There are lots of things to consider when packing art supplies. Primary questions are – how are you traveling, and how much can you personally carry. If you are traveling by plane or train, pack as small and light as possible. Remember, you have to carry all of this stuff. Frankly, you should do that anyway, but a car trip gives you the luxury of carrying more stuff.
My art supplies (for planes):
Checked in luggage: Water soluble oils, brushes, alkyd medium, solvent container (but no solvent), packed in gasket sealed food container, then enclosed in a 1 or 2 gallon ziplock. Packed in checked in luggage. I also print out the safety data sheets for my materials and pack them in the suitcase. You CAN’T fly with solvent. That is why I travel with Water soluble oils. I can make due with water, or I can buy some solvent when I land.
Checked in luggage: 9×12 or smaller painting surfaces – 1-2 for each day. These fit into 2 gallon ziplock bags. Panel Paks. These are in checked luggage.
Carry on: Joshua Been Daytripper easel and easel attachment, or Stada Mini pochade if I want even lighter/smaller. Tripod, easel attachment. They go in my carry on.
Carry on: Pastels: 72-120 half sticks of pastels of various brands. Label the box CHALK PASTELS and tape a business card to it. Enclose it in a ziplock bag to contain the dust. My lightest colors are always soft, since, like oils, I layer dark to light. I take a travel size watercolor pan as well. Watercolors can give you some needed darks, and are great for underpainting. I use a small empty vitamin bottle for a water bottle and some flexible water brushes. If you want to work on the plane, pack some smaller pastel paper. I like 4×6, 5×7, or 6×8. I clip paper to a piece of foamcore and put it all in a ziplok.
Checked in: 11×14 or smaller paper (UArt400 for me), in a large ziplock bag, clipped to a backer board. As long as all of the paper is clipped together, it doesn’t really move much and your pastels stay intact. You can separate them with a sheet of glassine if you like, but they are fine just stacked. The ziplock keeps the dust confined to the bag, and not all over your clothes.
Checked in: Very portable easel and Easel Butler. Not everyone needs an easel. I do.
Want to pack even lighter:
Watercolors/pencils/sketchbook/Darsie Beck Field Easel Art Bag:
I highly recommend this bag. It is well designed. You can also just take your iPad Pro and pencil. Happy travels. More info below.
Barb, the perfect packer
I have a picture of Barb, our perfect packer. Really. You can do it (that black suitcase in the background is NOT hers). This is EVERYTHING she brought on her two week painting trip to France.
The cheapest setup – a tripod style easel, a masterson palette and palette paper, an Easel Butler Shelf.
This is one of my current favorites. It is the Joshua Been Daytripper easel. It is the lightest weight, with retractable hooks that make it easy to pack and carry. This is for oil painters.
I love this one for painting or for around town. The palette is for oil/acrylic painters.
If you can paint small, this is a good one.
There are many very small pochades – Artwork Essentials, Guerilla, and Utrecht offer some nice ones.
A Feather Pro Art and Tripod Easel with and Easel Butler are a perfect combo. You can buy the easel at Jerrysartarama and the Easel Butler from the Easel Butler website. I have these as well.
For watercolorists, some pastelists, and for small people, this is a lightweight easel. It is the Eric Michael’s En Plein Air Pro Easel.
It doesn’t work for people who are taller than 5’2″ AND who work upright. Most oil painters, and many pastel artists want our canvas upright. If you want your surface flat, as watercolorists, and as some pastelists do, then this is a great one. The easel setup and shelf are a good design for their purpose.
This appears to be a good setup from enpleinair.com. It is their pro series. I don’t like their OTHER oil painting setup, but I do like this one. I’d appreciate comments from anyone who has this one. You have to buy the whole thing, not just parts. I ordered, and returned the boxes for pastels and oils. I don’t like them, but this one looks like a good design.
This is a Silver Lead Easel. It is cheap, folds down to 21″ or less, and very lightweight. It is not going to last you for years, but it will last you through a few trips. It packs well for airplane travel. On one airplane painting trip many artists brought this easel, along with either the En Plein Air shelf (above) or with a homemade shelf made with a cigar box and coat hooks. The setup worked well.
For pastels, just bring lots of paper and a solid board to tape paper to for easel work. My favorite is still Kitty Wallis paper or UArt 400.
You can use lots of simple boxes.
Heilman appears to be the cream of the crop of pastel boxes. I don’t own one, simply because they are pricey and I do lots of mediums. I can’t bring myself to buy another easel. But I’d buy the double sketch box for travel. Limit your colors. Pastels can weigh a lot.
Dakota Pastels also has a good travel box, without an easel attachment
Pastels: I’m putting together my own box. I don’t want to carry more or less than I need. Pastels can really weigh a lot if you bring everything. Try to see how minimal you can make your set. I use harder darks and softer lights. I use all brands, If you want to travel really light, try buying a specific landscape set. I have often traveled with Mungyo 1/2 stick pastels. They are cheap, and good quality. Throw out the flourescent colors, but you can buy a set at Hobby Lobby or Michaels for under $12. Really. By layering your colors and supplementing with watercolor, you can get a pretty full range of values.
Another blog about traveling with pastels.
Marvin Chew: An Urban Sketcher’s art supplies:
Surfaces: For oils: A lot of loose, primed canvas, cut to a little larger than you need. Tape each one to a board. OR you can bring some canvas panels. Hardboard gets heavy fast, so consider MultiMedia Art Board. Here is a video on mounting canvas to board.
Grafix Cold Mounting Adhesive
Acrylic Gloss or Matte Medium, Acid Free PVA Glue, Miracle Muck
If you are traveling with painting panels, you need a good way to travel with them. Here are two brands that I think work equally as well. I have both. I use them every time I go painting. They pack well in your suitcase.
To make your own pochade boxes here are some links.
The first is a FOAMCORE pochade for your lap.
• Start early. Pack about a week before the trip. Pack art supplies first, then figure out your wardrobe — comfy shoes, washable comfy clothes. Your pack should weigh about 20 percent of your body weight, preferably no more than 20 pounds. Pack light, wash frequently, buy it if you need it. You have to lug this stuff around. Try lugging your suitcase around for a day.
• I will be taking a carry-on size bag (9” x 21” x 13”) that I check in and a small backpack that I will carry on. Yes, airlines allow you more than this, but it seems I am lugging this stuff everywhere — through train stations, up and down stairs, up the stairs to my hotel room. Unless you are bringing a porter of your own, pack as if you will be carrying it all around all by yourself. You will. See Rick Steve’s guide for packing.
• Edit. Edit. Edit
• I put my oil paints and acrylics in the checked luggage. I used to carry them with me, and I prefer to do this, but it becomes harder and harder to carry on much that won’t get confiscated. I came close to having my art supplies confiscated on my last trip. I carry my pastels on with me, and have them labeled CHALK. Please send comment on your experiences or opinions on this one.
We all want to take 700 pastel sticks and/or 30 tubes of paint. You can really get by with 60-120 pastels. Play with your palette before you leave. Edit it down. Pastels are darned heavy. Lighten up. You can always add more color when you get home. Paints – no more than 8 tubes. Simplify!!!! Easels: I’m taking a tripod and a pochade box. Feel free to contact Jeanean or myself with questions. Jeanean travels everywhere with a half french easel. That is too cumbersome for me, but she swears by hers.
• Paints are definitely in your CHECKED IN luggage. You CAN’T carry this on the plane. I put all of my paints in gasket sealed food containers. These are leakproof. You might even enclose that in a gallon sized plastic baggie.
• Painting supports. Hardboard panels are HEAVY. I strongly advise against them. 9×12 works well for my travel. This is the perfect size for my luggage. I can do larger paintings when I get home. I like to work on panels. I use MultiMedia Art board for most. It is VERY thin and lightweight, so it travels well and doesn’t take up much luggage space. Gatorboard also works well, but takes up more space. On a painting trip I want a dozen or so surfaces and I need all the luggage space. You can always mount it on hardboard when you get home. Or just back it with hardboard. I love this stuff. Sometimes I just prime the board. Sometimes I mount canvas on it. Or you can buy a pad of good quality canvas pads and mount the paintings when you get home. Or cut up some primed canvas and tape it to some foamcore or gatorboard. Mount when you get home (caveat – canvas should be larger than you intend the finished work to be. I use Graphix cold mount to adhere my paintings. Some artists use a wet adhesive like Matte Medium, or Miracle Muck or PH neutral white glue. Using a wet adhesive will make your canvas shrink ever so slightly). Or, if you cut it large enough, you can stretch it when you get home.
• Pastel supports. I love Wallis paper, UArt 400, or tinted Art Spectrum paper. I like paper. I can always mount it on something when I get home. I bring glassine and an envelope to hold the pastels. I pack them in my luggage. If you want a more solid support, use Art MultiMedia board. You can either paint pastel ground directly on to it, or mount your paper on it. Many artists use canvas and pastel paper mounted on gatorboard. This is lovely for a car trip, but if you are flying, it takes up too much precious luggage space.
• Portable, packable easel
• Sunscreen and bug spray.
• One pair of walking shoes. I swear by MBT shoes
• One pair of sandals. I also have MBT sandals.
• One rainproof jacket
• One or two pairs of capris. Europeans tend to be a bit more formal than Americans, and I seldom see shorts. I don’t bring them.
• A couple of pairs of pants — you are artists — you can’t be too formal because we’ve got work to get done, but we also need clothes that are comfortable for museums and dinners out.
• 4-5 pairs of microfiber undies (pack a pair or two in your carryon)
• 1-2 extra bras
• 4-5 tops
• Maybe a cardigan for layering
• Pajamas/flip flops
• Toiletries, OTC medications, Prescription drugs (in original container with your name and your doctor’s name, write down generic name). PUT IN CARRYON!
• Camera (pack in carryon)
• Body soap/puff (washcloth); most European hotels do not supply washcloths
• Razor (non-electric)/shaving cream or soap (DO NOT pack in carryon)
• First aid kit/moleskin/blister kit
• Feminine hygiene products
• Nail clippers/file/tweezers (NOT in you carryon)
•Spare glasses and/or prescription, mini-eyeglass repair kit, or contact lenses and supplies
•Moneybelt: Passport, plane ticket, debit card, credit cards, driver’s license (if you’re renting a car)
•Security: Bury copies of your passport, plane ticket, and prescriptions in the bottom of your luggage.
Make copies of all important papers and credit cards and leave at home. If something happens, you can call and someone can retrieve the info. Keep an extra copy of your passport in your luggage.