Plains, Trains, and Automobiles: Part 3 – Clothes

On a recent 3 week painting trip to Scotland and France I had to pack painting gear as well as clothes for 2 climates: Cool and potentially rainy Scotland, and hot and dry southern France. Everything was casual, but clothes are always tricky. Will I be going out? Do I want to look chic/cool, or just put together enough to get by without offending anyone?

In Scotland my hosts had clothes I could borrow which really, really helped. I didn’t need to pack Wellies but brought waterproof hiking shoes instead, which also doubled as my sneakers. I could have borrowed a raincoat if I needed it. But I found some resale shops (never underestimate the amazing finds in resale shops!) so I bought a raincoat with the thought it was inexpensive enough that I could leave it behind if space got tight. Plus, I needed one to replace a worn out one. I also borrowed a fleece. What I brought were 6 T-shirts – 3 long and 3 short, which I could layer when I was cold, a vest, a cotton cardigan sweater, a large flannel shirt that I use as a painting smock, socks (wool and cotton) and 3 pair of shoes. One I wore on the plane (clogs), 2 were packed (hiking shoes and super light Toms). I also brought 1 pair of jeans, 2 pair of shorts, and one summer weight dress shirt. I was able to do laundry and I wore shirts for a couple of days before feeling like they needed to be washed. On the plane I wore leggings with a long-sleeved top and a cami for extra warmth, and a scarf. This also doubled as my ‘going out to dinner’ outfit, and I could use the leggings for stretching and working out, or if the weather was really cold, as another layer under jeans.

What I found was that I wore all the clothes except the dressier blouse. Everything else got a lot of wear. I did manage to buy a couple of things along the way…Nothing I needed, but hard to pass up. And this brings up purchases that seem like they are ‘must haves’.

I admit I really like books. But damn…..weight wise they are expensive. I only bought a couple, and I’m glad I did, but the cost was my luggage was that much heavier. I was limited on my checked bag to 50 lbs. (40 lbs on certain smaller carriers). Any thing over that costs a lot of money, about $100. My painting gear already had significant weight and with cloths and supplies I was close to the limit. So that terrific ‘deal’ might cost very little until the extra weight fee is added on top of it.

So to sum up about clothes: 1) The less you pack and carry, the faster you can move around and the less likely you are to lose or forget something. 2) think in layers. 3) You can find amazing things in resale shops. 3) Think about what you REALLY need instead of what you would like to have ‘just in case’. Anything you pack should have more than one use or function. As long as you are warm/cool and dry, you will probably have enough. 4) Borrow what you can at your destinations.

For a good website with more pointers on packing and traveling light, OneBag is really helpful.

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Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Part 2 Luggage etc….

My personal rule is to PACK LIGHTLY.

This may seem obvious, but it’s rather amazing just how little can add up to a lot of pounds. Easel, tripod, and painting supplies take up both weight and space. To make the trip, anything else has to be able to work really, really well.

Like most of us, when I travel I want to be somewhat hands free so, of course, a backpack seems like the obvious choice. However, the first rule I’m instigating, no matter how cool I think I look with my old, beat up leather backpack, it is seriously uncool when it starts to weigh me down. For travel I’m trading leather in for nylon, and one with zippers and pockets. If I can find a light-weight wallet with a zipper, I might even trade in my leather one for a lighter one as well.

All gear needs to have zippers. Nothing should be easy for a pickpocket to get or for things to fall out. Magnetic closures are not secure. My wallet zips shut and is large enough to hold my passport. (So maybe I won’t trade it in.)

I have found it way too time consuming to fish through odd change to pay for train or bus fare so I keep my native coins in a separate coin purse.

A strong nylon bag with a zipper top can be a great carry on and can hold your purse/backpack as well, especially if you get in a situation where only 1 carry-on is allowed. I’ve been using an Orvis nylon tote (It comes in 3 colors as of this writing) for several trips and is extremely durable. It zips shut, has multiple inside pockets, 2 outside pockets, one of which has a zipper at the base that slips over the handle of my roller, (I have to remember to re-zip so I don’t lose things thinking pocket is secure) and is light weight. Plus, I can carry it on my shoulder. (I also have a carry on roller duffle from L.L. Bean, and generally, this, along with my Orvis, are my go-to bags.) On this trip, because it was long, (3 weeks divided between Scotland and France) I used the L.L. Bean extra-large rolling duffle to carry all of my painting gear and clothes and carried the nylon tote as my carry-on. I had a lot of extra room and everything, tote and backpack, could fit in the roller when I wanted to consolidate.

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On the downside of all of this, when it was all packed, this extra large duffle was at the 50lb limit and was really tiring to roll around, especially at train and bus stations where I had to maneuver stairs and gaps. And there was no way I could lift it, without a lot of help, to store in the luggage sections. On trains the bag didn’t fit in the luggage area at all so I sat with it in the train car entry area. For me, because I was taking my larger easel, and because I didn’t have an intermediate size suitcase, I was limited to the largest duffle.

Obviously rolling suitcases are best. Mine only has two wheels but I’ve helped my friends with their 4 wheeled versions and they are super smooth and easy to maneuver. I would suggest comparing overall weight when empty and making sure it will be long enough to carry a tripod or painting umbrella, if you are taking one.

My take-aways are 1)Keep your gear light but make sure it’s strong and well made. 2) Make sure the length of your suitcase will be long enough for your longest piece of painting gear.  3) Ease of movement is super important. If you can afford to have a choice of luggage, choose wisely. Smaller is usually better.

I’ld love to hear your solutions!

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Traveling with Clothes and Painting Gear: Part 1-Easels

After 3 solid weeks of traveling to Scotland and France with my painting buddies, I want to offer some suggestions on painting boxes. In another post I’ll talk about clothes.

GEAR

I have several sizes of easels that I considered taking….a Guerrilla 5 x 7 Pocket Box, a ‘Kevin Mcpherson’ ProChade box easel by Artwork Essentials, and a Versa 11 x 14 easel, also from Artwork Essentials. From my point of view, here are the pros and cons of each:

Guerrilla 5 x 7 Pocket Box 0v03235000000-st-01-pocket-box

Pros:

* It’s really small and really light….While it is a box, this takes up minimal space.

* It’s extremely light. It weighs in at 1 lb.

* It holds wet panels. My configuration only holds one wet panel, but that is because I have a fold out side tray to hold my brushes which takes up wet canvas space when the box is closed. The side tray can can double as a larger mixing area, and I’ve used it as such (most recently when I left my palette mixing area in the freezer and forgot to take it with me.)

* There is a small amount of storage inside the box for limited paints and/or short brushes.

* It can be used in your lap or with a tripod.

* Because it’s light in weight, if you use a tripod, you can use a lighter one.

* You can customize the box. For example, I added the foldout Palette Extension kit, the rubber foot mounts, and the universal tripod mount set. Palette Extension Kit

* The panel size is limited to 5 x 7 allowing you to have a very consistent size in your body of work and you won’t have to carry a variety of panel sizes with you

Cons:

* It’s really small. If you need room to spread out or are a messy painter, this could be a real challenge.

* Storage inside the box is very limited.

* It’s set up to paint in landscape (horizontal) mode. (With clips I can easily paint in portrait mode.)

* The panel size is limited to 5 x 7. Because the format is limited, you may be frustrated when you want to paint larger.

* On your lap, the box can be a bit awkward, but it is doable.

* Sometime the panels move a bit back and forth while painting. I solve this with clips that I keep in the storage area under the mixing area or keep 2 panels in the painting area for a tighter fit and take out the second panel when I fold it all up.

* You will have to add anything that isn’t part of the basic box, for example the tripod mounting set. However these cost very little and are super easy to install.

Kevin Mcpherson Easly L ProChade Box by Artwork Essentials:ProChade_1

PROS:

* It’s extremely light. This weighs in 1.8 lbs.

*It’s very thin so it doesn’t create bulk.

* You can buy a full set up – easel, tripod, etc…from Easy L

* Because the easel is lighter, the tripod will be as well. Easy L’s is 2.7 lbs. (I also use this tripod for my 5 x 7 Pocket Box as well).

* There is a side table that come with it that slides in to place on the left side. I use it to hold my medium cup. I also added some wood at the top and bottom to hold my brushes in place and keep them from slipping. Or you can use the brush holder which comes with it.

 Cons:

* There is no place to hold a wet canvas. In fact, there is no storage of any kind.

* If you hang your turp jar, it can be slightly tricky as the lip of the box is not very tall. I’ve found the safest place is from the brass knob on the right side. If you are left handed this might not be comfortable for you.

* You are limited in vertical size to 10 inches maximum and 6 inches minimum. In other words, a 5 x 7 panel won’t work in landscape mode as the spring clip that holds the panel in place is fixed at 6” when it’s at rest.

* You have to use panels. I often cut linen from a roll and then tape it to cardboard to save on weight. However, you can tape your linen/canvas to a standard panel and have that as your backboard.

Easy L Versa by Artwork EssentialsVersa

* This has a really good sized working area.

* It has a wet canvas carrier built in which can hold 2 panels at a time as long as they are the same size.

* It has 3 different size options for holding wet canvases.

* By changing the brass resting shelf you can paint on panels or 1” deep canvases.

* It will hold a canvas up to 20” in height.

* It’s very sturdy. I’ve had mine for about 10 years. I’ve dropped it and it’s still working really well.

* Side trays mount easily and are very sturdy as they are made out of brass.

* Side trays can store inside the palette, along with you brushes.

* It is designed for oil, watercolor, or pastel painting.

Cons:

* It’s definitely heavier than the other two easels. It weighs in at 4.8 lbs. I added a glass palette that adds additional weight.

* The knobs can be awkward inside a backpack, as can the wet canvas carrier edges, as they sometime catch on things.

*If you have panels stored you will need to remove them to adjust the height of the panel/canvas resting tray as they are secured with screws which loosen from the back.

Practically Speaking:

I was really torn as to which easel to bring with me on a 3 week trip. I’ve traveled with each of the easels and had good success with all of them, but those trips were about both painting and vacationing. This was all about painting as we were painting 2 – 3 paintings per day. I had to be able to move about, but I also needed to be comfortable with my set up.

Because I didn’t want to be limited by size I brought the Easy L Versa. After traveling on several planes, navigating train stations that only had stairs, and lots of them, I’m not sure I made the right choice.

I only painted small paintings. Nothing I painted was larger than 10” in height so probably I could have used the Kevin Mcpherson ProChade Box and been quite happy. I might have made due with the Guerrilla box, but being limited to just 5″ x 7″ for so long still seems like a stretch.

Every easel has pros and cons. Some of the women traveling with us had Strada easelsOthers had a Coulter system. Though it opens and closes really fast, Coulter’s take-up a bunch of space and is weighty. The Strada weighs in at just over 4 lbs. without the sides, and with sides would weigh similar to the Versa, but it is a very elegant looking easel. However, neither hold tubes of paint or wet canvases. In truth, there is no perfect solution. But for future trips I will take either the ProChade or Guerrilla 5 x 7 Pocket Box.