tinyExpanse tiny travel box.
Today's blog involves a little Plein Air-tech-geeking for anyone interested in putting together their own traveling painting kit.
My little painting box, my most prized possession, goes with me everywhere I travel. It is often cause for curiosity - it looks like a bomb kit to TSA agents. It looks like a drug kit to cops passing by. To me, it is my little haven that contains infinite opportunity for quiet time to observe the world around me no matter where I am.
I'm often asked how I travel with oil paint - there's lots of logistics due to the slow drying time of the medium. So I thought it'd be fun to share some ideas that have worked for me to help you start your own painting kit.
Over the last 2 years I've reduced the size of my basic Plein Air kit to a 9"x5"x3" aluminum Sigg ALU box, and fantasize about downsizing to their smaller ALU Box Mini (about 7"x5"x2.5"). I love these boxes - the latches hold up well, they are easy to pack with their sturdy rectangular shape, paint can be scrubbed off them with a scotch bright pad, and they have a good looking design. The larger box fits perfectly into my small day/hydration pack, leaving my hands free while I hike to my painting location. Most of all I just like the clank of the metal on metal when I put on the lid.
Here are the essentials I keep inside my Sigg box:
A sturdy TSA approved pouch of paint. I got mine at the Container Store a few years ago and it has held up well - the zipper still works well despite abuse from dirt and paint. Make sure the mesh is strong, as this pouch will get worked. I fill 22ml empty paint tubes ordered from Jerry's Artarama with only my most essential paint colors. These are small enough for plane travel. I just put my shampoo and other liquid cosmetics in the pouch with my paint when I go through security. Keeping the number of colors you carry with you small will help you learn to mix paint more skillfully as well as cultivate your own color palette. I have about 12-15 but would love to get it down to 8-10.
I've been through a few of these, first trying tubes specifically made for brushes. But this one, a 99cent toothbrush holder from the Container Store, has proved to be my favorite. One reason is because it is rectangular, making it more space efficient and less prone to rolling away from you (I recently lost my most treasured brush collection in this way with a round tube) I keep about 6 brushes with me, as well as a piece of vine charcoal and a sharpie marker that I use to date the back of my tinyExpanse paintings.
This gives you a way to clean brushes between paint colors. I got this from Guerrilla Painter on Jerry's Artarama. Guerrilla Painter is a fantastic resource for Plein Air painters. This Mighty Might Jr Brush Washer works really well and is a compact size at about 2" wide. Great for cleaning small brushes when you aren't going to have access to a sink for a few days. I use the larger Mighty Might at home in my studio.
Painting Medium Container
Again, this is from Guerrilla Painter. It is their Large Mouth Single Palette Cup. I tore the bottom clip off since I don't need it, and repurposed it as a money clip (dorky, I know). I also put this in my paint pouch when I go through security at airports. If I'm going on a longer trip and need more medium, I carry an extra portion in a GoToob made by HumanGear. I love these. Some people might even like these instead of a palette cup, but I like to have the cup to dip my brushes into instead of always having to squirt medium onto my palette from the GoToob.
Any small tin will do. I don't mind a very small palette so I went as small as I could at the time - I've since seen Altoid tins that are smaller and I'll try that one in my smaller kit in progress. The hinges on this one are a little flimsy - Altoid boxes are more sturdy. But this one has held up for 6 months when I only expected it to last a few weeks. I scrape mine clean every week with a spoon and then scrub it with scotch bright and dish or brush cleaning soap.
Wet Painting Storage
And then I throw in a small scrap of rag (I like about 3"x3") to wipe my brushes between colors. That's about it! I put the Sigg box inside my daypack along with a few other items - brush soap if I'm traveling away from home, Ice Breaker Merino wool glove liners to keep my fingers from freezing in the winter while still being nimble, extra canvases, a few extra rags, and a GoToob full of extra medium. All these extra items can be left behind for shorter outings.
Have fun getting nerdy and putting together your kit! Guerrillapainter.com is a great resource that I mentioned a few times above. Carl, the inventor, will even personally call you to answer questions you post on the website. They have painting kits of their own that they sell, but I've found that they are a little bit heavy and bulkier than necessary, so I like my custom Sigg box kit for daily painting. I do use their Large French Resistance Box and tripod, as well as all three sizes of Wet Painting Totes for longer truck-camping outings. The Container Store and drugstores are great for finding just the right shape and size storage products to fit inside your box. Once you get a first attempt of a kit together, take it out in the field to give it a try and little by little you will fine-tune it so it's perfect for your way of working.
And then, freedom to paint anywhere!