Jolie Guillebeau

Carry On Only + Painting: Option Two

January 18th, 2010

So we’ve covered my version of oil paints + travel. If you have any suggestions or a better way to do it, I’d love to hear about it. Drop me a line, or leave a comment.

But sometimes you need another option. Maybe you’re going to be gone longer, or you’re actually going to need makeup, or you know you just aren’t going to have tons of painting time, but you still want to keep your options open. That’s when you choose option two.


I’ve always wanted to love watercolors as much as oils, but until recently, I’ve never been very happy with the results I was getting in watercolor. However, all of that changed in the past year and I no longer consider watercolor the ugly stepsister to oil.  Here’s what made that happen.

  • This brush. Yes. A brush. When Marcus and Peter at my friendly local art supply store showed me this brush and told me it would change my world, I was skeptical. Especially since it was $30. For a brush. But for the record– Peter, you were right. I love this brush. My work is better because of it. Seriously. (And since it’s a travel brush, the tip is protected very nicely.)

    Love. There are no words.

  • Watercolor blocks. In postcard size and larger. I don’t have to tape paper to a board, I don’t even have to carry a board anymore. My paintings are secure until I remove them from the block, so they dry flat and the corners don’t get damaged in transit. And good paper doesn’t dimple. Which makes me happier with my work.
  • This watercolor set. 12 good colors, a mixing tray in the top with space for a couple of extra colors, this set is about the same size as my cell phone, has lasted for more than a year without a refill and the pigments are satisfyingly vibrant. It comes with a little brush that works nicely for detail. This set is in my purse right now– I carry it everywhere.

    I cleaned it before I took a picture. It was really messy.

    With cell phone for comparison.

  • Pens. Many pens. On our last trip, I packed two pair of pants, two dresses, a skirt and 17 pens. I used them all. Drawing pens, writing pens, brush pens, Sharpies. You can never have too many pens. (Okay, maybe 17 is a bit much.)

  • Watersoluble crayons. Short on time, but still want to remember the colors in the shadow behind that tree? Keep these in your pocket next to that watercolor block, sketch it out really quickly, then once you’re back in the hotel, fill in the rest with the “real” watercolors. The crayons add a layer of depth that I get easily in oils, but sometimes miss in watercolors. Most of the paintings that I’m happiest with start this way. And I can capture what I’m seeing without testing the patience of my traveling companion– who isn’t really known for his patience. :)

The important thing to remember is that you don’t need as much as you think you do. Even with 17 pens, all of this stuff fit in a bag about the same size as my 1-quart Ziploc bag. I confiscate small plastic cups as we travel (especially from planes) to hold water, and I’m set.

Everything. All together. See? You have room for this.

I also carry it with me everywhere– even when I’m not traveling. Sitting in Starbucks, waiting for a bus, at the dentist’s office– many happy paintings have happened simply because I had my stuff with me and had a few extra minutes.

Stay tuned for part three: when I explain my packing process for everything else, by popular demand.

4 Responses to “Carry On Only + Painting: Option Two”

  1. memyselfandotherthings Says:

    now, I am not a painter, but I really wouldn’t have thought that you need so little stuff to paint. Seriously, it’s less then me and my camera stuff.

  2. jolieguillebeau Says:

    One of my teachers always liked to point out when Rembrandt went bankrupt at the end of his life, some of his best works were nothing but marks made with dirt using a reed as a pen. I’m no Rembrandt, so I need a lot more than that, but I try to remember it when I’m packing. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it just makes me mad. :)

    Plus, Mel– Cameras do need a lot of stuff. My sister is a photographer and I’m always impressed with the amount of equipment she needs for a shoot. Of course, I’m always impressed with her photos, too.

  3. Elizabeth Says:

    Excellent informative post, and I’ll have to look out for that beautiful brush!

  4. Day 68 « Jolie Guillebeau: Paintings & Musings Says:

    […] the easel. Plus, away from the easel does not mean away from the paint. I’m taking supplies with me and I’ll have a whole vacation series to show you when I get back next […]

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