My Top 5 Art Supplies for Travel
As of yesterday, Adam and I are finally home after 8 days in Europe (plus a day of travel on each end) and an unplanned weekend in Indiana for a grand total of being away from home for 14 days. Needless to say, we are both tired and jetlagged. We keep waking up between 4-5:30am EST and can’t fall back asleep, so maybe we’ll finally become morning people? After two full weeks, it was so nice to come back home and our cat, Hugo, probably missed us. He spent all of yesterday either headbutting us and yelling, or purring and trying to snuggle us so I think our cat scolded us for being gone for so long.
He's a dramatic kitten.
Now we are sort of settling back into our routines and I have a number of things on the horizon I can’t wait to share! Until then, for the fourth installment of 5 Things Friday I decided to bring you a list of 5 art-making tools I’ve been loving lately! Adam and I travel often and whenever we do, I always pack some kind of small art kit so that I can keep working while we are traveling, and over time I have a few standby materials that I love and have literally lugged around the world with me!
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This is my favorite little sketchbook that I have ever used. I took one small one with me to Peru when I did a residency back in 2016 with the goal of filling every page by the end of my time there and I loved it. I have maintained a semi-regular sketching practice for years now and it is almost always in this sketchbook. I like the weight of the paper and it responds well to multiple media, although I don’t always love acrylic paint in this sketchbook. If I’m sketching, 99% of the time it is in watercolor and the watercolors work well in this book. It also has held up to collage well and the added thickness and weight that comes with that process. My favorite part of this sketchbook, however, is the size. I can fit it in my purse so easily and it weighs very little and takes us next to no space. That is really important for me, especially since for Europe I packed in one bag for the whole trip and when I went to Peru for a month I packed carry on only. I’ve filled half a dozen or so of these so far and don’t plan on switching sketchbooks any time soon. I’ve used softcover sketchbooks in the past and probably won’t switch back to that kind. I like the hardcover because it makes sketching in weird places (like camping in a tent) so much easier!
A small set of watercolors
I have two different small sets of watercolors, this round one and this rectangle one, both are considered travel sized and I use each of them for different purposes. The round one by Daler Rowney I’ve essentially “hacked” at this point and instead of using the mixing wells for mixing colors, I’ve added in colors that I wished the tin had and as of this writing I’ve added 9 extra colors to that tin. I’ve had the round tin since early 2016 and have only really run out of one shade of green which was easy to refill using the liquid tubes like these. I like this one for most things because it has the most colors and I’ve customized it to fit my color preferences. Although at this point I’ve run out of places to add extra colors, so I am wishing it were a little bigger! I picked up four new paint tubes in Amsterdam this week and didn’t have room for them so I had to add them into a different (third) tin that doesn’t travel well. One thing that has been interesting with this round watercolor tin is that it doesn’t look like anything recognizable to some airport security agents and it is metal, so I have had to take it out and show it before at the security gate, but once the agent realized it was just paint it's no big deal! I also really like the little paintbrush that came with it. It is a nice, basic round brush that works well for a lot of different line weights and styles so that was a nice perk. My only real negative about this watercolor set is that the watercolors are not quite as bright as some other brands, like the ones I’ve added in, so I don’t find myself repeatedly using all the colors as frequently. That added with the fact that the pans aren’t removable is a little annoying too. I don’t use yellow and orange often and definitely don’t need three different yellow and two different oranges, but I can’t swap those out so they’re stuck!
The other little watercolor set is much smaller - about the size of my iPhone 7 - so if I’m short on room I’ll bring that one instead of the round one. The colors are brighter which I like, but the colors are more limited which I don’t . The pans are removable so one of these days I’ll get some extra pans and swap out a few to make the colors ones I like better, but until then, it is a good option and some of the tones are different from the other set so I will often use both if I’m sketching at home.
These are water brushes that hold water in the handle and you can squeeze it to dampen the brush. It was a recent find - within the past year or two - and I always travel with at least two or three. The thing that I love about them is that they eliminate the need for a cup of water when I am sketching. It makes sketching possible anywhere (like the top of the highest mountain in Virginia!). I’ve traveled with them full of water and they haven’t leaked or even been considered a liquid in airport security which is a huge plus. I kinda forgot to put them in liquids bag, but then it didn’t matter! You could always take them empty and then fill them up once you get to your destination. I’ve found that I don’t go through the water in the handle very quickly so I don’t need to refill them very frequently. One thing to be aware of with these is that if you are working without a rinse cup, you will need to squeeze the handle firmly when switching between colors to flood the bristles and clean out the pigment from the color you were previously using, and that will make a decent little stream so have a rag on hand or something for that bit! Often I’m working within the same color family so I don’t clean the brush when I switch colors.
A small bag
I know this doesn’t seem like an art supply, but it really has become an essential for me! Before we go anywhere, I have a handful of small bags that I pull out and depending on how long we will be gone and how many things I plan to take, I choose an appropriately sized bag. This bag becomes the home for all of the supplies I take on the trip. For this past trip to Europe, I had a multi-bag system because I brought a lot of fiber work and didn’t want threads and yarn to get tangled with each other. For this, I had one big bag and a few small bags holding different items. All the small bags fit into the big bag and it kept me organized the whole time! One of the things that is nice about this, is I already had a bunch of random small bags around the house already. My grandma kept giving us small bags from free gifts she would get when shopping for makeup or perfume and I’ve ended up with quite a few in a variety of sizes which has proved very useful now in my travels. This past trip, I did also use a few snack bags that I had packed made by Beego Handmade. I had originally packed them thinking I would use them for snacks but then realized they were the perfect size for skeins of embroidery floss and the food safe lining was slippery so the threads didn’t catch on the inside of the bag. I used one for thread and a second for pieces I sewed over the course of the trip and it worked perfectly! They’re flat envelope style bags so they packed really well and I might start using them more for sewing than for snacks (although I love snacks, so we’ll see!)
As someone who works primarily in fiber, it feels kind of funny to have gotten to the end of a list about my most used art supplies and this is the first time I’ve listed something fiber related, but the fiber materials I need change often and are usually pretty basic/interchangeable so I don’t have very strong recommendations on that front. I always bring fabric, needles, embroidery floss, yarn, and an embroidery hoop with me in my art bag, but the fabric changes depending on what I’m working on and needles, hoops, yarn, and thread are ubiquitous so I don’t have terribly strong opinions on those. However, I feel very strongly about always taking something that can snip threads and maybe fabric in a pinch. I have these small stork scissors and they are TSA legal and made it through security in Paris and Amsterdam. They aren’t great for cutting more than a little bit of fabric but will do in a pinch. The first time I flew with sewing supplies I opted to bring nail clippers instead of small scissors because I feared TSA would take my scissors. After reading up on the requirements for blades/scissors, I realized my little stork scissors could fly and now I always bring those. They have come in handy for more than just snipping threads as well - they worked for snipping tags, loose threads on clothing, and other random little things which have been really useful. 10/10 always travel with scissors. If we are driving, I’ll bring big scissors in the car, but I won’t lug big scissors around if we are hiking/backpacking or flying. ]
So there you have it! Since I graduated college in 2015, I have traveled pretty frequently, even just for weekend trips, and always tried to bring some kind of art supply with me and after three years this list consists of supplies I have used and loved often. Do you have a go-to list of art supplies when you travel? If so, tell me what that list is in the comments!