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Old 12-09-2009, 11:37 AM
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Traveling with Watercolors

My husband and I enjoy traveling, and I like to combine it with painting with watercolors or watercolors and ink wherever we go.

Over the last few years I have narrowed down my travel painting supplies quite a bit. When we fly we do not check luggage, so travel with watercolor tube paints is not possible. I use dry watercolors in two different palettes.

I have a small folding palette that opens to 8 x 10. It has a lot of wells that I fill with the tube colors I normally use. I allow the paints to dry in the palette. That palette presently consists of pthalo green, hookers green, sap green, lemon yellow, cadmium yellow, aureolin, permanent orange, permanent red, permanent rose, alizarin crimson, permanent magenta, French ultramarine, cobalt, cerulian, ivory black (which I never use and need to take off the palette), sepia, burnt sienna, antwerp blue, and paynes grey. I usually use this palette if I am going to paint on my 7 x 10 block.
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Old 12-09-2009, 11:40 AM
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Re: Traveling with Watercolors

I also bring my Windsor & Newton field kit to which I have added a few extra half pan colors. This kit contains alizarin crimson, permanent red, permanent orange, lemon yellow, permanent rose, pthalo green, sap green, cobalt, French ultramarine, sepia, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, antwerp blue, and paynes grey. The field kit is the perfect size to use on watercolor postcards, which I use a lot.
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Old 12-09-2009, 11:46 AM
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Re: Traveling with Watercolors

My backpack contains both sets of paints, a brush holder with an assortment of brushes, several waterbrushes (which are a wonderful invention), a water container, micron 05 and 005 pens, pencils, a pencil sharpener, a kneaded eraser, paper towels, and thin birthday candles that I use as a resist to preserve small white areas. The field kit I keep in a ziploc bag with an assortment of pens, pencils, etc. I sometimes bring a set of watercolor pencils too, but find I rarely use them. They are good to have if I go to a museum where I cannot use water or ink pens. Then I shade with the watercolor pencils and add water later.
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Old 12-09-2009, 11:52 AM
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Re: Traveling with Watercolors

Joan- what a terrific article on traveling and painting!

It is just amazing to me what wonderful jewels of paintings you produce from all over the world while traveling so lightly!

Thanks so much for sharing with us!
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Old 12-09-2009, 11:57 AM
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Re: Traveling with Watercolors

At times I paint with just watercolors, but often I use the watercolors and add ink lines with the micron pens. People have asked me if I do the ink lines first or the watercolor first, and my answer is that it changes each time. Which way I work is mostly determined by the subject, the amount of time I have, or my mood.

I try to keep the weight of my supplies to a minimum since I need to be able to carry and lift my suitcase on the plane, up stairs, and in the hotels. Watercolor blocks tend to add a lot of weight to a suitcase.

We spent a month in Italy in May of 2006. For paper I brought along 4 x 6 watercolor pads & postcards, and 7 x 10 blocks. I used the 7 x 10 block in Venice, but it was taking too uch time to complete the paintings. I didn't want my husband to be waiting too long for me, although he is very patient and never complains. I do go off a lot by myself to paint. By the time we got to Tuscany I cut up much of the larger paper into 4 x 6 pieces. That seemed to be the perfect size for me to use. When we went to Spain and Germany I only brought along the 4 x 6 size. This fall we spent a month in France. While we were in Paris I used the 4 x 6 paper, and in Provence I used a 5 x 7 spiral watercolor journal.
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Old 12-09-2009, 11:59 AM
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Re: Traveling with Watercolors

Since I do not bring along a painting chair when I fly, I try to find a spot with a place to sit. Once ina while I can find a bench, ledge, curb, or stairs like I did in Venice.
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Old 12-09-2009, 12:02 PM
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Re: Traveling with Watercolors

I am not always luck enough to find a place to sit. I often end up standing and painting, or leaning against a building that has a window sill where I can rest my materials. The waterbrush and field it come in very handy when I paint this way. I have become very adept at balancing my small paper block and my paint set in my left hand, and the waterbrush in my right hand. Here I am painting in Monet's Garden.
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Old 12-09-2009, 12:12 PM
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Re: Traveling with Watercolors

I may sit on the ground in an out of the way spot to paint, but the ground is not very comfortable. My 4 x 6 paintings take about an hour to complete, which is about my limit for standing in one place or sitting on the ground.

I keep the W&N field kit and supplies ready in a ziploc bag so I can transfer them to my purse if I don't want to bring along my backpack. Many museums require that you check backpacks, but do allow purses. I have a soft nylon purse with a shoulder strap that these supplies fit in perfectly.

Do I attract attention when I paint in plein air? Sometimes. I try not to be obvious, but people do notice and often come over to look and comment. It doesn't bother me, and this year it led to selling two paintings on my trips to Monet's Garden, so I guess that is a good thing.

Here are samples of two of my paintings. One was done with just watercolors and the other with a combination of watercolor and ink.
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Old 12-09-2009, 12:24 PM
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Re: Traveling with Watercolors

When I travel by car, I do bring along 7 x 10 or other sized blocks, or spiral watercolor journals. I keep my painter's chair (which has a back support for comfort) and a stool for my supplies in my car. At times I use the car as a painting studio too. That is usually if the weather is not good for painting outdoors, or if the area is not safe to sit outside because of traffic.

For those of you who have never used a waterbrush, I cannot say enough about them! I love the ease and convenienceof them. I have several different brands but prefer the Niji waterbrushes. (www.yasumoto.com) I purchase them at Pearl Paints or AC Moore. I know they are advertised in most art supply catalogs. You just fill the barrel with water, and you have a ready supply. To rinse the tip you just squeeze the barrel and let some water flow out of the tip until it is clean. If I know I will be out painting for the entire day I make sure I have more than one waterbrush with me, or access to water in case I use up what is in the barrel.

I really love painting the places I visit. I do take lots of photographs when I travel, but my small paintings have more meaning to me when I get back from a trip. The 4 x 6 postcards fit into small photo albums, which is how I keep them. I also use the small paintings as studies for larger paintings that I do when I get back.

I hope that some of this information helps you to paint when you travel. There is such inspiration out there! Go out and paint!!
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Old 12-09-2009, 01:02 PM
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Re: Traveling with Watercolors

Joan- the pictures of your equipment, and of you painting are so very cool! And the pictures of your finished paintings are wonderfully inspirational!

Do people often look over your shoulder and want to buy your paintings on the spot? I can't think of better vacation memories, and if you stay looking at a scene for an hour, you really will remember it well!

Now I AM going to go out and paint!! Life is too short to keep saying 'someday'!

oh, I did most of my traveling for work before kids came along....and had no idea you could not take tubes of watercolors on airplanes! I mean, what do they think you can do with them???
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Old 12-09-2009, 03:15 PM
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Re: Traveling with Watercolors

Bravo, Joan! I think this makes a great reference for the Watermedia Library.

Linda, these days you are limited to the quantity of liquids + tubes/gels/lotions you can carry on the plane. So if you're carrying your toiletries, maybe you can get a couple tubes on the plane, but certainly not 12 tubes.

TIP: I've gotten away with the water in my waterbrushes but I do try to empty them before boarding the plane. I think because I carry waterbrushes with my pencils, they look like pens on the X-ray. I must always remember to remove my X-acto knife before the trip, too, and to switch it out with my (less preferred) pencil sharpener.

I tried to use a waterbrush on a flight at altitude and I was fine until I squeezed a "little water." It wouldn't stop! I turned the brush upside down, patted the hairs dry, and kept it that way til we landed...switched to a regular brush to finish my sketch, dipping into my cup of drinking water.
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Last edited by wabbitt : 12-09-2009 at 03:20 PM.
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Old 12-10-2009, 10:07 AM
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Re: Traveling with Watercolors

Excellent Joan !! Thank you so much for sharing!!
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Old 12-10-2009, 11:50 AM
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Re: Traveling with Watercolors

This is really an excellent thread! Until recently, almost all of the painting I've done has been done in my mini-van - while waiting for kids, stuck in town, etc, etc. It's nice to hear that someone else uses their car as a 'studio' - I get nothing but teased about it by other artists, and not always in a 'friendly' kinda way.

I've pointed out that Georgia O'Keefe outfitted her car to serve as a studio...but once an artist is dead, I guess all of their weird traits become 'interesting eccentricities', lol.

I mostly popped in to share something Countdown mentioned over in the Watercolor forum - she uses an Altoids tin with, get this, LEGOS as pans for her paints. I found this just brilliant and can't wait to try it myself! She glues a wide, flat LEGO in the bottom of the tin, then fills the smaller Legos with paint, and pops them in - and can change out colors!

I thought it was pretty genius...I wonder why more isn't done with 'LEGO technology'?
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Old 12-10-2009, 12:24 PM
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Re: Traveling with Watercolors

Linda - Thank you. The only time people came over and wanted to buy my paintings was in Monet's Garden. A couple from Hawaii bought one of Monet's house that I had done and a woman from Taiwan bought one of the Japanese bridge and the water pond. Mostly people just look and make comments.

I don't know that you specifically can't carry wc tubes onto an airplane, but I think they fall under the category of liquids/gels/etc that you can only bring in small amounts and must fit into one quart sized ziploc bag. I have that bag filled to capacity when I fly.

Julie - Thanks. You're correct about the tubes of paint. I used my waterbrush on the plane to and from France without any problem. Maybe it depends on the pressure inside the plane. I like that on the plane and on some of the trains in Europe they provide a tray table to paint on. I painted on the train going from Provence back to Paris.

Mary Lou - You are very welcome. I hope you found something useful.

Angela - Thank you. I use my car as a studio a lot for plein air work and I know other artists who do also. I've been able to paint in the pouring rain...of course I had to keep defogging the front windshield a lot and using the wipers too. lol) I read an article by some artist who uses his car as a studio and uses the steering wheel as his easel.

I used an Altoid tin to make a small set of watercolors too. I formed the palette from filmo clay and baked it. It wasn't the best looking palette, but it served it's purpose. The legos sound like a good idea.
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Old 12-10-2009, 12:42 PM
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Re: Traveling with Watercolors

I've heard of using caulk to divide the tin also and thought that was a good idea (never thought of FIMO, though I should have - that wonderful stuff is great for just about anything, isn't it?) --- I just think LEGOS is so brilliant because it would be so easy to pop colors in and out to switch or refill them.
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