Packing Up The Art Supplies...

6:51 AM

Getting ready for my trip to Acadia National Park and trying to decide what to take is so much fun!

I'm not sure what your approach is, but more often than not, we artists seem to adopt the "more is way better" attitude when it comes to packing up for a trip on which we hope to get some sketching done. In fact, we often try to take the whole studio, never considering how much that's gonna weigh!

After the tickets for my trip were booked, I started setting "maybe" art supplies in a pile at the corner of my desk. This past weekend, I pulled them out and sorted them to see what it was that I thought I wanted to pack and schlepp across two airports. Here's the pile:

Possible art stuff for the trip—the sad thing is that this isn't even all of it! Click to enlarge.
Taking a closer look from the top right:
1. Storage baggies and a piece of brown paper from a brown sack.
2. Masking fluid. Ummm, yeah. Moving on...
3. Assortment of pens, pencils, water brushes, charcoal pencils, watercolor pencils, bamboo pens, white markers and colored ink pens, both permanent and non-waterproof.
4. Wrist band for wiping my brush.
5. Two small plastic boxes containing clips, erasers, kneaded erasers, white and wax crayons and small splatter brushes.
6. Leatherman tool. (This will go in the checked luggage. I don't want to get thrown off the plane before I even get to board.)
7. Sketchbook and palette.
8. Assortment of travel brushes.
9. A fountain pen.
10. White post notes and a see-thru ruler.
11. Stamps, stamp pads, extra decorative paper, and whatnot.
12. (which is not marked in the image) Wet wipes at the top middle of the image. Those will go. They're great for having on hand after I pick up something "icky."
13. And right below the wet wipes is a box with several document clips on top. The clips will go. The box probably won't make the cut.

I have to point out that even with what I've culled from the list above that's still too much stuff to lug around. And believe me when I say that unless you're going on an art trip with likeminded artists or have copious amounts of free time to sketch and paint, it's highly unlikely that the majority of stuff you drag along will ever see daylight. Also, it gets damn heavy. What started out weighing 9 ounces will feel more like 9 pounds by the time you get home!

A Different Approach
Rather than approaching the art supply selection process from the "how much can I take" end, I find I do much better if I pull out what I MUST HAVE—something to draw on, something to draw with, something to add color with and color in some form.

In other words, the basics.

The better I do on choosing the basics, the more "extras" I can take to play with if I get the time.

Let's take another look:
Necessary basics—art stuff I won't leave home without. Click to enlarge.
Again from the center top:
1. Leatherman tool. You never know when you're going to have to operate on some piece of equipment that has suddenly decided to be contrary.
2. Baggies and brown paper. Always be prepared to bring home unexpected (but messy) treasures. Likewise with the brown paper. You just never know when you might need to sketch something on brown paper…or cover up a major oops.
3. Document clips. Yep. That wind is wicked to fight when you're trying to hold everything in your lap.
4. Wrist band. With this item, I don't have to struggle with paper towels fluttering in the wind, dropping on the ground or flopping over onto the wet page.
5. Post-It Notes® in white. I won't take all 1,184 notes. Instead, I'll break off about 50 and fold up the last not to cover the sticky strip. Why notes? When I skip a page I use the notes to write down my thoughts on what will go on that page, weather conditions, etc. Why white? Because I'm using water and have found that if the colored notes get wet they are inclined to leave a colorful imprint on my page. Not cool.
6. Sketchbook with extra pages.
7. See-thru ruler. I seldom use it, but when I need a ruler, I need a ruler.
8. Palette. Self explanatory.
9. Water brushes. These will be tested before I go to make sure I don't have any duds or leakers. I use four brushes (small, medium, large, and flat tips) because the handles are all interchangeable. If I run out of water on one handle, I simply change the handles to the preferred tip and keep going.
10. Fountain pen. I still have to make a decision as to which one (or three) fountain pens I'll be taking plus ink. I say three because one is my workhorse for drawing while the other two are great for lettering. Decisions, decisions!
11. White pens, mechanical pencils, stick eraser and (missing from the image) black waterproof pens. I generally take a couple of white pens (permanent and non-permanent), a loaded mechanical pencil, stick eraser (though this item is not strictly necessary), and the missing black pens. I take the extra black pens to make sure I have backup if I should have an ornery fountain pen or lose a pen. If I draw while I'm flying, it won't be with a fountain pen as they don't like pressure.

What's not showing besides the black pens: scraps of Zeta paper for practice, scraps of tracing paper for testing ideas if necessary, white gouache, wet wipes and possibly one stamp and one stamp pad. Maybe a couple of pieces of decorative paper.

Because I'll be staying in one location most of the time, I am trying to decide if I want to take my travel brushes. I can always use a glass for a water container. It will most likely depend on the weight once it's all in my bag.
All art supplies with the exception of sharp pointy things have to go in the bag.
If it doesn't fit, it's not going!
Leaving The Studio Behind
One of the biggest challenges we face when we take it on the road is making the decision to leave the studio at home. For me, getting out and about is learning to use the tools I have as best as I can. That means doing without or making an item do something I didn't intend for it to do.

Sometimes I'm successful. Sometimes not, but I always learn something.

How do you decide what to take on a trip?

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20 Creative Thought(s)

  1. Looks like fun to me. I always take too much. It all depends on whether we fly or drive. I take everything but the kitchen sink when we drive. I take less when we fly.

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    1. I tend to do the same thing unless I FORCE myself to stop and edit!

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  2. You've taught me to stick to the basics, Laure. Small palette with 10 colors, 2 waterbrushes, a 2b pencil, a black waterproof pen and a kneaded eraser. I knew I'd have to carry it myself :-)

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    1. Yes, having to carry it yourself does make you stop and think! But I still took too much.

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  3. Oh Laure - I am so glad you shared these basics with me. Even going out into the field close home I try to carry the whole studio with me. Have been working on packing a neat little bag that holds the necessaries. Going to peruse your list the next time I decide to take a sketching trip! Hope you have lots of fun and bring back much to share. Hugs.

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    1. I think most artists tend to take way too much, Debbie. It's just part of being artistic—we want options!

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  4. I start with what I have to have and add to it. If I get overwhelmed I stop and take only pencil, a black pen, a water rush, palette and a sketchbook. Sometimes I even leave the watercolor supplies and take my double primaries colored pencils (6, one warm and cool of red, yellow and blue). I don't really travel though. I may go to my daughter's or to the beach for an afternoon so it doesn't end up being too important for me.

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    1. Sounds like you're ahead of most of us, Timaree. It's just so darn hard to leave it all behind!

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  5. I would take that whole first batch you showed! But then my bag is heavy. And in the end, as much as I want to do it, I don't do anything in my book. And I don't know why.

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    1. It takes a certain amount of courage to drag that sketchbook out on a trip. It's too easy to say "Oh, I'll just take pictures and journal when I get home." But that's missing way too much fun!

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  6. HI Laurie, I always enjoy your blog. I take my palette and sponge, a few pencils, one eraser, too much paper, and my brushes with a cup for water. I'd rather have too much than not enough. Looks like you will have a wonderful time. love,Diana

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    1. Thanks, Diana! I took too much this time too, but I think if certain events had not have happened, it would have been fine. Maybe next time I'll get the balance right!

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  7. The white post-it idea is one of those great ones. I always have searched for scraps to wright on and lost them - thanks.

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    1. If you get the "super-sticky" post-it notes, be sure to stick them to your shirt or jeans BEFORE putting them down on the page or they can mar the paper if you either leave them too long or set something heavy down on the sketchbook that allows the note to stick a little too firmly!

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  8. Aha.... I just about to be in the packing mode for that trip with my son. I usually take too much, and then don't even get up the courage to do anything.... But, when I am working on something - I can get disappointed if I don't have just what I want .... hence I end up packing too much. I need to learn to relax more and be content with what did get packed. Well.... I'll try to pare back for this Mini-Cooper travel adventure -- and try to keep in mind that we're traveling in a small vehicle. Hope that helps. Thanks for the reminders ... it will be very helpful to be more intentional on what I take.

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    1. Sometimes less is more, Claire, and I'd think in a Mini Cooper, it's gonna be tight!

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  9. I used to take everything but the kitchen sink ... but then I realized I didn't use half of it and I seldom find time to experiment with 'that new stuff' while I am traveling. The thing I take more of is a variety of paper. I actually punch pages and put a variety into one spiral book (high surface bristol, 140# Arches, Aquarious II and some ho hum index); plus a 9x12 Aquabee and a smaller Aquabee, the smaller one for when I'm hiking. and three fountain pens so I have a variety of ink. ... and bottles of ink if I am going to be gone for several days. My four paint brushes are stored in a tooth brush holder (I had to saw off a little bit of handle on two of them) -- they don't rattle about and end up on their heads if I stuff a tissue in there too.

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    1. Interesting, Elva, I'd not thought about paper being a variable. I usually stick with just the one sketchbook, but I do take scraps of other paper for little doodles and whatnot. Cool idea on the toothbrush holder!

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  10. Hi Laure,
    Sometimes I like using coloured pencils but I don't take a lot of pencils. I cut my watercolour pencils in half and glued the cut
    ends together. So 12 long pencils become 6 pencils but I still have 12 colours. I colour in my drawing and add water
    when I get home. Cuts way down on stuff I take along with me.

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    1. What a cool idea, Bonny! That's something I would never have thought of. I have a very small set of short colored pencils (maybe 2.5 inches) but I never take them for some reason. I may need to revisit this! Thanks for the cool idea!

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