How to travel as light as possible for plein air painting

I have for some time been wanting to start a blog but it never quite felt like the right time until now! I am looking forward to carving out some space here to share about painting and life— my hope is that it will be nothing but beneficial to all who read.


I am eager to share about my new paint box as it has been a very happy discovery for me this past month—it has freed me from needing to carry around a heavy French easel. Perhaps many of you reading have already experienced the wonders of a much lighter and smaller way to travel and go about plein air painting, but for those who have not, I write of my experience of it and helpful things learned along the way.

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Before getting married a month ago I knew I wanted to be able to paint while traveling on our honeymoon— but did not want to carry around a clunky French Easel. I had just seen a collection of cigar boxes turned paint boxes while visiting an artist’s studio in Pennsylvania — I was inspired by the beautiful paintings that were created by using these small and simple boxes and felt compelled to try my hand at it myself. However, not having time to make my own cigar paint box, an 8 x 10 in guerilla paint box came into my life! My experience with it was and still is remarkably freeing as it is so portable. There is something really lovely about being able to slip a paint box in your backpack and being set to go and paint.

My small paint containers

My small paint containers


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To make things even lighter for yourself I highly suggest getting small sealable plastic containers. With this, you can avoid needing to take whole tubes with you and can rather just take what you will need for that day. It is quite reasonable—I found my plastic containers in the bead aisle at Michaels — 12 of them for $3.

I purchased a small guerilla brush cleaner—which is a little pricey but am planning on it lasting for as long as I can paint. Getting a small brush cleaner that does not leak and fits in your box will help a lot in reducing carrying extra items and weight.

Painting with a small box of course limits one in terms of only being able to paint small pieces— but this again is a benefit in terms of having smaller size paintings to transport back home. I find a small mailing tube works great for packing gessoed canvases—completed paintings can then be rolled up and packed back into the mailing tube when dry (or left in your paint box if still wet — it will fit up to two). I personally simply taped the edges of a precut canvas to an 8 x 10 hardboard— therefore only needing to bring with me one board—which saved a little on weight while traveling.

Last but not least, my guerilla cigar box has been great— it is sturdy, light and durable. My own box is the 8 x 10 version that the guerilla painter company makes—however they also create a 6 x 8 in thumb box, an even smaller 5 x 7 pocket box, as well as a larger 9 x 12 in pochade box among others. However, any kind of cigar box can be turned into a paint box and could function well for you— there are many tutorials online for making your own.

Elizabeth Larson