How to be Creative While on the Road

by: Millie Swaby-Pritchard

Taking your Creativity on the Road

As a student who constantly travels around on trains, taxis and buses initially I was stumped as to how I could take all my art supplies with me wherever I wanted to go. Initially, I was lazy and just thought ‘I can work when I’m at home’ or ‘a break is fine’- but as we all know if you are serious about creating then a break isn’t really a thing.

To combat this and my sneaky self-trying to skimp on work when I had to travel I have come up with a few things to help with transporting your supplies. If you are like me, then you like to use a bit of all sort of things when you work ranging from oil pastels and acrylics to a drawing tablet and my trusty Canon AE-1. This makes it even more difficult to predict what equipment you will want when you are away!

I’ve found a little of everything works pretty well, maybe you don’t need absolutely EVERY colour of oil pastel you own (mixing some more basic colours could produce something really amazing!) and maybe you don’t need your huge 2-litre tubs of paint this time. Obviously, everyone’s needs are different but for me, these little things work super well to ensure that I have whatever I could want when I’m working away. I may not take all of these things with me every time but if I do this is how I pack them and prepare them for a safe and possibly bumpy journey.

  1. Surface: I like to take away the small rolls of parcel paper that you can get from supermarkets. These are really useful to roll out and work on and then roll back up and put away when you are done. Alternatively, they are also great to cut bits of paper from and masking tape them to a wall while you work away. I also take my A5 sketchbook for more on the go work and tying these together with string is also a nice way to keep them compact and as still as possible in your bag, especially if you like to take a few sketchbooks or notebooks with you. Personally, I’ve found A5 to be my optimum traveling size for notebooks as they aren’t too small to write properly in but are small enough to slip into most bags.
  2. Paint: acrylic is usually what I take away with me due to the fast drying process so you can pack work away soon after its done. Instead of taking huge tubs of paint with you take the basics in those plastic bottles that people put shampoo in for holidays or whatnot. Unless you are working on something huge while you are away, you probably won’t need litres of paint. That being said a nice watercolour set would probably do the job just fine!
  3. Pastels, chalks, pencils, pens, etc: these are easiest to pack when in their original packages. The only thing I would suggest is that you maybe take more basic sets of around ten colours rather than a set of a hundred. Often makeup/toiletry bags are super for putting all of these packages in and keeping them together. Don’t underestimate the power of an elastic band around a few pens for making them much less likely to run around in the bottom of a bag making a mess. Also if you are writing never take just one pen or ink cartridge! Years of exams have taught me that just when you are getting into your flow, you do not want a ‘my pen has run out, and I haven’t got another’ crisis. The same goes for taking a pencil sharpener for your pencils as I was always taught a blunt pencil can never do you justice!
  4. Brushes: I usually choose around 5 or 6 in a range of sizes and shapes and pop these in the toiletry bag with the pencils and pastels.If you end up with nowhere to put water for cleaning your brushes feel free to be resourceful, I’ve ended up folding tin foil into a little cup to serve my needs before so there’s always an option out there.
  5. Other materials: I like to take PVA glue in a small tub in case while I’m away I find materials that I want to combine with what I’m working on. This sometimes even sparks my creativity when I start to think what I could combine with the glue that I’ve brought all the way with me! String is also one of the most useful items I have taken traveling, especially when taking pictures as it does a great job of tying things back if you have something unwanted in a potentially amazing shot.
  6. Technology: of course this is a biggie these days, I wouldn’t consider traveling without my laptop that has all my editing and writing software and it (if in a place that has wifi) is a great source of inspiration and of course THE way to share and promote what you are doing when you are away! I usually slip my laptop into a padded case and place that on the top of everything else in my bag to avoid it getting crushed (it is like my child haha!), the same would go for drawing tablets or other things with delicate screens you want to arrive in one piece. Concerning transporting cameras, I’ve used all sorts of wacky ways to try and protect them when travelling, like putting them in a winter bobble hat and hoping for the best….definitely not advised. Investment in a hardy, compact camera bag that you can use for your lenses and cameras alongside spare batteries, memory cards or film are a must for me. If you aren’t keen on carrying multiple bags through train stations or airports (really who is?) I would recommend smaller bags you can place within your main one and try and ensure they’re waterproof! I’m not saying you’ll end up drenching the outside of your bag and damage the goods inside, but a loose cap letting out anything sticky inside is not what you want all over your equipment. A simple ziplock bag does miracles for holding batteries and essential cords.

What not to forget:

  • A small cloth or baby wipes! Who said being creative wasn’t messy?
  • If you are mixing paints, you will need something to do this on; I’ve used plates, takeaway packaging and mirrors so pretty much anything will work!
  • Lastly CHARGERS, I’ve been on only one trip where I forgot all my chargers, and it was disastrous, now as I pack each item that needs charging I simultaneously pack the corresponding charger wrapped together in an elastic band so I just cannot leave it behind.

For me these tips have meant I have boosted the amount I work because of being able to do whatever I want when I travel while still having ample room in my bags for my essentials and clothes (big plus!).

What methods have you used to transport all your art supplies?

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Millie Swaby-Pritchard

About the Author

Millie Swaby-Pritchard

A 19 year old in Edinburgh studying for a law degree whilst maintaining a social life and staying in touch with her creative side. This sometimes includes blogging about art related topics, which you can read about on her website.

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