My trip to the Philippines has begun! I have to thank everyone who bought artwork to help get this trip kicked off. Be sure to keep checking in as I document the experiences I have and the artwork I make as a traveling artist in the Philippines.
Traveling as an artist is a science all its own. It’s a combination of a number of different styles of travel. My home studio is messy and always expending to neighboring flat surfaces. Somehow I have to pack all the functionality of that studio into something I can carry on my back—with room for everything else I need for daily life abroad. So the traveling artist needs to maximize utility and minimize footprint.
I made a few grids that illustrate my thinking behind what and how I packed. As this is a work trip, my art supplies are most important. I first gathered everything I’d need to paint, draw and sketch while abroad. For my trip to Brazil, I found that my sketchbook got the most use, and I filled an entire moleskin and burned through all the ink I brought with. I had packed gouache to paint with but only got a couple small sketches started. This time around I’ll be painting en plein air. I’ve got so many heroes that just kill it at painting outdoors on location, so I have a high standard to match. Just take a look at Ken DeWaard’s wizardry.
When painting in the studio, I have quite a lot of gear to choose from that I have amassed over years painting. Tons of colors of paint, coffee cans full of brushes (some still usable), oils, alkyds, gels and concoctions of every make and viscosity, and numerous different surfaces depending on the size and dimensions I fancy.
On this trip, I’ll be carrying everything I use. Plein air painters are masters of packing lightly yet wisely. I am not. Still. But I have gradually developed a kit that’s minimal and full-featured over the years and miles.
Everything else I brought along is secondary, aside from maybe my contact lenses and glasses.
Camera and lenses
Charcoal drawing kit
White out pen
Pilot Precise (the pen to rule them all)
Razor blades for scraping my palette
Liquin, a nice painting medium that looks like shampoo
Ink refills for Parallel pen
Clamps for my canvas board
Brushes (in a tube I whipped up)
– Watercolor moleskine
– Already started sketchbook.
– Trip specific sketchbook
– x 2
– Pocket sketchbook because everyone should have one at all times. This doubles as my wallet, scratch paper, sketchbook, business cards, ledger, and passport case
Composing device, looking through it
turns your view into a paint by number. I was too cheap to buy one so I made it out of mat board and duct tape.
Panel, I’ll tape my canvas to this.
Paintbox and Tripod
The backpack that will hold all of this gear
The Parallel pen has become my primary sketching tool, and I use it for loose gestural sketching, whether I’m at home, on the train or traveling. Since it’s made to be a calligraphy pens, I can get a lot of different line weights and qualities out of it in order to quickly capture different values and shapes. When using this I keep my approach very relaxed and lyrical, not concerning myself too much with capturing exact likeness or proportion, instead focusing on gestures and overall impressions and composing my values and other elements using, hopefully, graceful and expressive line work. When I have time, I can also work back into the sketch with a wet brush. Since the ink is not waterproof, I can get a whole other set of values and voids that have a beautiful watercolor-y feel. See my travel sketches to see how I use this pen.
Rolls of canvas in various widths. I can just cut off pieces as I need them. Loose canvas will save a ton of space and weight over canvas panels, and I can mount them when I get back to the studio.
Here is all of the clothing related gear I packed for my just-over-three-weeks of travel. Of course, I needed to pack light while being prepared for a variety of activities.
Running shoes for walking and trekking
Espadrilles for when I need something light and breezy
Pants x 2
Shorts x 4
T-shirts and tank tops
Long sleeve T and light button ups, because my flesh combusts when exposed to direct sunlight
Socks (not pictured: more socks)
Polo for looking classy
Sweats for looking not
Hats, because of the skin on my face
Shades for looking chill and for just looking
Mosquito net, same reason as the polo
Timepiece for looking deece
Backpack. An Eagle Creek backpack I bought for my first backpacking trip to France, Germany and Ireland in 2001. It’s been on almost every single trip I’ve taken since then, including New York, San Francisco, the American southwest, Montana and the Rockies, Ireland, Ireland again, and Ireland a few more times. The company has long since changed the design of the bags and if I ever have to find a new bag it will be tough to match this one. It has a big kangaroo pouch on the back for attaching a day pack. Not the most ultralight solution to be sure, but since the daypack is now used for carrying mostly sand and dirt but also the rest of my dog’s outside toys, I just cram extra stuff or dirty clothes into the pouch and strap it shut.
It is easy for me to go overboard on the random miscellany of travel items that seem necessary when I’m pulling them out of some dusty cabinet corner or long forgotten box in the closet. This is what I pared it down to:
First aid kit, basically just band aids and super glue
Toiletries kit, including standard stuff like teethbrush, contacts, glasses, deodorant, etc. I also took spare contact lens cases and filled them with things I might only need a limited amount of, for instance pills, hair product, and lotion.
Lifeproof case, which my sister advised me floats
Brightest damn flashlight I’ve ever seen
Extra phone battery
Tissue® Brand kleenexes
Butts bees, and I’m leaving that autocorrection
Airplane pillow contraption
Spare nuts and bolts
Emergency guitar picks and capo for emergency serenading
Carabiners in case I need to bring my keys into a hip establishment, also for hanging my bag on my tripod for added stability
GoPro Hero4, courtesy of trip sponsors Dan “The Danimal” Hoffman and Kara “the Karadactyl” “Hoffman” Duckett
Super Sunscreen, since I couldn’t find any theater greasepaint at the last minute.
Even Super-er sunscreen imported from some Saharan nation. Gotta keep the skin unexploded.
Seriously though, I burn very easily and since I anticipate a good amount of standing in the sun and swimming, I have to stay protected. On a related note, does anyone know how to remove sunscreen smell from clothes?
My airplane-ready fluids
Spare fluffy toilet paper for a lap of luxury
A little terry cloth Irish flag my mom gave me before my first trip abroad. It’s gone with me on every single trip since.
Finally, all of the above packed into two backpacks. This is what I will be carrying with me for three weeks in the Philippines. One bag weighs 32 lbs, the other weighs 20. The smaller one will get lighter on the other side though, as I will pack it with only essential gear for that day’s painting and leave the rest behind.
It’s always exciting to put the latest iteration of my gear through the ringer and figure out what works, what doesn’t, and what was unnecessary. Have any critiques or tips? I’d love to hear them!