Monday, July 27, 2015

DIY Travel Painting Box

My travels in Alaska painting and photographing the American Bald Eagle

 Any artist knows the ever mounting cost of art materials and equipment can be over whelming on a tight budget, especially if you have kids all heading off to college, like us, so if there is a way to save a penny and have fun making your own custom painting box then why not give it a go. 
Recently my husband and I were invited to join the staff at the amazing Talon Lodge for an eight day stay (more on this later). My husband was excited about the prospect of landing a King Salmon and maybe a Halibut, but for me I was looking forward to some relaxation and a chance to paint un-interupted the most stunning landscape and perhaps catch some wildlife in my camera lens too. 
The first problem I needed to solve was keeping my travel bags under the weight limit and it soon became apparent that my Italian field easel I recently purchased and loved, was too long for my suitcase and surprisingly heavy. I needed something that was shorter and compact that could fit into my backpack for trekking, as it turned out, up muddy slopes and over rocky terrain. After googling around the internet I found quite a selection of light weight paint boxes that attached to a camera tripod but my time was limited as I live in a rural area and had no guarantee that it would arrive in time for my trip. I also found numerous great DIY blogs (now here another ;-) and decided it would be a fun project to make my own.

It just so happened I already had a cigar box in my studio I don't know where it came from years ago  but I have seen them since in craft stores or you can pick up actual used cigar box on Ebay or try asking at cigar shop.

First I coated the raw wood with two coats of fast drying polyurethane which my husband had stored in his man-cave 

The hardware store had everything I needed including theses spring fasteners I added to the front to keep the lid safely latched and I found brass hinges that I attached also for added strength

I used two holed simple metal brackets each side which I overlapped and secured with butterfly screws for holding the lid in place when I was painting. I experimented with the best way to have the brackets and decided the second way shown above was more compact when the box was closed.

My Palette: a masonite painting panel painted with a few coats of acrylic gesso with a few drops of black for neutral gray. I traced the thumb hole from one of my old palettes and rounded the grip edge keeping room for my palette cup clip. I bribed a carpenter friend with a bottle of wine to cut it all out for me to fit just inside the box inner edge.

Taking my favorite contraption, the hot glue gun, I glued 4 x wooden dowels in each corner on the inside, after I cut the dowel length to fit just below the top edge to the depth of the palette I just made. 

The double brackets came from inside my Guerrilla 5 x 7 Pocket Box which I bought used years ago. I wanted my painting box to at least hold a 10" x 8" panel or larger. A couple of 'U' brackets from the hardware store or two L-shaped brackets facing each other also work.

Above shows the palette sitting snuggly inside the lid which can be transported with wet paint on it and pictured below is the palette ready to go with my palette cups attached.

My SLIK aluminum camera tripod has a quick release mount. I cut a piece of wood (as shown) and  hammered in a 3/8" screw thread and my mount screwed into that 

I attached a painting hook and used a 'S' Hook to hold my mineral spirits can
I also added 4 rubber feet on the bottom of the box so I could use it if needed on a table when the mount plate is off

Here is my full set up in Alaska...

The box holds all this under the palette. My s-hook, clamps, spare paint pots, linseed oil bottle, palette knife, spare bungee cord and the quick release mount when I have it in my suitcase.

I was completely thrilled with my painting box which cost around $20 to make and only takes a few minutes to set up or pull down...and in the rain it was fantastic too!  I packed it into my suitcase with my paints for the plane and my clothes went in my carry on bag. Once we arrived at the lodge I was able to pack everything I needed for a day of painting into my back-pack easily. My paint tubes I kept in a small plastic box to keep them from leaking on everything, my paper towel roll, I used turpentine which I was able to get at the lodge. I strapped my tripod onto the side of my pack and I even had room for my drawing pad, several light weight painting panels, trash bag and my lunch!

On the lid I attached my business card and this notice...

Dept. of Transportation

Air Travel with artists' colors made from vegetable oil.
The US Department of Transportation defines "flammable liquids" as those with a flash point 140 degrees F or below. Artist grade oil colors are based on vegetable oil with a flash point at or above 450 degrees F. THEY ARE NOT HAZARDOUS.
If you need to confirm this, please contact TSA at 866-289-9673 or their Hazardous Materials Research Center at 800-467-4922

I did go fishing one day and caught this beautiful King Salmon...ok it was a little slimy to hold!

Our 'new family'  Phil, Gwen, Cole with Mick and myself

Mick with Sonoma Cutrer wines
beautiful wildlife

and the staff, chefs, food, spa....everything was amazing!

And just incase you missed it at the beginning, here is another plug and web site for Talon Lodge. Join Mick and I there next year for the Sonoma Cutrer Winemaker Series (and artists bring your DIY Painting Box along too!)

Talon Lodge in Alaska

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rain, Wisdom & Knowledge

Adieu été - Oil  Study

    Finally we have had a little rain, not much but enough to clear the air and freshen up the garden. This morning I walked my dog Ellie through trees and fog with occasional sunshine reaching through the branches touching the rain drops and turning them into tiny sparkling gems. This gave me time to reflect on my last several years, the knowledge I have gained and the wisdom of what to do with it all. I am constantly pushing myself to explore and reach beyond my ability. It's easy as an artist to fall into the subconscios 'stuck' trap. We all have bills to pay, studio rent and all that extra stuff that comes with it, oh and then the endless art supplies!
     Art has been my life and never have I strayed from it even through children and illness. When I leaped into renting this beautiful studio space above our little coffee shop in town (although the coffee shop came a few years later)  I imagined spending days and nights just creating gigantic masterpieces completely undisturbed but that didn't happen. What I discovered is people had higher expectations and demanded I paint in this way or that and I was pressured into selling all my work to pay the rent and not dip into our personal meager savings. In many ways this hindered my artistic development. 
     One gallery suggested I paint landscapes in the colors I had just painted a portrait, another insisted I paint old cars, old barns and vineyards. Friends told me to not paint wildlife and others told me to keep painting wildlife. I had open studios and had visitors tell me to go more loose and abstract and others didn't like my work at all, and the constant 'can you paint my dog' questions. 
Master painter Virgil Elliot's hard taking all that advise and try to decipher what is constructive and what isn't and still each month the rent is due. But through all of this I kept painting, reading, attending workshops and discovering. I found other skillful and master painters to study with and travelled to Europe to see Old Master paintings. I wanted to further develop my foundational skills and knowledge and to nourish my creativity so I could come back to my studio and re-invent myself again.

   I still have a long way to go but now feel I am no longer wasting time. I have found other ways to earn enough to pay my bills by teaching the knowledge I have gained, sharing techniques and getting involved with our community. My thought process and conviction has become clearer and my energy level has increased with my passion to explore and create, and maybe one day that masterpiece I dreamed of will transpire. Today I am grateful to have had all this experience and the wisdom gained from it, and for the rain to clear the dust and help my vision to forge a path ahead.

Drawing and Painting with Sadie Valerie
Color Study and Portrait with Studio Escalier
Knowledge of light and form

On the Easel

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Art & Fear

Bowl of Feathers - Oil on Wood - 12" x 16"
   Crying over a painting is not uncommon but usually for me it's caused by something completely stupid I have done like the time I left the studio door unlocked and my two toddlers snuck in and slapped acrylic paint all over my oil painting of a baby girl in a white dress - which they turned pink and purple!
   So now, fast forward 16 years to the present day. I had a student break down in tears of frustration over her first Alla-prima attempt. I totally get this, trying a new concept, medium or genre for the first time can be completely frustrating what ever the subject matter is. I encouraged her to do her best and don't panic, try this... what's the worst that can happen? Later that evening she sent me a note - 

"Thanks for the words of encouragement.  You definitely helped me resolve that immediate emotional and skill block that I faced.  This evening I was reading some excerpts and critiques from the book Art and Fear.  One was:  You're worried - I get it.  Now cut that out and get to work!  (Did you write that?( Laughing)  Another was:  You have a choice:  give your work your best shot and risk that it will not make you happy or not give it your best shot and guarantee that it will not make you happy.  So my choice is to keep doing the work." - Published with her permission

    She finished up her painting eventually and it turned out great, she just needed to push through it. I totally felt her frustration and I know how it feals to push yourself beyond your comfort zone to accomplish something new, get it right and do it well. It takes discipline and hundreds if not thousands of hours of practise, dedication and determination but don't give up!

Matilda (my grown up toddler) - Two Hour Oil Study - I need Practise, Practise, Practise.....
Book Note - Art & Fear; Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Art Making by David Bayles and Ted Orland   

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Pear Heist!

Alla prima is Italian for at once, meaning a painting is finished in one session...most of the time!

All set for my morning Alla Prima class in the studio tomorrow. I bought these gorgeous little pears from the farmer's market and popped them in the fridge but this morning I discovered a few had gone missing. Left was a bunch of beets and a pear with a worm hole! 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Ego & Empty Nest

Habitat - Oil on Panel - 12" x 16"
Dear Linda, "Congratulations! Your painting, "HABITAT", was selected as part of the FAV15% (jury's favorite 15% of the entries) in the January 2013 BoldBrush Painting competition." My email message from an online art competition, Hey I need my ego boost too... :-)
I just returned a little over a week ago from settling my daughters into college after having a full and exciting summer with my family.  I came back full of ideas, eager to get back into the studio and paint up a storm, as well as loosing a few extra pounds on a new self imposed diet and exercise program. I couldn't wait to return to the solitary confines of my studio but I couldn't make a start. By day three I decided to begin a self portrait which ironically captured my mood, it's like I had forgotten how to paint!
This is common after a break from the studio but what I realized after this week was I am suffering from having an 'almost' empty nest at home.  It has made my painting Habitat even more relevant!

Eggs Feathers & Fur

Imposter - Oil on Panel - 22" x 24"
 Finalist in Art Renewal Center International Salon 2014
I am excited to share my new work with you and write a little about my process, ideas, daily life in the studio, my successes and my failures (and there are many). As a full time professional artist/wife/cook/mom, my life is full. I can be high-fiving the postwoman one minute and full of anxiety and self doubt the next but without a daily ritual of mixing my paints, picking up a brush and working on my painting I truly can not function beyond walking the dog. I will share here studio stuff like tips and tricks, up-coming workshops and events and a painting or two. Oh and if you haven't already guessed I like to paint eggs, feathers and fur into my works...somewhere!