Pastel Painting Transportation, Part 3 | Packing Paintings for Air Travel

For the third installment of the discussion on transporting pastel paintings, I want to focus on how best to prepare them for placement into checked luggage for air travel. Over the last several years, the size and weight limitations on luggage have changed. Gone are the days of free checked bags unless you are one of the fortunate travelers who qualifies for premier/elite status. Even then, the same size and weight limitations apply. I have little concern as to how my dirty clothing may be handled in transit, but my pastel paintings are another matter! This has led to considerable thought and preparation as to how best to pack paintings in way that assures their safety and yet still falls within the mandatory guidelines set by the industry. Here are tips:

  • Weight: Most major airlines have set the weight limitation to 50 pounds on a single checked bag. Anything over that will incur a significant fee.  As mentioned in part 1 of this discussion, Gatorfoam Board has definitely made it easier to bring multiple drawing boards without adding considerable weight.
  • The Sandwich: Due to the strength of Gatorfoam board, pastel surfaces can be sandwiched between them and clipped together (as outlined in Part 2 of this conversation) making for a nearly puncture resistant bundle. Sheets of glassine or tracing paper may be placed between finished paintings that are being carefully stacked one on top of the other for added protection.
  • Portfolios: The dimensions of most large luggage can hold up to 16×20-inches without a problem. Depending upon my painting intentions, I have devised two sandwich/portfolio set-ups consisting of a lightweight canvas shoulder portfolio bag and Gatorfoam Board sandwich. One is 16×20 and the other 14×17. An added benefit is that tracing paper pads are available in 14×17. The tracing paper pad can be used as a temporary storage portfolio by removing a day’s paintings and taping them to individual sheets in the pad. If you start with the bottom sheet of tracing paper, others can safely be laid on top, sheet after sheet, for protection. A few small binder clips can then be positioned to add stability to the closed pad. This tracing paper portfolio can then be sandwiched between the Gatorfoam boards, placed into a canvas portfolio, and safely packed in the luggage for the return trip home.
  • Saving Space: When it is absolutely necessary to travel very light, I use sheets of Vellum tracing paper, which is heavier in weight, and a plastic sleeve. Finished paintings are placed upside-down (face towards the paper), a couple tabs of artist or drafting tape is then used to hold them in place, and then it is turned over so another painting can be placed on the reverse side. This allows one sheet of Vellum tracing paper to protect two paintings. The plastic sleeve holds them in place and this is again placed between Gatorfoam boards to create a protective sandwich.
  • Packing the Sandwich: Finally, place the painting sandwich portfolio between an upper and lower layer of clothing for padding with a note explaining that it contains pastel/chalk artwork paintings that are fragile. I leave a cell phone number in case any inspector needs to call for more information. Then keep your fingers crossed. So far, knock on wood, all of my pastel paintings have returned home safely.

This photo shows my packed portfolio layout ready for another pastel painting adventure.


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Now on DVD! Painting snow in pastel with Liz Haywood Sullivan!

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Now on DVD! Plein air painting in pastel with Liz Haywood Sullivan!


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