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The Traveling Artist: How to Create New Artwork and Gain Inspiration while Traveling

I love traveling. Whether it’s by car, flying across the country or taking our RV on the road, I look upon each journey as a collection of new artistic opportunities.

Traveling puts me in the unique position to capture unforgettable moments or locations with my digital camera. . . and as both a photographer and artist, what I do with those images can even be decided later on, in the studio after returning home.

For example this next photo, Sunset on the Chesapeake, was taken on a camping trip with friends to Kiptopeke, VA State Park.

Sunset on the Chesapeake, EE resize

I created the following digital art version in the studio after the trip:

Sunset on the Chesapeake, EE digi art resize

Don’t you think this scene begs to be painted as well? A future painting is just one more possibility resulting from that quick snap of my camera.

On the personal side, I also come home with some fun photos of my husband and me, as well as unforgettable images of family or friends to add to the family photo album—like this one, entitled Papa.

Papa OBX Window EE resize

I took this candid photo of my father-in-law on a family beach vacation. Sadly, he has since passed away. However, this precious image of him will forever be a reminder of his quiet, strong character and our precious time with him at the beach.

As a traveling artist, it is always an exciting prospect to snap photos of great reference material for future paintings. Some of these shots I will share with my students and other artists for their own reference libraries.

One of my favorite paintings, from a reference photograph, captures the memory of browsing the art galleries on a trip to Annapolis, MD.

Gallery Patron, EE resize

When traveling by air, I love passing the time between connections by painting or sketching in my journal. Creating art makes the time pass so quickly that when the airline announces that it’s time to board the plane, I usually wish I had more time! Can you imagine? For most travelers, it’s the exact opposite—the time passes so slowly they can’t wait to be somewhere else.

Not surprisingly, I also paint during the flight. The classic fold-down tray in front of me doubles as a handy work table, and of course, other passengers and flight attendants are often curious about what I’m doing. As a result, I have many interesting conversations during the flights as well.

My watercolor/pastel flight kit is compact and includes:

1. A pencil and eraser
2. A watercolor journal and other watercolor paper
3. A compact palette with a limited number of paints and a small water container
4. Two brushes, watercolor pencils, a couple of water brushes (with water reservoirs)
5. I also pack pastel pencils with a pad of pastel paper

I do not use opaque mediums like acrylics or oils during the transportation phase of the journey because of the possibility of permanent staining in the seating area.

And if you end up flying to an exotic location, don’t miss the opportunity to paint in a café or other public area while you’re there. It’s a great way to make friends and meet interesting people. Children especially are intrigued by the idea of a person creating art in an unexpected location.

Last month, we traveled with our family (15 of us!) to Disney World in Florida. Although the flight out of Orlando was late in the day, we had to check out of our villa by noon.

It was 95 degrees that day so I declined a final hot and hurried visit to the park with the family. Instead, I sat in an air conditioned café and enjoyed a few hours of painting.

Disney Painting, EE resize

What a great way to spend my last few hours in Florida! Countless diners and passers-by stopped to chat and inquire about the artwork, and before I knew it, my time at Disney was up.

As we rode the shuttle to the airport, I was cool and invigorated while the rest of the family were a bit sweaty and something less than refreshed!

Of course the ultimate in traveling with your paints is the plein air experience.

Nothing matches taking your paints outdoors and spending a few hours painting in your new surroundings. It doesn’t require a lot of planning, either. Just grab a travel painting kit and stick that and anything else you might need (water, snacks, bug spray or sunscreen, etc) in a backpack.

Here’s one of my own plein air painting sketches:

Plein Air River Painting EE resize

When you think about it, most of us enjoy traveling already—but taking your camera and paints along can really enhance the journey.

I hope that all of you will start viewing traveling as something of a creative retreat, full of one-time artistic opportunities. Once you do, you’ll soon find inspiration and artful experiences at every stage of your journey!

*Note: this post may contain affiliate links*

Last night, I returned from a wonderful tropical vacation in the Virgin Islands after leaving snowy, gray Idaho for two weeks. After a trip like that I should be recharged and ready to tackle the work I left behind. . . right?

Wrong. In fact, I'm feeling blue.

I am so overwhelmed by the work ahead, that I don't even know where to start! And before I left town I was on a. . . read more

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