I am often asked what supplies I take with me when I travel and how do I get them to my destination intact. I’ve addressed these questions in previous posts (in December 2007 and March 2009), but—as useful as these methods have been—I continue to look for ways to make the process easier.
Air travel is the biggest issue. When I drive, the car can be filled with extras of everything, providing a sense of security. I know I will have what I want when I want it. Air travel is another matter. Baggage is often brutally handled. Pastels when scanned look suspicious. Easels often prove to be fragile. To avoid these concerns, supplies can be shipped in advance of travel. Since an extra charge has been added by most airlines for baggage, however, it has proved to be as cost effective and considerably less stressful to ship in advance. Many hotels will accept shipments before you arrive and will be helpful in arranging for pickup at the end of your stay.
While this may be the best solution for domestic travel—especially when you have a lot of supplies—it is impractical when it comes to traveling abroad. Most airlines allow for extra checked luggage without an additional charge when traveling overseas, but you still have the concerns of lost or damaged content. There is nothing more frustrating than waiting for lost luggage to arrive, only to find your supplies damaged and unusable. As Americans, we are pretty spoiled by the art supplies available to us. Many of the papers and brands of pastels we are accustomed to using are not available in other countries. To better enjoy your time painting and to avoid the hassle of tracking down usable supplies, it is advisable to take with you as much as possible. This is where the issues of “how much” and “how to transport” really come in to play.
For my upcoming workshop in France, I decided to forgo my usual system and work to fit everything required for 10 days of painting into a backpack. After considerable anxiety it has been organized and consists of:
- The backpack, strong enough to hold the contents, which weighs close to 15 pounds. It will fit in the overhead bin of the airplane. If you are unable to carry this much weight on your back, try using a sturdy rolling computer bag.
- A backpack size Heilman box containing the pastel palette.
- A small watercolor palette for underpainting procedures, a couple of brushes, and a small plastic cup.
- Twelve pieces of mounted pastel paper (9×12 to 11×14), covered with glassine tissue, and sandwiched between two pieces of rigid Gatorboard® for protection.
- A SunEden Artist Self-400 that attaches to a tripod, for holding the pastel palette.
- A lightweight sturdy tripod (Bogen Digi model 725B).
- Sketchbook, pencils, value markers, viewfinder, apron, hat, Viva brand paper towels (can’t pastel without them), and compact camera.
Note: Instead of using the SunEden or Heilman easel attachment, I mounted the tripod camera quick release plate to a 12×16 board, making an attachable drawing board to hold the pastel paper while painting.
I’ll let you know how the downsized system works in a few weeks when I return from l’aventure en France.