Friday, December 23, 2011

The Traveling Artist

by Eric Fortune

One great thing about being an artist is that one can work while on the move. We can enjoy a bit of sight seeing, be inspired by fresh scenery, and not feel too lazy or neglectful with our art. Win.

When I'm traveling about I try to consolidate as much as possible. Depending on where/who I'm visiting I may or may not have to bring certain things. For example, if I'm visiting another illustrator, there's probably a lot of things I wouldn't have to worry about. Especially an art desk and lighting.

For long term travel I do have a fold up art desk that barely meets the baggage size requirements. The original desk top had to be replaced with a tiny piece of plywood. I've also tucked my art lamp into my luggage before. To be quite honest it can be somewhat of a pain in and around my rear side. So if possible I try to work around the desk and art lamp. If I'm on a long term road trip room isn't much of an issue. A lot of art stuff can fit into a car. I've even packed up my printer before. Quite helpful.

I recently landed in New York and here's what I fit into my luggage:

-art, sandwiched between two pieces of gator board. I also brought scrape pieces of watercolor paper to test my colors on. After unpacking, I adhere my paintings onto the gator board and use it as an art board.

-paint tubes, I put these in ziplock bags. I've had some leak out before. My theory is the change in pressure while in flight affects the tubes...or gremlins. Or both.

-brushes,, I usually tape these to some thick stock paper and roll it up forming a tube to help prevent bending of the tips.

-small tupperware container, for holding and keeping my paints moisturized.

-water container, you can obviously use just about anything. But some are better than others.

-spray bottle, to mist my paints and to wet the surface of my paper. And spray people in the face.

-pencils, small sharpener, kneaded eraser, I actually brought my electric sharpener with me because I'm in the beginning stages of two pieces and figured it would save a lot of time and trouble.


-watercolor palettes

-lighting, I didn't want to pack my lamp on top of all my other supplies esp if I didn't have a desk to attach it to. What I ended up doing is bringing a pack of neutral temperature light bulbs. I was basically hoping I could be resourceful enough to figure out something that works. I think I did alright.

-and lastly a ladder.

This list will be a bit different for everyone. I'm sure I'm missing some things and there are probably some other things I could've done without. I ended up buying an extension cord for the lamps because there wasn't one available and I didn't think I'd need to bring my own. Perhaps next time I'll remember. If not that will be my ninth extension cord. There's usually one thing or another that I have to purchase after landing.

I've also heard a certain fellow illustrator has a technique down pat for transforming a hotel bathroom into a studio. Makes a lot of sense if you think about it. Next time on Muddy Colors "Muddier Colors- Unlocking Hidden Secrets of the Lavatory.....and then relocking it and throwing away the key forever". Stay tuned.

For anyone interested here are the two sketches I'll be fleshing out while here.

I decided to upload a progress shot before hitting the sack. Hopefully, there aren't too many that have already checked the post. Apologies for the late addition.


  1. btw I was joking about the ladder;)

  2. I feel like there will be several people who ignore that comment about the ladder being a joke and go on to add it to their list of items to always keep around. haha I feel like someone could write a book on the improvised methods of professional artists. Homemade creations, setting up studios in strange locations, definitely some good info to share. ;)

  3. ...thanks God I´m a digital artist...

  4. But seriously Eric, there is a ladder you can buy from MI5 supply store for the public that folds up into the size of a lighter.

    I love the whole security thing when I take paints in my carry on.

  5. Man, you had me on the ladder... I can just imagine all the puzzled looks people woould have with you carrying that into an airport with your luggage. Especially if it was to be carry on...

    Thanks and happy holidays to the whole Muddy crew!


  6. lol Sorry bout that guys. The ladder is actually fake. It's all "photo shopped"! Kidding again. Before finding the ladder it was a stool on the table with a board and then a small step thingy, then the lamp. Not pretty.

    In college I remember working late nights with one lamp and one yellow ass bulb. How did I do that!?

  7. Bill- Great point on security. I almost lost all my paints once not taking that into consideration. Paints = Hazardous Materials ugh. Thankfully, they just through it into the luggage area. That would have truly been a sad day had I lost all my paints.

    I wish I had this ladder to set all my lamps on...

  8. Nice post. I'm a college kid that is doing the one yellow light bulb thing. What kind of "art lamp" do you use? The one that you're somehow able to tuck into your luggage...

    I sometimes use one of those desk lamps that have a pencil/CD holder in them but the neck is quite short.

  9. @Garrett Lee - The lamp itself isn't actually that important, its more a question of what bulb you use. Here is a good guide on setting up some "clean" lighting to work with....

    and this one for the specifics....

  10. Great links Ray.

    Garrett-these particular bulbs I'm using are 100Watt Compact Florescent bulbs with a temperature of 3500K. Nothing special. You should be able to find them just about anywhere. I have noticed that not all packaging informs you what the degree in Kelvin is. So you might have to keep an eye out.

  11. Thanks Ray and Eric! Excellent sources, I never knew which bulbs to get. Keep up the posts...big fan!

  12. One great thing about being an artist is that one can work while on the ...


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