How To Travel Light With Paints & Equipment

by Armand Cabrera

Traveling Light

Part I


If you can afford it, I recommend having a couple of different setups to paint with. I like to paint from 4”x6” up to 36”x48” outdoors. There is no single system that is the perfect easel or Pochade box and that is why I have different equipment for traveling as light as possible. The recent popularity of outdoor painting has made buying equipment more affordable. Whatever your preferred medium—whether it is watercolor, pastels or oil painting—there are great solutions for your outdoor painting needs.
There are many fine Pochade systems on the market  to fit your budget.

Painting getaways 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. Flying can be hard on painters with all the restrictions.
I often ship my supplies and equipment ahead of me.
I prefer FedEx.  They are very reliable.

As an oil painter carrying solvents on a plane are out of the question. With the new security regulations paints are no longer allowed as part of your carry-on items. For checked luggage I switch to water based oils or watercolors for the trip. A collapsible brush holder works great for cleaning brushes.

I limit the size of my sketches to 12 x 16 or smaller. I cut a number of pieces of oil primed linen to size and only bring one board to clip or tape my paintings to saving on weight and space.

I place the blank panel in the Pochade box

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

I roll up my linen and place it in a clear mailing tube.
When paintings are finished and dry I roll them up and replace them in the tube.

All my brushes, clips and paints 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 with to cushion the equipment.


Below are the vendors I used to purchase the equipment for this article.

Water soluble oil paints

Water soluble oil paints are manufactured by the following companies:
Windsor Newton Artisan     
Holbein Duo

Holbein also makes the collapsible brushwasher


Golden 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 Solvent

Paint, turpentine and other art supplies including the collapsible brushwasher can be purchased from an art store.

Stores offering art supplies nationally are:

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.

I buy my linen panels and panel blanks from SourceTek.  JoAnne will be happy to help you.

Pochade boxes

Pochade boxes come in many sizes and configurations.
These vendors make quality products.
Talk to them first to see if they 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 also offer wet panel carriers as part of their product line.
The lightweight panel carrier is made by Raymar

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

The plastic totes are available from stores like Home Depot, Sam’s Club, Walmart and Orchard Supply Hardware. The 35 gallon tote I purchased cost about 8 dollars.

Traveling Light – Artist Road Trips – Part II

Traveling Light
Part II Artist Road Trips
 Light – Artist Road TripsArmand Cabrera

Automobile trips usually allow for more gear and a better variety of panel options. I like to keep a plastic tote box in the back of my CRV. In this box goes all of my gear with wet panel carriers, turpentine and extra clothing in case of changes in the weather.

I use a lagre backpack to carry my gear in the field. The bottom compartment has my brush washer, garbage bags, paper towels, bug repellant and sunscreen.

The Pochade box with all my paints and brushes go into the top compartment of the pack. This setup allows me to hike for miles if need be with up to ten panels and all of my painting gear.

The tripod and lightweight wet panel carrier strap to the outside of the pack. Total weight about thirty-five lbs.

In the car the tote has everything I might need but I don’t want to carry with me into the field. The bottom of the tote box has extra clothing for extreme weather, paper towels, water and turpentine. I also have a wet panel box to put my finished paintings in.

My backpack goes on top of my other supplies and I secure it with cargo netting. Using cargo netting over the top of the tote I can pack things higher than with the lid on and still have them secure. The plastic tote helps keep everything together and keeps me from getting paint all over the car.


Armand Cabrera

I believe value to be more important to the success of a painting than the actual color used. While we can key a painting’s value to use a limited part of the total value scale, we cannot manipulate values in the same way that we can manipulate color. All good paintings start with good value plans. This arrangement is what gives strength to your paintings.

The Value Scale

The value scale is the scale that we are limited to in pigment between black and white. While we can divide the scale into as many steps as we want, usually it is divided into ten steps or less. I divide this scale from 0 (black) to 9 (white).


A good value plan in a painting usually has four values. When creating a value plan it is better to let one value dominate. The other three values, in total, should make up an uneven division of space, less than the dominant value. With this plan it is a good idea to reserve two values for the light areas and two for the shadow areas. This would be a light and a light halftone and a dark and a dark halftone.

The amount of variety is infinite once you start modeling the large masses and manipulate edges to soften or harden shapes. Remember—the strength of a painting comes from its organization and a unifying idea. It is the way you manipulate reality to get that idea across. Value, more than color, helps you achieve this.

Seeing Clean Color

Armand Cabrera

When most people first attempt to paint in oils, they see gray and brown everywhere and they paint shadows black and lifeless.

To keep your paintings from being dull, forget about grays, browns and blacks.

Get in the habit of thinking of color in terms of primary colors: yellow, red, and blue. All other colors are simply combinations of these primary colors. By staying with primary colors, you have a clear color choice from which to relate. It is a subtle difference, but an important one. Once a color choice is decided upon, you can determine its value, saturation and temperature relative to the colors around it. Mixing clean color comes from understanding which primaries are needed in its creation.

To see clean color, you need to carefully consider your palette. To get a more personal color sense, remove all the secondary and tertiary colors from your palette. Mixing the color you see from a limited palette will force you to think about the color you mix and its relationship to the colors around it. This process helps the artist obtain a better understanding of color. I suggest a palette of warm and cool primaries, plus white.

Titanium White
Cobalt Blue
Ultramarine Blue
Alizarin Crimson Permanent
Cadmium Red Light
Cadmium Yellow Medium
Cadmium Yellow Lemon

If you’re really serious about accurately mixing color, limit yourself to one each of blue, red , yellow, plus white.

Here’s the palette I choose:
Titanium White
Ultramarine Blue
Alizarin Crimson Permanent
Cadmium Yellow Medium

Remember to always use real pigments and not hues. Because of the composition of hues, they are not reliable for accurate mixing.

Depicting Character


Armand Cabrera

When painting from life, the first concern of the artist should be capturing the character of the person, place or thing depicted. The character of an object is often ignored when painting. Any sensitive observation to the character of objects adds interest and raises the quality of the art. By using intuition and deduction, you will find the important aspect of the things you wish to represent. This is no easy task. Regrettably, so many artists exaggerate to compensate for their lack of ability.

How do you find the character of something? You do it by comparison. When comparing objects, you will become aware of their similarities and differences. It is these differences that give the objects their uniqueness, their character.

Differences can be the color, texture or shape of something. An object’s color is relative to the things around it. The components of an object’s color are its temperature, value, saturation and hue.

All objects are dependant upon the light falling on them, which defines their forms. By observing how rough or smooth an object is you can discern its texture. The shape of something is carried by its edge; how complex or simple that edge is helps to define the form. How solid an object appears and how similar it is to the area around it establishes its edge quality, the softness or hardness of an edge.

Often an object or objects have a line of action. In a moving object, it is the direction, speed and balance of the thing. The course of a river has a speed to its line of action; we say a lazy river when it winds excessively. It is a swift river when its course is more direct. Even stationary objects follow a line of action; the angle a tree grows or the direction of a stand of trees growing on a hillside.

An object has an essential element that defines its character better than its other parts. Each artist will respond differently to what is beautiful and what is ugly; what is important and what is not. A great artist paints the essential by using emphasis and avoids exaggeration and affectation.