I am impressed with all of the pockets. I love pockets.

  3. So neat and organized! Would be the perfect tool for getting my supplies back and forth to my daughters house. I travel often to see the grandkids. Thank you.

  4. Hmmm, did you notice my toolkit was beginning to fall apart when we got together a few months ago? Thank you for this indepth review. You answered all my questions and then some, like always! It’s my birthday month, so I just buy this for myself! ;p Thank you!

  5. I have the Pocket Art Toolkit as well as the standard and love, love them both. The pocket version is my go-to for doodling and sketchbook art-making when I’m flying (yeah, flying…remember what that was?). It fits perfectly on my lap, I use the little hook with a caribiner on it to clip it so it doesn’t fall to the floor (a calamity when in those little tiny seats) and I spend the hours flying in my own little world–and I have everything right at hand (and even more than I need–I include a glue stick, an click-up eraser and even little folding scissors in mine).

  6. Sandra, thanks for reviewing an outstanding tool set for travel and sketching. I bought my set a few years ago and have followed Maria’s work or three or more years. She is a remarkable artist in both sketch work and large watercolors, a real ambassador for the Pacific Northwest and for the polar regions. You really have to visit her website to read the heartbreaking story bout the plight of polar and arctic birds ( Black Guillemot) and the First Peoples.

  7. Wonderful in-depth review! I have the Pocket Palette which I use as my alternative urban sketching palette, as it’s loaded with my more unusual paints, i.e. Primateks, etc. I really like it, it’s very practical and I love the choice of bigger, shallower pans as it’s much easier on my brushes. I definitely want to get another and more pans (including some large mixing pans) so I can swap out colors, so thanks for the coupon code. They’re so lightweight, you can bring a couple with you.

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