"To know what to leave out and what to put in;
just where and just how, ah,
THAT is to have been educated in the knowledge of simplicity."
Frank Lloyd Wright
The art of travel depends on packing l i g h t . Just the basics. Sounds so easy, and yet, traveling with the right mix of art supplies feels anything but simple. For those interested, here is my 5-star list:
The lightest palette I have found is part of the James Coulter easel system. The "mini" is perfect for travel because, when closed, it is the length and width of an average laptop and only a couple of inches deep, so bags designed for laptops offer perfect protection and cushion. Weighing in at only 2 lbs, you can keep it light by throwing in 9 x 12 pack of Grey Matters paper palette for mixing paint (instead of glass or plexi-glass).
The Slik tripod that holds the palette (also sold by James Coulter) weighs next to nothing and comes in its own carrying bag with handle, easily fits into an average carry-on when flying. (For more info: click here)
Artists pigments, formerly known as paint -- A limited palette means less weight and could include a warm and cool each of red, yellow, blue, plus white and black. For example, lemon yellow, cad yellow med, cad red light, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, prussian blue, titanium white and chromatic black. Here is but one of many ways to transport them when flying:
Wrap them in bubble wrap and they fit nicely in a lightweight sandwich container (I think it is made by Glad or Ziplock) that packs in checked luggage. I then slip that container into a ziplock bag and include the MSDS (material safety and data sheet) from the manufacturer's website as well as the numbers for TSA (866-289-9673) and the Hazardous Materials Research Center (800-467-4922) to avoid having them mistakenly confiscated by airport security as a hazardous material. Artist grade colors are not hazardous/ have a flash point at or above 450 degrees, but it is imperative that you never pack solvents as they are combustible/flammable (buy them when you get to your location).
I have found that small camera bags and lens bags make excellent carriers for so many things like camera and phone rechargers, and look how perfectly this small Holbein brush washer fits in the lens bag below. The bag prevents the hinges from getting hung on something in your backpack and spilling your OMS onto everything. It works well for plein air painting close to home, or when you travel by car.
brushes - My current favorite brushes are made by Silver Bristlon. All sizes, but expecially 6-8-10-12. Also pack a palette knife or two (in checked luggage only) and pliers for stubborn lids.
canvas - when flying, what could be better than linen on super lightweight multi-media board? You can choose the type of linen mounted on them and a dozen stack up to be only about an inch thick. (Wind River Arts sells them) I also have a large roll of claussens linen that I cut into custom sizes (like squares). When I am ready to paint, I will tape them to the back of a larger Raymar canvas board (or gatorboard, hardboard, even a clipboard will do). Once dry, they can be stacked between wax paper sheets, or rolled in a tube for return travel. I pre-cut them before I leave and assemble a dozen or so between foamboard with rubber bands to keep them flat (as you see in the photo below, along with the multi-media boards in the Panel Paks that come in every size).
And inside my Slik tripod bag I stuff small ziplocks holding grocery-store trashbags that offer extra cushion. A dozen or so sheets of Viva can be rolled around the legs - also providing cushion, and both are especially helpful upon arrival because you will be ready to paint, instead of out shopping for paper towels and trash bags. Maximizing even more packing space, you can see how I packed the 9x12 area inside the palette with six 6x8 multimedia board canvases, trash bags, hand wipes, and the handy EASyL wooden drying racks to be used in the hotel room to hold wet panels (sold by Artwork Essentials). All these are thin, so I can still fold the sides over and close the palette:
And probably the best tip I can offer is that you find a backpack that fits YOU, with comfortable shoulder, sternum and waist straps. I have also discovered that you can buy an inexpensive anti-fatigue foam mat at the hardware store, cut it to the size of the palette (or your backpack length and width) and slip it into your bag between the palette and your back. It serves two purposes by offering extra cushion for the palette during travel; and a cushioned place to stand on concrete/cobblestone surfaces when painting. (When I repack it at the end of the day, I slip it into a kitchen-sized trash bag so it doesn't get the bag dirty or dusty). Below, in the photo of the open bag, you can see it (grey) packed between the wooden palette on the right and the dozen linen canvases in foamboard to its left.
Still awake? Okay these are the basics. Throw a sketchbook, camera, hat, sunscreen, masking tape (for taping linen panels) and a bottle of water into the backpack, and you have a very portable system. Hopefully you will find some of these ideas helpful as you plan your next painting adventure.
"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful,
we must carry it with us or we find it not."
Ralph Waldo Emerson