I’ve always admired the artists out on the streets, in the middle of fields in the early morning, and just simply out in the world painting. There’s something magical about it. Both the sight of the artist working and the artwork itself, no matter how good the art is “technically”. It is always delightful to see. Always.
It’s only the last year or so that I myself have really made a practice of creating art on the go. And while I have a full set of oil paint to paint en plein air with that I use often, it’s not always convenient or easy to fly with or keep in my purse. So last year I created a travel set of watercolors and gouache to paint with during all my travels. It has been so wonderful to have! Whenever I am away from my studio traveling, I try to bring this set along with me. It’s allowed me to paint in other countries and places I otherwise would’ve never been able to paint in.
I love painting on the go now! Painting while traveling has taught me a lot more about traveling than it has about painting or art. It’s so easy to snap a photo to capture a memory, but it’s an incomparable, lovely experience to slow down and really interpret and record what is in front of you. The paintings from my travels are quickly becoming little treasures. They take me back to those memories and places in a more authentic way than any photograph ever has.
But you don’t have to be an “artist” to record the things you see in that “magical” way. I remember once seeing a man in an airport sketching a beautiful little portrait in a small sketchbook. I really wanted to talk to him, as I was sure he was a professional artist, but someone else struck up the conversation for me. As it turned out, as I obviously eaves-dropped, I learned that he wasn’t a professional artist at all; he had picked up the hobby years ago and just made a point to always carry a sketchbook and pen. The beauty of his work came from his practice. And even trained artists interpret colors and scenes differently, so whatever it is that you paint will be special because it’s your own interpretation. That’s what makes a true artist, anyway!
With all that being said, I’m really excited to be sharing my travel-painting set with you today, because it really is such a joy to have. As you’re putting your own set together, remember that it is ok to add your own additional colors and supplies! And feel free to comment on any you can’t live without! I’d love to hear.
My Travel-Painting Set
Summary: I love this set because it is small enough that I can keep it in nearly every bag or purse I am carrying. It’s lightweight, and it’s very simple to keep well-stocked. I filled my palette with paint six months ago, and I’m only now replenishing a few colors. Depending on the type of paint you buy (better the paint, the higher the cost, usually,) this set is relatively inexpensive, too, but you’re still using quality items.
The Main Components:
1. Sketchbook. This is my favorite sketchbook! Hands down. I’ve tried dozens over the years, and this one seems to hold the paint very well without warping the paper a lot. I didn’t think I’d like a spiral-bound book originally, but I actually prefer it now because I can lay pages flat. I also really love its size, 5x7in (this picture is of a bigger size). This is an important factor for me. I’ve purchased so many larger sketchbooks only to leave them at home because they don’t fit in my bag, and so many smaller sketchbooks that I feel like I’m painting for ants in. This one works great for me. However, if you do prefer a large book, I would go with this one (the one in the picture.) It’s the same kind, just bigger.
2. Masking tape. You need this. There’s something about crisp edges on a painting that make it feel 10x better. I went on a trip once without masking tape, and I was disappointed in the turnout of my finished paintings. They didn’t feel as complete as others I had masked off on previous trips. (And pulling the tape off the edges when you’re done with your painting is almost as fun as painting it.) I’m sure there are many great kinds of masking tape to use, but this one I’ve never had a problem with.
3. Palette. I’m not sure exactly where I got my palette because I’ve had it for years, but I really love it. I’ve used a few, and this is my favorite. It’s just a bit narrower and taller than my sketchbook when it’s folded up, and it’s a good companion. Here is one that’s almost indentical (small size.) I find that there is plenty of room to mix colors, and the “dishes” or areas for the paint are deep and hold a very comfortable amount of paint. However, I do have to wait just a bit for any super-wet paint to dry before I close up and put it in my bag. If that’s a concern for you, I’d recommend this one instead.
4. Mesh bag. You really can use any bag to carry your supplies in, but I like this one. I have a few and use them frequently. I like them because they’re plastic-like and I can see what’s inside easily. At a glance, I can know that I have everything I need. (P.s. My black bag in the photos is from Fawn Designs. It’s great!)
5. Collapsible water pot. I’m adding this to my list because I think it would be super useful! I don’t have one myself (yet,) but I can see its benefit. I typically use a water bottle that I pick up at my destination or bring along. I’ve heard of artists using lots off different things to carry their water in though, so be creative if you’re feeling like it. If not, this is the one for you. (Do I need to say this? Don’t drink out of the bottle after you’ve used it to clean your brushes with!)
If you’ve read my other posts about supplies for painting, you’ll know that I tell a lot of my students to buy the brushes that feel good in their hand. This is still true for a travel-set, but I thought I’d share what I love, too. The first are my “splurge brushes” the second are a necessity in my set.
I really like any brush that has water already in it. When I saw this was a set of three . . . score. I’ve had my single brush like this for a few years. I think it has many uses. Be sure to clean it after each use though! I call these my “splurge brushes” because they are a great addition to my brushes, but I find that I still need my other brushes, too.
I have many watercolor brushes, but my favorites are always Simply Simmons Synthetic Brushes. They are sturdy and seem to be the only brushes that don’t show significant wear and tear from being tossed around my bags while I travel. They’re also very affordable, so it’s a win-win. I use these sizes: Flat Wash 1”, Flat Shader, Size 4, Flat Shader, Size 8, Flat Shader, Size 4, Flat Shader, Size 8, Angle Shader, 3/8”, Liner, Size 0, Round, Size 6, Filbert, Size 8
I’m listing out two sets of paint here. One is more affordable than the other, but the quality of the paint isn’t “professional.” I paint with the professional paints because I often will paint and sell larger pieces with these watercolors, and the only difference is that some of the more rare pigments are artificial in the “hobbyist” paints. I think the quality is good all around though! 🙂
Included in both of these sets is one tube of white gouache. For the way I like to paint, this is essential to my set! Gouache is a type of paint just like watercolor and oil paint are a type of paint. The difference with gouache is that it feels like watercolor but it dries opaque. You can mix watercolor and gouache with no problem. I won’t get too technical in this post (more on this later), but I like using white gouache because it makes the process of painting with watercolor a little more forgiving and less daunting. Also, because I’ve been asked a few times, gouache is different from acrylics. I wouldn’t recommend using acrylic for this.
Hobbyist Paints: I like this Permanent White Gouache with Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor in these colors: Lemon Yellow Hue, Cadmium Yellow Hue, Yellow Ochre Hue, Cadmium Orange Hue, Cadmium Red Pale Hue, Alizarin Crimson, Dioxazine Violet, Ultramarine, Intense Blue, Intense Green, Sap Green, Indian Red, Raw Umber, Vandyke Brown, and Lamp Black.
Professional Paints: I use this Permanent White Gouache (same as above) with Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolor in these colors: Winsor Lemon, Cadmium Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Winsor Orange, Winsor Red, Alizarin Crimson, Winsor Violet, Manganese Blue Hue, French Ultramarine, Phthalo Turquiose, Viridian, Sap Green, Indian Red, Raw Umber, Vandyke Brown, and Lamp Black.
-I’m working on an additional post about traveling with this paint set and actually painting with it, but the most important thing to note is that you should check with your airline to see how to travel with your paints, if you’re flying. I personally always fill my palette with the paint, let it dry, and then leave the tubes of paint at home. I also always pack my paint set in my checked bags. This has been the hassle-free way for me to bring my set everywhere. More on this later!
-This post contains compensated Blick Art Materials affiliate links.
I can’t wait to see the paintings you create with your new painting set for traveling! Enjoy!