Q. I often take art classes and frequently travel to workshops. Because I paint in oils, I find that I have to transport my works while they’re still wet. What’s the best way to travel both long and short distances with wet paints?
A. I’m a plein air landscape painter and for years I’ve battled with carrying wet paintings around. Through trial and error, I’ve discovered a few solutions that can help you with the process. One option is to prepare two unpainted canvases or panels of the same size before traveling. Place backing boards on the stretched canvases to make them resistant to punctures, and then they can be put face to face and taped together with carton tape. Just pull the tape off to use them. After painting, you can separate the wet paintings with small canvas pins—plastic “”barrels”” with a pin in each end. Place a pin on the face of one painting in each corner, push it into the stretcher, and then place the other painting (or blank canvas) on the other end of the canvas pin and tape the paintings together. The pins will hold the two paintings apart, keeping the wet surfaces from touching.
The only disadvantage to using the pins is that they’ll leave small holes in each corner of the painting, but these are usually covered by the rabbet of the frame. An even cheaper version of this method is to nail four or more small strips of wood into the edge of the stretcher to attach two same-sized paintings face-to-face, using the blocks to leave a space between them.
Another option is to build a slat-sided, open-topped box specifically for different painting sizes—9×12 or 12×18. I cut channels into the ends of the box that allow me to slide a wet or dry panel or canvas inside. The open sides allow air circulation. My plein air paintings are often on canvas mounted on 1/8- or 1/4-inch plywood panels, and each slot will hold two of these, back to back, or one regular stretched canvas. For better portability I screwed a short length of nylon strapping into the ends of the box as a handle. There are several boxes similar to this already on the market—you’ll find them advertised in art magazines and in catalogs.
There are other ready-to-use items on the market as well. With a French Easel (such as that made by Jullian) or a traveling sketch box easel, you can carry a canvas on the easel when it’s folded. Then there are clips (Canvas Carrying Clips) that hold two canvases of the same size together—some, such as the Kinsley Wet Canvas Carrier, even have handles. There are also wood-and-canvas carriers that clamp paintings of different sizes into a carrying frame. Take a closer look at some of these items and I think you’ll find one that meets your needs.
“My goal is to become a painter, not a watercolorist. I don’t ever want to feel as if I’m producing work to order. I want to feel that I’m experiencing painting,” says Karen Frey, a signature member of the National Watercolor Society and a member of Watercolor USA Honor Society.
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