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.


  1. How timely! Just trying to figure out what I HAVE to have at the cottage next week. I want ALL my markers, coloured pencils and gel pens but that isn't going to work!

  2. The little paint by numbers paints are sheer genius! Thanks for sharing!


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