4 ideas for your minimalist artist travel kit

The tiny lady on top of that rocky cliff in the picture, is me :). I was in Malta on the wonderful Dingli Cliff, sketching in watercolour the amazing mediterranean landscape.

I’m a travel addict. Travels is where I get all my art inspirations from. Travelling for me means to be able to interact with colours, textures and shapes on spot, wherever I am.

There is nothing better than grabbing, capturing and transforming what you see in front of you in that exact moment, under that exact light. It’s a process that makes you feel alive, creatively wakes you up and makes you develop your visual sensitivity.

Taking a picture of a place and then reproducing that image once back in my studio, doesn’t really work for me. Our naked eye captures shades, tridimensionality and atmosphere that no camera can truly reproduce. Besides being a record of colours, painting on site also makes the experience of the place get under your skin, it gets imprinted deeply in your memory. And the process of how your brain elaborates and memorise what you see and feel is exactly what you need to make your painting unique and recognisable as truly yours.

Besides my addiction to travel, I have to say in general I’m a minimalist. I don’t like to bring lots of stuff and carry useless weights. For this reason I carefully consider every single object I put in my luggage.

Some preliminary useful questions for you

Presuming you are not going on an art retreat ;) but you are travelling simply to visit a place, perhaps with your family or friends, before getting your art-on-the-go kit ready, I would suggest you answer some questions that can help you choose the minimal kit to bring with you:

  1. How many days are you travelling for?

  2. How often will you move from one place to another?

  3. Will you have the chance to be still in one place for at least a couple of hours almost every day?

  4. Will the people travelling with you be engaged in activities you won’t be engaged into? Realistically, will you have time just for yourself while they are busy doing their stuff?

  5. Are you travelling just with a backpack?

  6. Are you travelling by flight, train or car or bike?

  7. Can you easily bring liquids with you?

  8. How much weight can you handle to carry on your shoulders not only while you reach your destination, but also once you are there walking around? Are you fit enough?

  9. Which medium are you more comfortable with?

  10. Which medium do you feel can be a good practical choice to bring along for the kind of trip you are going to start?

In my experience (I’m a watercolour and a mixed media painter) the following four options are the most practical types of minimalist-art-travel-kit to bring with me, and I choose one or the others depending on how I’m travelling, who with, where I’m going and how long for.

My favorite choice of sketchbooks

In general, whatever is the kind of travel, i use Moleskine sketchbooks. I love their paper, I love the quality and that little pocket in the back cover where you can fit in your travel memorabilia.

When you choose your Moleskine sketchbook be careful in choosing the right weight of paper. There are skechbooks in 120gsm called “Sketch” Pad or Album and others in 200gsm “Watercolour” Album. I use 120gsm when I just want to sketch with pencils and pens. If I know I’m going to paint then I go for 200gsm. Bear in mind pencils don’t really have a great result on 200gsm.

Regarding the size, I go from Pocket (14x9cm) to Large (21x13cm) to A4 (21x29cm)

Option 1 - Minimal Sketching kit

When travelling light, possibly just with a backpack, less than a week and perhaps not alone.

Of course you want to explore the place but it’s kind of tricky to really stop for a long while stop and put on paper all the visual inspirations you are getting. In this case I already know that I won’t have much time for my art as I want explore the place as well as enjoy the people I am with. I find that simply sketching is the ideal and perhaps I just add to my kit some watercolour pencils to quickly bring up to life with a water brush.

This is the full content of my kit:

  1. A small sketchbook 120gms Moleskine Pocket Art Plus Cahier Sketch Album

  2. Set of Faber-Castell – Castell 9000 Art Set of 6 Pencils

  3. Se