While Alaska Art Experience is open by appointment on weekends during the winter, this season is still the best chance for me (Gina) to get out and experience painting in far-flung places. David and I are planning a trip to Australia to see our daughter, Andrea, who moved there last fall. You can be sure I’ll work in some painting time as we travel!

I love to paint outdoors, both rural and urban. It’s a great way to preserve the feeling a place, as well as meet friendly locals who stop to talk. And the lure of painting someplace as exotic Australia, SO completely different than Alaska where I live, is irresistible to me.

The problem: the right tools.

Sure, I could just bring a pencil and a small sketchbook, but I want to bring COLORS. I’d bought a plein air box for painting outdoors last fall, but it’s way too big to lug to the other side of the world. I asked other artists for advice, searched the internet, and consulted art books. Everyone had different advice. Plein air boxes are expensive, as a rule, and there aren’t any try-before-you-buy options that I could find.

So what’s a determined artist to do? Make her own.

I dug around in my studio closet and came across this $5 wooden cigar box I’d picked up at a thrift store. I glued in 1/4″ foam and filled the box with pastel sticks, broken small to maximize the number of colors I could bring. With a little experimenting, I used a layer of fleece fabric for the top, which holds the pastels still, but lets the lid close securely. I added a fat rubber band just to make sure the lid stays closed in transit.

When traveling by air, it’s a good idea to bring along print outs of MSDS sheets (material safety data sheets) for any art supplies you’re carrying. These papers will assure the TSA officers that what you are carrying is safe for air travel and helps confirm they are art supplies. (Pastel sticks look suspiciously like bullets in an x-ray machine).

What do you like to bring along on a trip to an exotic place?