Traveling Light as A Painter


Armand Cabrera

I paint from 4 x 6 up to 36 x 48 outdoors. There is no single system that is the perfect easel or Pochade box. That’s why I have different equipment for traveling as light as possible. The recent popularity of outdoor painting has made equipment more affordable. Whatever your preferred medium—whether it is watercolor, pastels, acrylic or oil painting—there are great solutions for your outdoor painting needs.

I originally published this article on five years ago. I have updated it with current information for today’s air travel restrictions.


Painting trips are a great way to renew the spark of creativity. When I travel to a painting spot for a week to ten days, I streamline my painting setup. I make sure I get all my equipment and clothes in my carry-on luggage. This minimizes loss and or damage to my painting gear. If carrying on your luggage is not an option, I recommend shipping it to the destination in advance. Airlines will not be responsible for damages to your expensive gear in checked luggage.

Solvents are prohibited on planes. I usually switch to water-based oils, acrylics or watercolors for my trips, unless I’ve got a contact at my destination who will supply my Gamsol. The new TSA rules allow liquid containers 3.4 ounces or less when placed in a clear zip-top quart-sized bag. A normal 37 ml tube is equal to 1.25 ounces. Large tubes of paint are more than 3.4 ounces, so remember to swap your big tube of white paint for a 37 ml tube. Otherwise the TSA will dispose of it. Remember, this quart bag must contain all your liquids, not just your paints, so leave room for bug spray, hand cream, toothpaste, and deodorant. Also, do not bring a paint scraper as the TSA does not allow sharp objects on planes anymore.

As long as you follow the 3-1-1 rule, you should be fine. The rule is as follows, and I quote from the TSA website:

“3-1-1 for carry-ons = 3.4 ounce bottle or less (by volume); 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin. One-quart bag per person limits the total liquid volume each traveler can bring. 3.4 oz. container size is a security measure.”

A collapsible brush holder works great for cleaning brushes. If it starts to leak, just place a Ziploc in it to hold the water.

I limit the size of my sketches to 12 x 16 or smaller when I fly. I cut a number of pieces of oil primed linen to size and only bring one board to clip my paintings onto, saving on weight and space. I use clips, rather than tape, because weather can make the adhesive on tape unreliable.

I place the blank panel in the Pochade box.

My collapsible brush holder slides under the panel in my Pochade box.

I roll my linen and place it in a clear mailing tube. When paintings are finished and dry, I roll them and replace them in the tube.
All my brushes and clips go into the tube also. I do this to make it easy for inspection at the airport.

The mailing tube and Pochade go into a high impact plastic briefcase. A pistol case is perfect for this. You can buy thin rolls of foam rubber to line the inside of the case to cushion the equipment.

In my small luggage bag, I place all my clothes, toiletries, cell phone, camera and tripod. Airlines allow one briefcase and one small piece of luggage as carry-on items. I’m ready to go.

Resource List
Below are the vendors I used to purchase the equipment for this article. Please mention my name when purchasing from vendors.

Water soluble oil paints
Water soluble oil paints are manufactured by the following companies:
Windsor Newton Artisan
Holbein Duo
Holbein also makes the collapsible brush washer

AcrylicsGolden Acrylics makes a line of slow drying acrylics called Open. They are not quite the same as oils, but might be a solution for some people.

Paints and SolventPaint, turpentine and other art supplies, including the collapsible brush washer, can be purchased from most art stores. I use these national art supply distributors:

Cheap Joes

Daniel Smith 1-800-426-7923

Jack Richeson
(800) 233-2404

Utretcht 1-800-223-9132

Art Supply Warehouse

I use Gamblin Oils and Gamsol odorless turpentine by Gamblin when I am painting with regular oil paints.

Canvas and Panels
I buy my linen panels and panel blanks from SourceTek.

Pochade BoxesPochade boxes come in many sizes and configurations.
The following vendors make quality products. It’s best to speak with them to see if their products will satisfy your specific painting needs and budget.

Open Box M

Artwork Essentials

Wet Panel Carriers
Wet panel carriers are as varied as Pochade boxes. The Pochade vendors and Sourcetek offer wet panel carriers as part of their product line. A lightweight panel carrier is made by Raymar.

Miscellaneous Gear

Extreme weather gear, clothing, backpacks and pistol cases can be purchased from a local sporting goods store or from an online store, such as Cabela’s.

The plastic totes are available from Home Depot, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Target, etc. The 35 gallon tote I purchased cost about 8 dollars.






Paintings of the Piedmont

In two weeks, on November 7, 2009, my One Man Exhibition opens at the Berkley Gallery in Warrenton, Virginia. I will feature 40 paintings of the Piedmont Region of Northern Virginia. The paintings comprise a significant portion of my productivity for the last year. It is the largest One Man Show I’ve given in my fine art career and I’m quite excited about it. I’ve been honored with great press in the Washington DC area and also nationally, in the November issue of American Art Collector. I’ve decided to preview some of my show pieces on my website and this blog.

The Virginia Piedmont has a rich history with architects of the American Revolution. Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, James Madison and John Marshall all lived in Virginia. Major battles of the Civil War were fought throughout the State. Virginia was one of the first wine growing regions in the country. Speaking as an artist, it is one of the most beautiful places in the United States. For the majority of the time, Virginia has a very pleasant climate.

The idea for my “Paintings of the Piedmont” Exhibition had been kicking around in my head since I moved to the area from California in 2007. Berkley Gallery’s owner, Tom Sentz, liked my Virginia Piedmont idea and my desire to donate to a preservation or land conservation society. Tom suggested partnering with the “Piedmont Environmental Council” and giving a portion of all proceeds to the organization. PEC safeguards the landscapes, communities and heritage of the Piedmont by involving citizens in related public policy and land conservation.
Meeting with Doug Larson of the PEC was amazing. He got behind the show idea immediately, suggesting locations and providing access to beautiful private estates and farms. I couldn’t have pulled off this show without his help.

Many of the show paintings were the end result of multiple trips to a location to find the right light or time of year. In some instances, like the case of my bluebell painting, I made fifteen trips to the location in three weeks —trying to capture the perfect time of day—the perfect time of the year—just when the flowers were blooming at their peak.
In the studio, I often determined an outdoor sketch wasn’t the right format. I either returned to the field, or if that wasn’t possible because of weather or seasonal changes, I created a studio version from the field study in the format I felt worked better.
I had a lot of fun on this journey, saw some incredible sights and have grown to love Virginia, her seasons, great architecture and landscapes even more.


I’m out in Texas hill country for a week painting so this blog is a remotely scheduled post. I won’t be able to reply to any comments till I get back as I’m not taking a computer with me. Had a great time painting with  Noah Bradley a couple of days ago. Check out the link to Noah’s blog to see one of his paintings from the trip. Noah is a talented painter and concept artist. We painted up on the Blueridge and in Elkton. These are my two best of the three paintings we each finished that day.

Elkton                                    9×12


Shadow Creek                              9×12

Painting in Paradise

Armand Cabrera
I have just returned from six days of painting on St John Island in the Caribbean. I stayed with a friend who owns a house there and we had a great time seeing the sites and enjoying the local food and drink.
I’m still adjusting to a cool Northern Virginia Spring after spending a week in an 80 degree tropical climate. I will post some paintings in the next article once I get organized. In the meantime here is a picture of Arthur and myself painting the overlook at Trunk Bay—one of many beautiful places on St John and my finished sketch of the scene.


Painting the Cherry Blossoms

Armand Cabrera

Wednesday I got up at 5 am to ride the Metro into DC to paint the Cherry blossoms. I don’t go out every year to paint them and I was really looking forward to being there this year. I arrived just as the sun was coming up and hitting the tops of the trees at about 7:30 Am.


The blossoms are very ephemeral and when they start to bloom you only have a few days to capture them if things go well. The weather did not disappoint and it was a beautiful Spring day. Some years the weather is miserable, you never can tell. I have been there painting when it was in the 30’s and some years like this year it broke 90.


With two thirds of the Washington monument covered in scaffolding I gave it a pass even though it is one of my favorite subjects on the Mall.

I started and ended my day with the Jefferson Memorial. The Jefferson Memorial with its round shape, dome and columns is always a fun challenge for a two hour painting.


I painted the boathouse in between the two Memorial paintings. By the time I started the second painting it was standing room only in the more popular spots along the shore.

I walked the tidal basin twice taking photos for large studio paintings. I finished my third painting by 2 pm,  packed up and headed for the metro before the rush hour mobs. All in all it was a good day and a lot of fun.