It’s summer time and I know a lot of people go traveling this time of year. On today’s podcast, we’re talking about how to bring your art supplies with you on vacation! I’m going to share my favorite way to paint on vacation and share my art with others (hint: postcards!!), my favorite vacation painting medium, and the supplies I’d pack if I had a trip coming up.
Don’t leave your creativity at home…Vacation is the perfect time to make some art! Vacation provides a new perspective and a new set of surroundings. How better to capture the feeling of being on vacation and capture the memories than through art!?
Self taught artists, I hope you use this summer to express yourself creatively no matter where you are in the world!
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Hello, and welcome back to the Self Taught Artist Podcast. I’m Lauren Kristine, your host. As always, it is wonderful to be back with you. This week, I am very excited to talk about summer and travel, and art supplies that you can use while on vacation or on a trip this summer.
There’s no reason that when you go take a vacation, you have to leave your art supplies at home and all your creativity at home. In fact, I think that making art on vacation is a perfect vacation activity, even if it’s just for a few minutes. I think you’re going to love some of these ideas today that I am going to share with you.
First, as always, we’re going to do our Review of the Week. This one comes to us from PattiRArt, Patti titled her Review, “Awesome podcast for artists.” “I have been enjoying the podcast for a while now and just wanted to say how helpful and informative it is. I feel like I’m in the room with an art friend just discussing art. The topics are well thought out and discussed from the perspective of an artist, which I enjoy immensely. Thank you.” Thank you, Patti. I mean, anytime I get a Review, I really do a little happy dance. I run over, I tell my husband about it, I read it to him. Even when I’m recording these, I keep you all in my mind. And having that dialogue and hearing from you, it really does mean the world. Plus, it helps me to grow the podcast and reach other Self Taught Artist out there. So if you haven’t already, please leave me a Review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can leave me a rating and Review and it would be super duper appreciated. Alright.
On to our topic today of travel tips and bringing art with you on vacation. I thought of this episode today because of the obvious it’s summertime, which is exciting. Kids are out of school, the sun is shining. It’s 100 degrees in Texas, and just about everyone I know has a trip planned this summer, except for me. But that’s okay. Hopefully something spontaneous pops up. This got me thinking about art on vacation.
Of course there’s a few challenges with art on vacation and the biggest one is of course how to travel with art supplies. But then we’re also going to talk about how to express yourself creatively while traveling and why it matters and why it’s a great thing.
So of course the big thing with traveling with art supplies is that space is a major concern. I get that of course there’s going to be airport rules and you’re in the US we have TSA and there’s rules we can only take three ounces or 100 milliliters of liquid on the plane. And you know space constraints apply even if you’re not flying and you’re driving instead. You know you usually don’t have unlimited space in the car. So as a result, we need small supplies that will pack a big punch if we’re going to take them on vacation. My personal go-to travel medium is gouache. Gouache is an interesting medium if you haven’t heard of it or tried it before. It is part acrylic paint and part watercolor and it kind of shares characteristics of both at times depending on how you use it. But what I love about gouache is that it has a ton of color and just a bit more pigment than say watercolor. Gouache is a great medium for travel because the tubes are very small and easily packable
Most of the time, as I’m sure you know if you’ve listened the podcast for a while, I am an acrylic painter. My number one go to medium is acrylic paints. But I dabble, I dabble. So I also have watercolors and Gouache and I used to do oil painting, but I haven’t done it in many years, like 10 plus years or 12 years, it’s been a long time. But for my style, and just my personal art preferences, I like tons of color. And Gouache is special for me because it has that intensity of color that I do love and enjoy.
For travel, in general, my philosophy is it’s not about having the best quality art supplies necessarily. For me, travel art is more about being able to do something for yourself while you’re on your trip. Or make an art memory and just use that time on vacation in your happy place to capture the moment and capture that feeling of being on vacation. Loose, happy strokes and relaxed painting. Oh, it’s the best! I think vacation painting and travel painting is special. It’s a special energy to capture in your art.
So for me if I was going on a trip next week, what I would do is I would go get some cheap Gouache paint from Michaels. (That’s a store here in the US if you’re an international listener which I know I have a lot of. I’m sending hugs to all of you.) I’d go to your local art supply store and find whatever the house brand is of some cheap Gouache paint. The nice thing is if you buy cheap Gouache, you don’t have to worry about it. So if a tube explodes in your bag, you know it doesn’t matter if you lose that one! It doesn’t matter. But I know if you lose it it’s always sad. I hate wasting paint. It’s nice when you don’t have to worry about having all of your good supplies on vacation. So as I mentioned the cheap Gouache from Michaels is their house brand is called Artists Loft and that is their Michael storebrand I’ve used this Gouache before and I’ll tell you you can get 12 Different colors for $6. What a deal! The paints are only 12 milliliters or 0.4 ounces each. These are like tiny little tubes of paint. You really can’t beat that. It’s a great deal. You get all the colors you need and it’s just no stress, no worries.
When you get on location on vacation, you can use a paper plate or a ceramic plate if you can pull it out of the cabinet at your Airbnb. You know I use old ceramic plates at home too sometimes. Until I fell in love with palette paper but that’s exactly it – you can just get out newspaper or a regular piece of paper and put down some little dabs of Gouache. You know liven it up with some water, activate it, and you’re off! Gouache is so easy. You know you can paint directly with Gouache and that will give you a more intense opaque color and you can also mix water in. There’s different kinds of Gouache – there’s water based and more acrylic Gouache but the details don’t matter for travel art so we’re gonna dive into that another day.
If you want a higher quality Gouache to take with you on vacation, I recommend the Turner brand that is a Gouache brand from Japan and that is great quality great pigments, but it will cost you a bit more. A set of 12 Turner Gouache tubes, the small ones, will cost you about $36. You can get it at Jerry’s Artarama online or at your local Jerry’s store. If you have Dick Blick in your area, I know that’s a big art retailer that sadly we do not have in in Texas, but I hear it’s wonderful for those of you who have it. So those are some ideas. If you want something a little bit nicer, that’s that’s a great brand to go with. I one day have the goal of having a full set of 36! There are tons of colors of the Turner Gouache. It’s great stuff, but I’ll keep saving my pennies in the meantime. That’s not necessarily for travel, I just want it just to experiment with it and play with it all year round.
Back to travel, all you need is a small set so you are ready for spontaneous painting sessions. Now, the obvious choice for travel is watercolor. Yes, I get that. But I didn’t want to lead with that because, of course, everybody thinks travel, they think watercolor. And those of you who’ve listened to me for a while know, I kind of have a love hate relationship with watercolor. Hate isn’t the right word. But it’s more of, I have a deep respect for anyone out there who does watercolor painting, because I think it’s so difficult! The results are so beautiful and so worth it. I love. I love looking at watercolor art. But it’s hard. It’s really hard. That doesn’t matter for vacation. It’s just about capturing the spirit, the essence and letting you be creative on your trip.
Bringing watercolor in pans is super easy to travel with, because it’s not even liquid! Panned watercolor is completely solid. You can just bring little half pans, put them in a travel tin, and you’re set. Maybe you bring a Pigma Micron pen to so you’re ready to capture the sights or do some urban sketching. Just some quick studies at the beach with watercolors and a waterproof black ink pin, like a micron pen, is just a match made in heaven for travel. It’s super, super easy to travel with.
Of course, they also sell, small little liquid tubes of watercolor. But the beauty of watercolor pans is you can pack it with no stress, no tubes are going to explode in your suitcase. No TSA or travel rules or airline rules you have to comply with. You just toss it in your bag and no stress. So for sketching on vacation, it’s always a great choice.
I wish that acrylics were easier to travel with. But my personal preference is to bring some Gouache on vacation just because it does have a little more versatility than watercolor. And just a little more pigment and it just fits my personal style. Ultimately, this comes down to a question of you and your personal preferences and the art you make in your artistic style.
I will say it’s not impossible to travel with acrylics. Two summers ago, I traveled with acrylics, but that was for a road trip. I had the benefit of knowing I was not going to get on a plane so I could bring tubes of paint no problem. What I recommend for traveling with acrylics is some small tubes that Liquitex makes, they actually have these great little .75 ounce tubes of heavy body acrylic paint (22 milliliters) and they have some cute little sets. They have a mixing set and they have a vibrant set. I was lucky enough to find some on sale at Michaels, and they’ve been great, but you can save up or use a coupon on them. So that is a great option – just to bring a few of those and they still could could fit in your airline bag. Just something to consider especially if you’re doing a road trip. I think I would be one who would want to try and sneak some acrylic paint in the car for sure.
You know, I’ve also been a longtime lover and advocate for the Liquitex Basics line of paint, which I think is a fabulous line of paint especially for learning and trying things out. I have used Liquitex Basics paint for years and years and years. I I still think it’s the best value out there. Yes, you know, obviously I enjoy using my Golden Paint but there’s a time and a place for Liquitex Basics to and especially when you’re learning that’s my go-to recommendation for folks. So Liquitex Basics also has a set of six 22 milliliter point/0.75 ounce Basics Mixing Set as well. So that’s a great buy and a g ood option. So if you’re really committed, you can bring acrylics on your trip, don’t let anybody say you can’t.
The thing is, if you do fly with paint, I know I’ve said it multiple times on here already: be careful, because your tubes of paint can explode in the air just like any tube of liquid can. I’m not a physics expert so I don’t know why certain cosmetics items, or toothpaste tubes, I don’t know why some of them explode and some of them don’t. But it’s always a surprise to me, and you want to be prepared, especially if you’re traveling with acrylic paint or Gouache paint, or even, liquid watercolor paint tubes. So I would just tell you to be really careful, put them in little separate plastic baggies for travel, in little Ziplocs, and then maybe put those zip blocks inside of a grocery store plastic bag, or a bigger Ziploc bag. You know, that just contains your mess. If if one two blows up, it doesn’t matter, it’s not going to get on your clothes, it’s not going to cause any trouble and you can keep going with your vacation. No stress, that’s the goal. So a little bit of preparation for tubes of liquid paint goes a long way. Now, let’s see what else.
So with Acrylic paint or Gouache, you’re not necessarily going to be able to take as many colors as you would like, or you have at home in your art supplies. I’d encourage you to take this as a challenge. While you’re on vacation, use a limited palette on purpose, and take that opportunity to get better at color mixing and just see what surprising colors you can mix up with the tubes of paint that you have at the time. It can be a great experiment and an opportunity for growth and learning.
So of course, I would tell you plan your colors a bit. Either bring a mixing set, that’s going to give you a wide array of colors that you can actually mix from that set of colors. But also, you know, use some common sense here. If you’re going to the beach, maybe you bring more tropical colors along with you. If you’re going to the mountains, maybe you’re going to want to bring organic colors of nature. Or, of course, you can also just take your primary colors and mix everything from that – the choice is yours. However, I would encourage you to look at it as an opportunity. Enjoy whatever colors you’re able to bring, even if you do have to leave some of your favorites at home.
So the big question – I actually think this is my favorite idea of the podcast – is what to paint on? I’m just going to go ahead and tell you that my absolute favorite thing to paint on while on vacation is postcards! Strathmore sells a pad of watercolor postcards, for somewhere between, $4.50 to $7 here in the United States, depending on your art supply store and your location. In that pad of watercolor postcards, there’s typically about 10 to 15 postcards. In the pad that I have, it has 15 postcards and I got it pretty cheap.
I think this is the best idea! You can take some stamps with you, paint some postcards while you’re on your trip, and write some quick messages to your friends and family. You have fun, and they’re going to have even more fun receiving them. So I think this will actually be a tradition that I continue forever. I love this idea.
If you don’t like postcards, you could also bring watercolor cards if you have more space. Strathmore and other paper companies sell a variety of ready to paint greeting cards are ready to go. But I love postcards because they’re just so easy. Art is about sharing the joy and creativity and putting beauty out there in the world. How better to do that than to send a piece of sunshine from your vacation on a postcard to a loved one?! I can’t think of any better way. If you do live near a Blick or a Jerry’s Artarama I do think you can also get some house brand watercolor postcard pads that might be even cheaper.
Of course, you can also make your own watercolor postcards. There’s really nothing to it. You can take watercolor paper that you already own, get out some scissors and cut them to size. So then you are ready to go and you just make them yourself. There’s literally nothing special to a postcard other than it’s a piece of paper with an address and a stamp on one side. So, bingo!
You have other options for your substrate. For example, you could get a little watercolor paper pad, and bring that with you. That works for watercolor, for gouache, or for acrylics. I love painting on watercolor paper. You could choose a small size, say a 6 by 10, or even smaller, that’s pretty easy to find. If you’re looking to make something a bit more permanent, you could bring a few small canvas panels, or even a small canvas, it all depends on how much you want to prioritize the space in your suitcase for art supplies.
So of course, there’s always the budget option, as I kind of mentioned earlier: take watercolor paper you have at home, cut it into smaller pieces that are easy to travel with. You could store them in the pages of a book you’re taking with you, you can stick them in your laptop case. Just find something sturdy and rigid to store it with so that it doesn’t get super bent up. Usually, I take my laptop, or I’ll have a book with me. And so that’s how I might sneak some pieces of cut watercolor paper into my bag. Just so that I don’t have to worry about it, I know they’ll be kept safe in the journey because they do have the support of that rigid surface to protect the edges and stuff. So that’s really the rundown. But I I love this postcard idea. So I would encourage you to try it. Definitely try it out.
Now, on vacation, and actually all the time, I think brushes don’t matter too much. I am not a brush snob. I know there’s lots of brushes out there and some brushes costs literally hundreds of dollars apiece. (I didn’t believe that for a while, I thought it was a typo. But that’s actually true. There’s very, very fancy brushes.) I however, love cheap brushes, I will take a cheap new brush over an old expensive brush any day. So I would encourage you to bring some cheap brushes with you on vacation, pull out versatile brush types that are your favorites. For me, I would pack my favorite brushes, which are the Simply Simmons acrylic brushes. I don’t know if they’re acrylic brushes, necessarily, they’re just a synthetic Simply Simmons synthetic brush.
I would personally (depending on the substrate size, of course!) but I would probably bring a half inch flat brush or bright brush, you know something flat. I’d bring a six round and maybe a two round. And that’s probably my perfect three brush combination for me and my art and the things I like to make. This will be a very highly personal preference kind of decision for you, based on you and your subject matter and your painting style, and of course, the size of the substrate.
I think the biggest thing with brushes is the size of the substrate. If you’re taking a big 11 by 14 Canvas and sneaking that in your in your bag, well, you know, you probably probably need slightly bigger brushes. And if you’re just going to be doing four by six watercolor postcards, you’re going to need smaller brushes, that’s easy. So, you know, just some thoughts there.
You really don’t need that many brushes on vacation to make some simple art. I’d encourage you just to bring a few. You can put the little plastic tops on them to protect them. You know, I always buy brushes and they have these little plastic tops on them at the art store. I’m sure you know what I mean. And then I just sort of take them off and stick them in a drawer somewhere and never use them again. But packing brushes on vacation they come in really handy. That will protect the bristles and make sure that they don’t get squashed while in transit.
Brushes can be a bit tricky to travel with, but you can put them in a backpack, you can put them in your suitcase, you can put them in a cosmetic bag. If there’s a pen holder in your backpack, I find that works really well. And look, this is why I love cheap paint brushes! It’s because I don’t have to worry about them and I also don’t have to make sure that they get 1,000,000% clean in between every use. If one gets lost, if it gets stepped on, if my dog starts messing with, it doesn’t matter. It’s cheap, super cheap.
I love the Simply Simmons paint brushes. And I’ve tried a lot of cheap paint brush brands and I think Simply Simmons give the best bang for their buck. I know I’ve talked about this on previous episodes. But you know, here’s an update, literally a year plus past when I did my Best Value art supplies episode. Simply Simmons still has my heart. They still do, I love their brushes, they don’t lose bristles, they really stay together really nicely. And I can get any size for like $3 something, around there it, they’re very cheap. It’s one price for all the brushes no matter how big they are, at least it is right now. So huge deal, huge deal, I highly recommend.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk a little bit about the mindset of making art on vacation. I mean, we take vacations so that we can get some space, get some rest, recharge our batteries. What better way to do that than with a little bit of creative expression?! So when you’re on vacation, you know, I would just tell you, it’s all about just getting your creative juices flowing, not worrying about the results, just giving yourself to the process and to the joy of creating. And, you know, you might even surprise yourself with what you paint and what happens when you have to step outside of your comfortable, normal painting environment.
You know, for me, I have my whole setup here. And when I’m on on vacation, I have to get creative about where to paint, I don’t have an easel. I don’t have a perfect table. I don’t have the perfect materials, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is just capturing that feeling of being on vacation and capturing the place you’re in and capturing even just the mental state of being on vacation. So I just encourage you not to worry too much about the details, not to put any pressure on yourself. And really just to create for you while you’re on vacation. You really don’t need that much to create art at all. You can create with crayons, you can create art with sidewalk chalk, you can create art with a pencil and paper. There’s no shortage of ways that you can get creative and create art while you are on vacation. So if you’re able to bring some paint, paper, and a brush, even better! Then you just get to add water and beautiful scenery and you’re good to go.
Overall, I think I would just tell you to try and leave expectations at home, leave the pressure at home. If you can’t be loose and free on vacation, then when can you? And remember there’s so many benefits to getting loose and joyful in your strokes and letting that come through on the page no matter what you’re creating.
So, in my personal opinion, I think making art on vacation is just a beautiful space to to enjoy that facet of yourself and lean into your creativity. Often we have a lot of space on vacation and time to do things that we sometimes don’t have time for at home. So it’s just the perfect thing to do. Even if it’s just for 15 minutes while you drink your coffee in the morning, you just sketch your favorite memory of the day before. You know it could be just something so simple like that. So I really hope you’re able to take some art with you on vacation and bring that artistic side of you on your vacation as well.
I hope all of you have wonderful trips, of course. But for those of you that maybe don’t have a trip planned like me, I have an episode in the works for you too! Because I’ve been thinking myself about how I can have a staycation or an art weekend, or even just a day, a Saturday or a Sunday, to step back and give myself some space to kind of get into that vacation mindset a little bit, even though I’m at home, you know, hence the “staycation.” So, I have a few ideas turning for that. So stay tuned my friends for that episode coming soon. I hope this has been a pleasure. I look forward to your thoughts. You know you can reach out to me as always on Instagram at LaurenKristineART or shoot me an email at Lauren. Kristine. email@example.com. I’ll include links in the show notes as well. But until next time, Happy Creating my friends!
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