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

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