But wait, there’s more!

Packing for a road trip is my most hated job. Perhaps a list will help me stay more organized.

To me, a successful job of packing means I come home with one clean pair of panties. I’d rather waste space on painting tools and supplies than on my personal gear. My last trip, however, ran a little longer than I’d expected. Washing clothes on the road was no big deal, but I didn’t have sufficient meds. It was a lesson that one can, in fact, cut it too fine.
I leave for Nova Scotia tomorrow. The forecast is for temperatures ranging from 9° to 24° C, which is 50°-75° in real money. That means double packing, because I must must be prepared for any weather.
Packing is my least-loved part of my job. I’ve decided to make a list, in the hope that it makes me a little more efficient. This is in addition to my list of painting supplies, which you can find here for oils, for watercolor, and for acrylics.
Feel free to comment with additional suggestions.
Rain happens, especially in the Northeast. In a plein air event, that’s no excuse for not getting your painting done.
One week of clothing for the traveling artist

Fleece or cotton hoodie
Fleece or wool sweater
Cardigan or shawl for evening
Hiking boots
Hiking socks
Totally paint-spattered shirts—number of days +1
Totally paint-spattered capris—number of days divided by 2
One pair of long pants
Painting hat
Underpants—number of days +2
My bathing suit—not that I ever use it, but I can dream
A swim towel—ditto
Raingear—a jacket AND waterproof pants
One moderately dressy outfit for casual events
One actual dress or skirt for reception
Nobody does the painting hat quite as elegantly as Marjean Coghill.
Cosmetics—especially for you guys. You look downright unkempt at times
Sunglasses, glasses cleaner and cleaning cloth
Insect repellent
SPF lip balm
Aloe vera lotion for when you forget the sunscreen
Hairbrush and/or comb
Hair ties and bobby pins
Nail clipper
Shampoo and conditioner
Body wash
Prescription medications and vitamins. I sort mine prior to leaving into daily med containers
Toothbrush—I can get five weeks out of my electric toothbrush without a charge. I’ve tested this.
Monthly feminine supplies
(You’ll need a clear plastic bag if you’re flying for some of these things)
Downloaded media will be your best friend when you’re stuck on the road back of beyond.
First aid:
A small first aid kit in your trunk
Over-the-counter allergy meds
Aspirin and/or your favorite NSAID

Odd equipment for when I am traveling overland and have space to burn:
Bandana—I can soak this in water and stay cool on a hot day.
Foldable wagon
Headlamp for nighttime painting
Small secateur clipper
Extra plastic poncho to cover easel in case of monsoon
Folding chair
Water bottle and a larger jug to refill
Nutritional bars and trail mix—no chocolate, unless you like cleaning up melted food
Brush soap
Baby wipes

Camera and charger
Cell phone and charger
Laptop and charger, if applicable
GPS if applicable
Fitbit charger
Spare charged external battery—this is a lifesaver when traveling
For every show, there will be an opening, and you’re supposed to dress for it. Try to look as good as this posse, please: Mira Fink, Crista Pisano, me, Marlene Wiedenbaum, Laura Bianco, Kari Ganoung Ruiz (who just took Best in Show at Finger Lakes) and Tarryl Gabel.

Credit cards
Remember to turn on foreign cell service, if necessary
Download any media to phone or Kindle before leaving your wifi behind.

How not to pack for a painting trip

I love travel but loathe packing. My clothes take me fifteen minutes or so, as one pair of paint-stained clamdiggers is interchangeable with any other. It’s the tools, paints and supplies that require thought.  I always print out my student supply list as a starting point. (You can find a copy here.)
I had unexpected company on the weekend. That meant I was even less prepared than usual. Still, with list in hand, I was unlikely to forget anything useful.
I’m on my way to Freeport in the Bahamas to paint with Joelle Feldman and Bobbi Heath. I felt good about my packing job until I saw theirs. Bobbi also works from a list, but hers is separated into “checked luggage” and “carry on.” Bobbi’s painting kit was lost en route to Brittany last year and not recovered until long after she got home. She has learned the painful lesson that some things shouldn’t be checked.
Less attention to my pedicure, more to packing would have helped.
Recently, one of my students arrived at the airport with a new 150 ml tube of paint in her carry-on bag. “Everyone knows you can’t do that,” we think. You’d be surprised at the mistakes you can make if you’re rushed or tired. Mercifully, it was just titanium white instead of a more expensive pigment.
Bearing that in mind, I carefully tucked my paints into my checked luggage. My tools and easel I kept in my carry-on. They are the priciest part of my kit and would be the hardest to replace on the road.
Joelle is a pastel painter. Her entire kit and clothing fit into a carry-on bag. That’s partly because she’s very efficient. Her clothes were vacuum-packed. Bobbi and I have the excuse of being oil painters to explain our extra luggage. We’d also been advised to bring toilet paper and paper towels with us, so our bags were fluffier than normal.
You really packed a half-empty bottle of plonk, Carol?
The first intimation that I might have done a bad job packing came last night when I realized I’d tucked my umbrella into my kit. It’s cumbersome and I never bring it on the road if I can help it. There was no going back, so it is heading to the Bahamas with me. This morning I noticed an odd shape sticking out of my suitcase. Investigating, I found a half-finished bottle of wine. It has been in my luggage since I returned from Canada in October.
Bobbi’s suitcase was far more orderly than mine.
Even we couldn’t face stale red wine before 6 AM. So I rinsed my hair with it.
But my real painting advice for the day is to make sure you put your palette knives, scraper and Leatherman tool in your checked luggage, not your carry-on. The alternative—replacing them or paying for another checked bag—are both expensive, as I now know.
Looking for packing advice? You should probably ask Bobbi or Joelle.

The Fine Art of Packing

Texting and falling into a fountain, 6X8, Carol L. Douglas. Artists can justify keeping anything as still life props.
Sometimes God likes to remind me that I’m not superhuman. Like this week, when my work has been limited by asthma. The combination of pollen, dust and exertion has pretty much done me in by early afternoon, and I’m about 20 boxes behind in my packing.
Every American family should pack once a decade. That way we would relentlessly cull our stuff. It would be nicer for our children when we die, for one thing.
Yes, all the weird stuff has to come with me. And much of it requires special handling in packing.
Every studio is full of odd and useful things. In my case, several plaster heads, one blue glass head, a Vaseline glass figurine, several compotes, and a glass bowl full of rocks from Maine. That last one has me baffled; I use those rocks for still lives, but I can’t really see moving them back to Maine.
Paintings and frames are a hassle to pack.
The fine art of packing consists entirely in tossing stuff out until your current house is empty and you fall in love with it again. I’m not a hoarder. I can be relentless with books, with clothes and with furnishings. But there’s still an awful lot of stuff here to go through, and time is slipping through my fingers.
Where there was once order, there are now… boxes.
Meanwhile, I remember what it’s like to paint. Really, I do.

Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park in August 2015. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops! Download a brochure here.

It’s not gonna snow forever

Spring really is just around the corner, I swear.

I think the dead of winter is God’s way of telling me it’s time to paint the figure, so I generally lay off plein air in the coldest months. The last day I painted out-of-doors was the day before Thanksgiving. But watching spring snow falling outside my studio window is a reminder that in a week or so, we can be outdoors, so it’s time to get my pack in order.
Is this the year I buy a new brush holder? Nah…
I use the same palette indoors and out, but my umbrella, my backpack, and my field easel get stashed in a corner, from whence they silently reproach me for not going outside to play. The first order of business is to pull them out and inspect them for cracks, tears and other damage, and to thoroughly vacuum out my pack.
If brush cleaner/conditioner doesn’t
salvage them, replace them.
Then it’s time to consider what condition my brushes are in. A few need replacement every year, particularly the flats and long filberts. Some need reshaping, and a few need to be rescued, but mostly I have to track down the ones that have wandered out of my brush holder into a coffee can in my studio.

 I don’t use tubes, but buy my paints in cans (from RGH Paints in Albany). I keep my paints in this segmented vitamin box, given me by my pal Jamie Williams Grossman. Generally this box of paints will get me through a week of travel without reloading, and it weighs a fraction of what the same paints in tubes do. Having used this box without cleaning it since last May, this seems like a good time to clean out any residual old paint and wipe out the reservoirs. But it’s also a sensible time to check my supplies and order new paint.
Ditching tubes cuts down on weight. Cheap, efficient, and faster.
More drawing means less struggling, so I carry them all: charcoal, watercolor pencil, graphite, greyscale markers for fast value studies, and a viewfinder/dry erase marker. I often use watercolor pencils and a straight edge when architecture is involved, and I particularly like that one can erase errors with a damp paper towel. I definitely need some new watercolor pencils this year.
Draw slow, paint fast. From left, charcoal, watercolor pencils and sharpener, grey-scale markers, graphite sticks and sketchbook, viewfinder and dry-erase marker.
Another group of supplies that’s frequently looted over the winter is personal care supplies. I note that I need replacement suntan lotion and I need to track down my lucky painting cap, apron, and water bottle. The latex gloves are primarily for warmth, not cleanliness, so I’d better order liquid gloves. (You Southerners will be surprised to learn that the hand warmers can be dropped out again after, say, July.) I always carry two ponchos—one for me, and one for my painting, because when it rains in the spring, it really rains. I put my IPod and my camera in this category, but they don’t need to be checked; they’re used every day.
Never discount the value of being comfortable. From left, insect repellent, baby wipes, poncho for my easel, hand-warmers, my poncho, latex gloves.
I have two sets of tools, so my field ones generally don’t go walkies, but they still need to be checked, because they’re the most important tools I own: my compass (because I want to know where the sun is heading), palette knifes and a scraper, bungee cords, a level, S-hooks, clips, an all-purpose tool, a straight edge/angle finder, double pots, soap.
The most important part of my kit after paints and brushes. From top left: compass, two palette knives, scraper, bungee cords, level, soap, palette cups, angle finder/straight edge, all-purpose tool, clips, S-hooks.
It’s time to order new fast-dry medium, and check my supplies of mineral spirits. Because I want to travel light, I’ll repurpose the medium container to hold mineral spirits, and carry my medium in the tiny pot in the foreground (bought as part of a cosmetic travel set from my local dollar store). A hotel shampoo bottle serves equally well for this. I always carry a few plastic grocery bags for trash, and I stash the larger containers and a funnel in my car. I’ll go out in my shop and run a few rolls of paper towel through my chop saw so they’re half size, and I’ll be good to go.
You need a big bottle of mineral spirits in your car and a little one to carry, a big bottle of medium and a little one to carry, a brush-washing tank, some boards to paint on, and a way to move the finished paintings.
I’ve been using thumbtacks, a strap and waxed paper to move wet paintings, but this year I think I’ll go all-out on a new carrier system made from cheap frames and big rubber bands, as suggested by my pal Marilyn Fairman. And it’s definitely time to check my inventory of painting boards. I like Ray-Mar boards and they always have a Memorial Day sale, so I always try to arrange my inventory to limp along until then. But this week I’ll sort my remaining inventory and count them so I know what I need to order.
That’s my routine for checking my oils. You can extrapolate the same checklist for watercolors and pastels—check your pigments, check your tools, check the stuff you need to be comfortable, reorder what’s gone, repair what’s broken. For a complete list of my recommended oil painting supplies, check here. For watercolor supplies, check here. For pastel supplies, check here.

How not to pack for outdoor painting

Two men look out through the same bars:
One sees the mud, and one the stars. 

                             (Rev. Frederick Langbridge)

Chambered Nautilus, 1956, Tempera on panel,
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

I spent the week in Maine, reconnoitering for my summer workshops, and generally considering how I can best shed the nautilus shell of my current life. After all, if you look at that shell, more and more compartments are… not empty, but collecting dust.

Having just visited the Farnsworth again, I’m reminded of Andrew Wyeth’s painting, “Chambered Nautilus.” (The Farnsworth has many lovely studies by Wyeth that demonstrate just how meticulously he prepared each of his paintings. Any serious painter would benefit from studying these drawings, and I strongly urge you to visit the Farnsworth and spend time with them—in particular the studies for Maidenhair.)
 “Chambered Nautilus” shows Wyeth’s mother-in-law gazing out her bedroom windows during her final illness. Initially, Wyeth considered using a conch shell. “It is believed that someone just brought the nautilus shell and he preferred it, but I like to think that it was symbolic,” Erin Monroe of the Wadsworth Atheneum toldthe Hartford Courant. “He often designated objects as stand-ins for people, and a nautilus has all these chambers. His mother-in-law was confined to a chamber and couldn’t leave.”
Wyeth himself had this to sayabout the painting: “I did the picture right there in the room…and she would talk to me about her childhood in Connecticut.  She was a great woman, one of those people who never grow old.”
But of course we all eventually do grow old, and the reality is that eventually most of us end up with our worldly goods pared down to a nursing home bed and a recliner. Still, before that happens, “…I have promises to keep/And miles to go before I sleep.” 
Most of us do a pretty good job of blooming where we’re planted, and my family has been no exception. We came to Rochester for work, and we’ve had a good run here. But I have always used it as a launching pad. In the earliest days, I traveled back to the Buffalo area to see my design clients, and after my kids were old enough, I started traveling to NYC to take classes, traveling around the East Coast to show paintings and traveling elsewhere to paint and teach.
We thought it might be a lot of fun for students, but it just trades one
 nautilus shell for another.
 By all rational standards, 2013 is a mad time to think of picking up sticks. We’re still in the throes of economic malaise, I’m definitely getting older, and we still have a kid in school. But there is an insistent refrain in my head: “It’s now or never.”
And so I debate options: move to an art town and open a gallery? Buy a small house in Deer Isle and turn out work that I in turn sell to other galleries? Do I even need a permanent home? With that last idea in mind I stopped in Amsterdam, NY and looked at trailers and motor homes. I was intrigued, but when I got back to Rochester I realized that I do like my own bed.
Where does this all end? I don’t know. As my pal Loren said last week, “The options are infinite.”
“True,” I answered, “but the parking is limited.” Which is not exactly true, but our time here on earth certainly is. And I want to spend as little of the rest of it as possible dusting the inside of my chambered nautilus shell.