Traveling with Pastel Paintings

Traveling with pastels is always a challenge. Making sure our palettes and easels make it to our painting destinations and back home safely is worrisome. As inconvenient as transporting our palettes as carry-on luggage may be, it’s always better to be present when an inspection takes place. Recently, I heard new stories of artists attempting to place their pastel palettes in checked luggage, only to find that the baggage was opened for inspection and the officials didn’t know how to properly open and close the cases, creating considerable damage and mess. The only other alternative is to carefully box and ship supplies to a predestined location, which adds expense.

When it comes to pastel paintings, however, sending them as checked luggage may still be the best option. Given the limitations (and fees) for extra carry-on luggage, the best means of transporting pastel paintings back home could be common tracing paper tablets (see photo). These can be purchased in a variety of sizes depending on your painting needs. Tracing paper is akin to glassine paper in that pastel tends not to cling to its surface. Glassine is still the best, but tracing paper is a close second. Avoid plastic bags as they have static electricity that pulls pastel off the painting surface. Instead of removing the sheets of paper from the tablet and attaching them to your paintings, tape the individual paintings between sheets of the paper in the tablet. Many paintings can be sandwiched this way in a single tablet. Place clips or large rubber bands around the tablet and place it in a clear plastic bag that can easily be acquired from a framing supply store. This protects the contents of your checked bag as well as allowing for a large note to be attached describing the contents of the packet in case of inspection. Personally, I always place a large note on top of the contents of my checked luggage stating that the baggage contains “fragile fine art paintings in pastel (chalk)”. This tablet can then be sandwiched between layers of clothing for padding. If additional puncture support is desired, place a couple sheets of strong Gator Foam Board on the front and back for protection. This doesn’t weigh much and takes up hardly any room in the luggage. As long as your bag isn’t lost, your pastel artwork will come through safely.

Would you like to watch Richard McKinley in action? Check out his new ArtistsNetworkTV video workshops either as an online streaming video by visiting the ANTV website here or on DVD at our online shop here.

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3 thoughts on “Traveling with Pastel Paintings

  1. Marsha Savage

    Thanks for the information. I have used glassine and tracing paper pads many times to transport paintings. But, I will tell you of one that did not work so well. I used the method above, but I placed the paintings in a USPS box and shipped them home along with clothes. I had painted these (there were three) plein air. Needless to say, I was quite disappointed. They were taped down quite well, but this is the only explanation that makes any sense.

  2. Deborah Secor

    Richard, when I place a painting in a tablet (whether tracing paper or newsprint) I tape it between TWO clean pages. That way, if someone wants to purchase it from me, I can remove both pages, tape it all together and give them a neat package to take with them.