Packing Small and Traveling with Watercolor

I mentioned in the last post that I recently returned from a vacation, and I’m dedicated to packing small, and traveling with watercolors.

The little study above was painted on the plane on the way home. Five hours goes by much faster when you’re painting & listening to an audio book (I’m listening to and *loving* this one – I don’t want it to end).

After making art on airplanes for a few years now (see this post, this post) I can confirm that knowing you’re stuck in that seat for the duration of the flight forces your art-making mind to S.L.O.W. down, and get into a school-room-ish mindset.

You can’t get up from your work till the seat-belt-sign bell rings. 🙂

Compartmentalized time slots like plane travel can be an opportunity to really look at your reference photo and compare your drawn & painted shapes & values & composition to your source.

TRAVELING WITH WATERCOLOR – This is what I pack. A moleskine watercolor sketchbook (5×8) a tin watercolor palette with brushes tucked inside, and a shallow plastic cup.

Small Watercolor Studies While Traveling

I like working on small studies for larger work while traveling with watercolors.  

I keep a selection of photos to sketch & paint in the end-paper of my moleskine sketchpad.

(Note: It’s a lot easier to get into an art-making Flow State with headphones or earbuds to block out the plane noise, and you can listen to music or a podcast or book while you work.)

barbie signals for help
Barbie on the beach, practicing her lifeguard skills
moleskine sketching while traveling with-watercolors
Practice sketching our iced tea cups on a table by the pool while on vacation

Watercolor Brain Aerobics

I’m not a “location painter” – one that paints outside on a regular basis.  But, when I do pull out my gear to paint what’s in front of me, the sketching session is full of lessons about seeing, line, shape, color, hue, values, light & shadow, curves & dimensions.  Drawing and Sketching from life is a completely different animal compared to painting from photographs.

Painting watercolors from life is not in my comfort zone, and for that alone, it’s worth the adventure.  

Have you heard that routine can lull your brain into flabbiness? Not literally, of course, but your brain stays sharper and quicker when you try new things.

Brain aerobics is a real thing, so we should do things like take alternate routes to work, fish for keys in a purse without looking, step away from routines to build stronger synapse in our brain functions, etc.

Fluffing and airing out our sense of wonder over an island sunset

Painting Watercolors While Traveling Past Your Comfort Zone

Every time I try something that shakes me up artistically – a method I’m not sure of, a style I’m unfamiliar with, an approach that makes me uncomfortable, I think about brain aerobics.

If it’s a little squirmy, it’s good for my brain, because I am a creature of habit & a craver of comfort.

How about you? Do you gravitate towards cozy & familiar in your art practice, or do you love to be challenged and pushed beyond your comfort zone?

Traveling with a small set of watercolors and a watercolor sketchbook and a pencil is an easy way to get some painting time on a vacation.
Inspired by island shades of green and yellow
Trying to decide how I’d mix that particular shade of cool jade water in a stream at Waimea Falls
Swooning over the natural geometry, texture and color of island plant life

7 Artists Who Paint Watercolor While Traveling

There are so many inspiring posts by artists who paint watercolors while traveling,. You might brew yourself a cup of tea, and grab a pen and paper to make a list of supplies to collect, along with some location ideas in your area, while you peruse some of these lovely artists:

Shari Blaukopf

Bill Cone

Susan Abbott

Jeff Suntala

Vladimir Tuporshin

Frank Eber

James Gurney

Egg Timer, 5×8 watercolor in a moleskine watercolor pad

Traveling with Watercolors to the Back Yard

Call a friend, make a date, and give outdoor painting & sketching a try. You don’t need to go farther than your backyard, or your own neighborhood park. 🙂

Let us know how it goes, or tell us your tips and tricks in the comments. And if you paint on location regularly, what do you do to shake up your art-making routines?

Thanks for visiting, and I’ll see you in the next post!


P.S. You can subscribe to this blog (it’s free) to get each new post via email by clicking here.

Art Quote

Think about it – a detour is where you have to leave your current path and go around obstacles that block the way. On a detour you are still moving forward, just taking a lengthier route. Here is where you have choices. You can grouse about the circuitous route, fuss about the delay, and remind yourself of how this will make you late to your destination. However, you can also enjoy the discoveries along the new route: the scenery, the businesses that you hadn’t seen before, and even opportunities that you had been missing along the more direct path. The detour is a detour, but how you look at it is your choice.

Eugenie B. Fein

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9 thoughts on “Packing Small – Traveling with Watercolors”

  1. Hi Belinda,
    Love this post and the paintings. I painted on the plane home from Paris. It was a long, long flight. I painted with my coffee, and some water, and black ink, a Qtip and my napkin. It was great fun. My pen semi-exploded getting way more intensity in my darks, and it was an abstract. I had black ink all over my hands, but it was so much fun! Thanks for this, and Happy New Year!

    XOXOXOXOXO Barbara

    1. Hi Barbara – coffee and a q-tip and a semi-exploded pen!? It sounds perfectly delightful in an artist’s way to find a work-around on a loooooong flight! I’m glad to know you across these miles, and I will look for you on all future flights, in case we want to share paint brushes & coffee. 🙂

  2. Dear Belinda,

    Thank you so much for your year of inspiration, instruction and delightful artsy surprises! Here’s to a whole year of joy and adventure in 2017! All best!

    1. Hi there Louise! Thank YOU for accompanying me on this adventure, and keeping our discussions alive and full of inspiration from studios near and far. Happy New Year!

  3. Bonjour,
    Merci pour ce très joli partage… Vos photos sont fantastiques et votre travail merveilleux.

    Que Noël et l’An nouveau vous apportent ce qu’ils ont de plus beau !…
    Gros bisous ???? ❄️ ????

  4. i love reading your blog. this one inspired me on a few different levels: the beautiful art, travel tips, embracing mind exercises, and the quote about detours…all very relevant for me right now. thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Hi there Ken, You just made my day. Thanks for stopping by. The connection – over the fact that we’re both thinking of detours, brain muscles and travel art – is what makes the blogosphere so very rewarding. I clink my sketchpad to yours in a toast. Happy art-making to you. 🙂

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