|Many artists want to get away for a vacation but rarely do they want to leave their art practice behind. In fact, if you are going away for more than a week you will probably sorely miss creating if you don’t pack some art supplies.
When I get relaxed and I have oodles of free time one of the first things I want to do it seems is draw. So, how to make your painting studio portable? If you are driving, you can often find room for canvases, a French easel (portable paint box with easel legs) and all your paints and brushes.
However, if you are flying, biking or backpacking, you’ll need to pare things down to what you can fit easily in suitcase, panniers or pack. Drawing supplies are pretty easy to pack – pastels, pencils, charcoal and paper can all tuck neatly into a suitcase. But what if you long to paint large on your trip to Italy or the Ozarks? One option is to bring smaller pieces of paper and put them together to form one larger piece. Such as this piece by David Hockney, made up of 4 smaller sheets.
|If you work in acrylic or oil on paper, you can gesso some heavy sheets of paper such as Coventry rag which is 100% cotton. When you get home you can mount any paper onto canvas, linen or wood panel so it has more presence and durability.
If you are traveling domestically, you might consider shipping your art supplies via ground transport to your destination so you don’t have to worry about packing them or flying with liquids. If you are traveling abroad, shipping art supplies to or from a foreign country can be a slow and costly option, and I don’t recommend it if you can avoid it.
Instead, try paring down your materials to the bare minimum that you can easily fit into your suitcase.
Drawing media and watercolors are the most portable. I like the Winsor and Newton compact sets for portability. I have been traveling with mine for years and just occasionally need to replace the colors which can be purchased separately.
You can also make your own set by packing a few tubes of paint in zip-lock bag and wrapping your brushes in a sheet of thin cardboard to protect the bristles from bending. Sometimes I will improvise a palette on the spot. A plastic lid from a food container or those waxed paper caps they put on the water glasses in some hotel rooms work beautifully in a pinch. Not packing a palette means I can travel lighter.
I like the Arches watercolor blocks. Because the paper is affixed to the pad on all four sides, it eliminates the need to stretch the paper or bringing an extra drawing board.
|I also like the Rotring Art Pens in Fine and Extra Fine for pen and ink sketching. They eliminate the need for a messy bottle of ink by packaging the ink in neat cartridges. The ink is a rich, archival black. I’ve been known to dip the nip in water to create shades of grey or to use my finger or a brush to pull ink off of the tip and make washes.|
Brush pens are also fun and easy to pack. Faber-Castell makes 48 gorgeous colors that are all lightfast. The brush nib makes wide strokes and also very fine lines. No palette, no brushes needed!
Charcoals and chalk pastels travel nicely but you will need to use a fixative to protect your drawings from smudging. Fixative comes is in an aerosol and takes up a lot of suitcase space. (You are also not allowed to fly with aerosols according to TSA regulations.) If you like colored pencils, Caran d’ache watercolor pencils or pastels or graphite pencils they may be easier option to travel with because they smear less they don’t require fixative.
|If you are going abroad, I recommend packing what you need. I love to shop for art supplies in other countries. Just looking at the different brands, the ways items are arranged and displayed fascinates me. But I would rather travel with my own supplies because then I know I have what I need and I can get started right away and don’t have to spend an afternoon hunting down a shop on some obscure little street.
Later, I can go on a shopping trip to supplement what I brought or just for the pure enjoyment of browsing. Remember, though, that you may not carry any oil paints, solvents or mediums on an airplane as they are flammable and considered hazardous.
If you are an oil painter, you may carry oil bars on an airplane instead of tubes of paint. They look more like giant oil pastels and build up color easily. Pack some gessoed paper, or primed canvas or masonite panels and a few brushes and you can accomplish quite a bit. If you need to, you can purchase some solvents or mediums at your destination to clean your brushes, help manipulate the color further and to create glazes and details. (You can also clean oil brushes with non-toxic vegetable oil followed by washing in warm, soapy water.)
|For the acrylic painter, another solution for travel is to carry a palette of two-ounce. jars of soft body paint or fluid acrylic colors. Be sure to tape the lids closed and to seal them in Ziploc bags as the pressure on an airplane may cause them explode and spill a little paint.
Or stack them in a cylindrical mailing tube into which you can tuck a few paintbrushes to protect the bristles. You don’t have to bring a lot of colors. I suggest a primary palette of phthalocyanine blue, quinacridone crimson and yellow medium azo plus titanium white. From these I can mix beautiful rich browns, greens, oranges, and even a rich deep black!
I made a youtube video here on mixing browns from those three primaries:
Painter Derek Leka glues seven small screwtop jars to his palette and fills them with acrylic paint for traveling. The key is to make whatever you do fun, easy to carry and easily portable.
And don’t berate yourself if you don’t end up making a bunch of work but instead are distracted by the gentle summer breezes, the night sky, sitting in a café with a cappuccino and people watching. Remember, it’s a vacation!
And besides, there is no better way to fill your artistic well than to truly relax and be in the present moment.
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Our guest writer this week is Stacey Curnow who has a talent for coaching people who want to transition into the life of their dreams. Here she shares how that can be a remarkably practical and do-able process.
I love this quote from W. Somerset Maugham: “It’s a funny thing about life. If you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.”
Now imagine what that “best” means for you and imagine what you really want. What do you really, really, really want? (I think there’s magic in that third really.) Once you’ve determined what you really want, ask yourself why you really want it.
Chances are good that you want a feeling more than a thing. (And, really, I think that what we all really want at heart is a sense of being valued or loved – or of more security, more satisfaction, or more meaning. But that’s my take.)
And so if we’ve determined that our dreams are elusive and unachievable, we should hold our vision – the details of what we want – lightly and focus on our intentions – on the way we want to feel and our desire to feel that way.
When I want to make sure I understand my intention, asking “why” helps me identify the underlying desire or feeling. I start with the perceived goal and ask myself why I want it; when I have an answer, I ask why I want that, and I keep asking why and why and why until I get to the crux of the matter. Identifying the desire or feeling is important because very often we get hung up on the means to the end rather than the end in itself.
What’s worse, often those means have to do with money. And we can get so hung up on them that we don’t see that there are many, many ways to fulfill any intention and satisfy the underlying need.
That’s why I tell my clients to ask themselves, “If I didn’t have to worry about money what would I do with my life?” (In case the question ever gets turned around on me, I already know my answer: “My intention is to live a life that is filled with delight, service to others, satisfaction in life’s simple pleasures and appreciation for the gift of being on this beautiful planet.” It helps that I know that life is providing this for me right now.)
One of my clients recently answered that question with, “I’d buy a house in the country in an arty community and have a large studio on the property. I would have dogs and cats and a horse and maybe a few chickens for eggs. I would get up every morning and work on songs and then go to my studio and make art. I would hire an assistant to help with the business side of my art and music.”
My client is an amazing artist, so I pointed out that her desire did not have to be some lofty goal that could be achieved only after she worked for many more years and saved up many more dollars, but could be fulfilled right now – or at least very soon.
There are artist communities where she could live and teach – for example she could become a resident artist at a place like Penland School of Crafts in the Blue Ridge Mountains – and tend to animals.
More importantly, I helped her see that what she really wanted – the feeling she was after – was more freedom to live a creative life.
Please note that when I encourage folks to look deeper into their lofty goals to find the kernel of their desire, I’m not knocking the goals per se. I myself wouldn’t mind receiving loads of cash, for example.
I see that money will allow me to have more of the things I desire. It’s just that it’s important to acknowledge the extent I already possess what I want in large measure. The only way that money would really change my life, I’m guessing, is that if I had tons of it I would share it with more people.
So, here’s what I’ve found: if your bank balance has not caught up with your intentions to live a “big” or “more secure” or “creative” life, here are some suggestions for what you can do to feel more abundant and satisfied right now:
- List 5 things you appreciate about your life. It can be as simple as your breath, your child’s laugh, or a cup of hot tea. As Melody Beattie wrote, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.” And as you list things to be grateful for, look for the ways in which your life has already fulfilled some of your longstanding desires.
- Be of service. It doesn’t have to be anything grand – it can be small things, like relinquishing a good parking spot to someone at the grocery store, or offering child care to a neighbor who is a single parent. Emerson once said, “It is one of the most beautiful compensations in life… we can never help another without helping ourselves.”Each time you do help someone, savor the satisfaction and think about your desires. Because chances are what you want for yourself you want because it will be of service to others in your life – your children, your parents, your spouse.
- Tithe. Tithing is an ancient spiritual practice of giving 10% of everything you receive back to God. You don’t have to give it to “God” per se – my husband and I give to a variety of organizations and people who feed us spiritually. But whether it’s the giving – or the focus on totaling up all the money we’ve received – it has helped us be more conscious of and grateful for what we have.
I think your dreams are closer than you know. If you can identify what the “best” means to you, you have the ability to feel what it would be like to get it. Once you can do that, you’re solidly on the path to fully achieving it. And you know what? It feels pretty amazing every step of the way.
Stacey is a nurse-midwife and a mentor who helps you give birth to your BIG dreams. You can find out more about Stacey here.
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A lot of people say to me, “You meditate every day? You’re so self-disciplined!”
I’ll let you in on a secret. It has nothing to do with self-discipline and everything to do with self-love.
Self-discipline is what I did in college. I kept to a rigorous schedule of study and exercise, rising at dawn to go running, attending classes all day, participating in various activist groups in the afternoon and hitting the library until late at night.
Inevitably this self-discipline would backfire. One day, I would realize I was completely sick and bored of my rigid running routine and I just couldn’t do it anymore. Berating myself or feeling bad about it wouldn’t motivate me, either. Enough was enough. I was sick of running. So I switched to swimming and started the cycle all over again, putting myself on another rigid schedule.
Then, I would get sick of swimming.
And have to find another form of exercise. And the cycle would repeat.
Now, I have an exercise routine that is based in joy and self-love. I love to hike alone or with friends, I love to dance, I love to go to my early morning yoga class. I love going to pilates classes and being around all the other students, I love taking walks with my husband. (Did I mention I LOVE to dance?)
And these days I know myself better than I did when in college. I know that need a lot of variety so I switch what for exercise I do regularly.
Have been berating yourself or comparing yourself with others because you are not more “self-disciplined”? What is the underlying motivation for wanting to do this activity? Can you find the love in it?
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Making art is by nature an isolating activity. The majority of artists work alone and need quiet time in the studio to focus and concentrate, to allow ideas to bubble up, to experiment freely without prying or inquiring eyes. When I go to my studio, I like to close the door, turn off the phone, shut out the world and enter a deep, almost meditative state of concentration.
Which means I spend many hours of my day completely alone.
Although the creative work itself may necessitate alone time and privacy, the life of an artist needn’t be lived in isolation. In fact, our success depends on the connections we cultivate. I’m not simply referring to “meeting the right people” – the influential ones who can give us something, or move our work forward. My daily life is made full by my rich community of artist friends.
Wherever you go or decide to live, cultivating a community of like-minded individuals will nourish your work. Unlike others, your artist friends will not be insulted when you choose to go to your studio on a Friday night instead of joining them at the movies.
When you are going through of periods of scant or no recognition, having no shows on the horizon, no grants to sustain you, no gallery to promote you, who will remind you how much it matters to keep doing the work?
I am fortunate to be married to a musician with a very down-to–earth philosophy on being an artist. If ever I begin to feel down-and-out, sorry for myself, or under-appreciated, he looks me in they eye and says “You are doing it for yourself, right?” and then I feel more on track. While I am not exactly doing it for myself (I sincerely want other people to benefit from my work), he reminds me that I am not in it for fame or acclaim.
Who will understand why you are devoting a large portion of your income to studio rent? Or to some ambitious five-year project? Lots of people will not relate to your lifestyle, nor will they understand it.
When the outside world seems indifferent to your creative output, your artist friends will remind you to keep at it. They won’t necessarily do this by saying so, but you will observe them making their own work, devoting their time and energy to it, and this will buoy you onward.
This is why I place such a strong emphasis on the community aspect of the Mindful Artist Mentorship Program. I love the forum, not only because it is a place where all the artists post pictures their own work, but because, it is amazing what happens when you bring a group of like-minded artists together. It is a chance to share ideas, ask questions, get support and help each other move forward in meaningful ways.
Just knowing you have friends you can call on who have committed themselves to a similar path will bring you comfort and sustenance.
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