I don’t need to tell you how difficult it could be to bring what you need on the road. Vacationers bring flip flops, too many T-shirts and an endless supply of travel size liquids which they’ll never use. Travelers pack strategically, clothes and comfortable shoes. But what about you, the traveling artist? Obviously, you can’t travel naked (though it’ll make the TSA line run a lot quicker), but you have one suitcase to fit art essentials and life essentials. Depending on the type of art you create, things can be tricky.
Let’s spend a few minutes and make life a lot easier. First, think about how long you will be on the road. Second, think about size and space. Third, what will be better to buy versus what is best to bring?
What to pack
Acrylics are liquid and so is gauche. Unless you’re not bringing hygienic essentials, keep in mind that your liquid will be limited in the airport. Hard paints like watercolor palettes are your best bet. You’ll need to bring the brushes and possibly a bottle for the water you’ll eventually use. Although, even the bottle may be optional, as those European cafes serve glasses water as well as cappuccinos dulces. If you’re a charcoal or pastel fan, even better.
Check out this traveling set of essentials:
- Winsor & Newton Water Colour Palette
- Round hair bases brush
- Brand is your preference. Consult the size chart on the link above to tailor the type and size to your work.
- Faber-Castell’s PITT Artist pens
- Prismacolor color pencils for bright artwork (especially in watercolor pencil form) or Faber-Castell for deeper shades/ shadowing.
- Faber-Castell’s Polychromous Set and make sure to bring a moldable eraser.
- Strathmore pad, size 14 X 17 is the largest size that will fit as the bottom layer in a 9 x 14 x 22 inch carry-on suitcase. Chances are you’ll be using much smaller.
- Moleskin sketch book is a wise option.
- Faber-Castel pastel pencils and/or charcoals
Thinking about limiting traditional means altogether? Evernote makes it possible to digitally sketch. Wacom also makes this possible with their digital sketch pads.
Photographers, check out what the pros are using!
Nicola Easterby from @polkadotpassport uses a few different essentials such as the Canon 6D and Canon S120. It seems that Canon is the way to go for traveling and capturing quality images; but make sure that whatever you decide, you MUST be comfortable with it!
How to pack it
There are two avenues. A. Carry a separate bag for your supplies and either fit it inside your carry-on/carry it separately. B. Forgo a separate artist’s bag and condense supplies in a separate compartment in the same bag as your other travel essentials.
A great artist’s bag for those who fancy option A is the Winsor and Newton art bag. There are other options out there, but this one also comes complete with art supplies.
As for option B, there are many different bags that you can find with separate compartments; however, Nomatic makes a super innovative carry-on that’s durable and will hold everything short of an easel. Really. And it transforms from a hand-held to a backpack. Another seriously sturdy second option are these three listed on OneBag. They have really perfected the art of compartmentalizing. Lastly, Tortuga Backpacks are one of a kind. Functional and urban-stylish, they’ve been featured on Travel Channel and Condé Nast Traveler among others. Check them out!
The take away
- Solid paints and art media are your friends.
- Use the camera you will be comfortable with.
- Do not over pack and weigh what you need verses what you can buy.
- Art supplies are for your carry-on only! Unless you plan to be sculpting or designing something that doesn’t require the above, do not leave it up to chance- carry-on is best.
A little true story
While studying abroad years ago, I traveled from Rome to London. At the time, I was studying Fashion Industry Management and focusing on illustration. Back in Rome, I used “exacto razor blades” all the time for creating those clean edges around my illustrations to mount on separate board. For some reason, I used my school bag as my carry-on bag… and completely forgot to remove the blades! Surprisingly, I got to London without a problem and completely unaware of this fact. But coming back was a different story. The British TSA woman opened by pack and pulled a stainless-steel pen (given to me by my mother from her art school years ago) and a pack of expensive blades for the pen (also sentimental). My eyes widened- I had no idea I left them in there, and tried to protest that I was a design student, not a terrorist. She didn’t even bat and eye and threw them out in front of me- with a smile. That was 9 years ago and she still makes me cringe. So now I remind other artists not to make the same mistake I did! If you must bring sharp supplies, that is the only exception for a check-in. Oh, and check twice.
In the end, it’s about capturing what the world has to offer and from your own perspective. Enjoy the trip and share the artwork!