12 July 2012

Traveling with a Mixed-Media Art Journal

It seems that watercolorists and artists who primarily sketch in their journals have a lot more resources available for how to pack lightly in order to take their journals with them, both on extended vacations and on day trips. And, it seems like many of us who work in mixed-media and collage in our art journals have trouble escaping "kitchen sink mentality" when it comes to packing art supplies for a trip.

I challenged myself to come up with a small journal kit that could fit in an overnight bag or a carry-on piece of luggage with little effort or sacrifice. I find that if I can slide my journal kit into an unused front pocket of my suitcase, then I'm not even going to question whether I "need" to bring it with me.

I started with this inexpensive-but-durable nylon zipper bag . . . it's 12" by 7.5", and it only cost $2.95. I picked this up at Wal-Mart, but I've seen them at office supply stores, too. It's water-resistant, too!

In order to fill the bag with the most crucial stuff for journaling on the go, I thought first about what I use most often in my journal spreads and made a quick list, figuring I could edit the list if I ran out of room. And, you may find that some of my "essentials" don't really matter to you--making your kit a bit smaller, or freeing up a smidge of room for your own must-pack art supply. Once I wrote down my own wants & needs, I then raided my studio and piled up the results:

I use craft-grade acrylic paints instead of gesso on my pages, and via the local Dollar Tree, I found this great six-pot pack of delta paints--cheap and a good way to travel with more than just one color of background paint. One can ALSO find empty paint pots of this sort at any craft/art supply store, so they can be filled with an artist's own preferred colors/brands of paint.

I also limited myself to three of my favorite paint pens and three of my favorite gel pens. I added two microns (0.5 and 0.1) and a metallic silver Sharpie. I packed a pair of Cutter Bee scissors, and because they come with a sheath, they're a safe choice for packing. The blades are short enough to be packed in an airline carry-on, too! (The TSA does allow scissors with blades shorter than four inches. Check out their list of prohibited/allowed items here.)

For a wet adhesive, I usually pack a small jar of Inkssentials's matte Glue 'n Seal. This can be used in place of Mod-Podge, and it never dries sticky. I found tiny little samples of JudyKins's Diamond Glaze at a local scrapbooking store, and they are PERFECT for travel, but they're intended to be free samples, so I'm not sure how widely available they are. The small jar of Glue 'n Seal, in contrast, is a widely available size, is approved for airline carry-on travel, and the lid has a built-in application brush (which I love).

In my kit, I also included a small travel pack of hand wipes, a dry-adhesive runner, a small ruler, a few paintbrushes, and a small tin with some broken ends of Caran d'Ache watercolor crayons. And, I put together a small cache of ephemera, images, and vintage book pages for inspiration in a clear plastic envelope (a sandwich bag would work, too). I cannot even explain how hard it was to limit my selections to just this . . . OMG!

I could totally get by without the envelope of ephemera if necessary, using receipts and tags and souvenir bits of paper as they appear on my travels.  However, even WITH the ephemera packet, all of my art supplies easily fit in this nylon bag as shown--not overstuffed, and only about 2-3 inches thick. I am free to either slide a small journal into the bag along with the supplies, add a few more things, or to just be glad I'm not toting along 6 pounds of markers I might never use. And just to prove that all of this stuff is REALLY in the bag, here's a shot of the zipper open, so you can see I've included it all, and I still have room for my underpants and and toothbrush in my overnight bag! :) I hope this helps you see how a little bit of thinking ahead can make packing an art journal kit an absolute breeze . . . and I hope it inspires you to record your vacation with art while you're traveling this summer.

Scores of Changes

Since June of 2011, a lot has changed in my life . . . my husband and I separated last summer, I'm in a new house that I share only with my four cats, I'm working to get past an emotionally abusive relationship (with a man young enough to be my son), I am still reeling over the loss of several really close friends, and I'm struggling to settle into a groove with a new therapist and a new outlook on my life.

My focuses for this summer--which I have free from work--is my emotional well-being first, but also on writing poetry, scheduling time with my journal, and creating new art. I am also hoping to commit to seeking publication for both my poetry and a few articles on art journals and mixed-media art. I want to feel like I'm spending time every day on writing. And on being a stronger person who is more comfortable in her own skin.

So for this summer, there will be no students, no boyfriends, no apologies, and no regrets. I have wonderful friends who have been supportive of me through thick and thin, I have an amazing family, and while I'm a little sad to realize it after the fact--I'm lucky to have what may end up being a really strong friendship with my soon-to-be ex-husband.

Currently, I'm loving this photograph . . . I want to be that woman, and I want to have no regrets about my life when I'm her age looking back on what I've accomplished, who I've loved, and how I've treated myself and others.

My therapist is adamant that I've been going through a midlife crisis, though she continually clarifies that for a woman, having one at 40 or 41 is kind of early. However, while this observation bothered me at first, and really embarrassed me, I am glad now that I'm believing her, that I'm owning that I've spent this year in a crisis of identity . . . I know that I'll get past it, and that I'll be stronger as a result of working through it. And, I could have done worse than spending the better part of a year dealing with an emotionally manipulative boy. At least I didn't buy a sportscar I couldn't afford or quit my job in order to "find myself." :) Honestly, though, if I had a little more money, or was employed in a more lucrative career, the whole Eat, Pray, Love solution might have proved an option. lol.

But, I don't want to dwell on my issues so much, and I am not really looking to use this blog as a place to air my dirty laundry or to badmouth anyone who can't defend himself. I am working on myself and on self-expression. This will be just another step in reclaiming my own heart and my own life. Nothing is more important than that right now. :)

And, I'm working on a blog post currently re: art journals and traveling with an art journal. So keep your eyes peeled . . . it should show up today or tomorrow!