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Thursday, April 05, 2012

Advice for Flying with Pastels

'Taos Meadow View' 11x14 pastel ©Karen Margulis
Did you know a box of pastels looks like a box of bullets when x-rayed? Especially the neat and organized boxes where the pastels are all carefully lined up. I am packing my painting supplies in preparation for flying to Las Vegas for the Plein Air Convention next week. I want to make sure my pastels arrive safely and there are a few tips about pastels and air travel that I'd like to pass along.
  1. I always carry on my pastel box. I make sure I can fit the box in my carry-on bag. I usually have a backpack and my box goes in it along with other essentials. I don't ever put pastels into checked luggage because I don't want to worry about them breaking due to rough handling and I want to be present if my box is opened by the TSA. I've had my box inspected many times and often the agent has no clue about how to open a box of pastels so they don't fall out or break (picture opening your box while it is on it's side... not flat... and all your beautiful pastels spilling out all over the table) If I am checking a bag I will put my easel and paper in the checked bag but I ALWAYS carry my pastels with me.
  2. There is a good chance that when going through security, your box will be pulled for inspection. I have had my box inspected several times. They will want to open your box and it will help if you calmly explain that they are artist chalks and that the box needs to be opened when flat on the table. Whatever you do don't try to touch your box when it is being inspected. They don't like that! Yes, I tried to show them how to open a Heilman Box and it is a 'hands off' policy. It might help to tape a note to the box stating that the box holds artist's chalks and how the box should be opened. **allow extra time to go through security in case your box is pulled for inspection***
  3. Put your box in a large zip-loc or plastic bag before you put it in your carry-on bag. No matter how gentle you are or how tightly your box closes, the jostling will create some pastel dust. A plastic bag will help keep your carry-on clean.
alcohol wash underpainting for 'Taos Meadow View'

Even though I have had my pastel box inspected several times, it always went quickly and once the agent opened the box and saw the pastels they were satisfied. I did have my box swabbed once but it was quickly cleared as well.
These are my tips from my personal experiences but if you would like to read more about traveling with pastels and other art supplies I recommend Katherine Tyrrell's blog post on her blog Making a Mark. She has a very comprehensive post on traveling with pastels and art supplies.

Today's painting is one of three variation on a painting of the same meadow in Taos. You can read about my painting planning process for these variations HERE


B Boylan said...

Karen, thanks for the helpful tips on traveling with pastels. I will be at the convention too, but with oils this time around. Shhh, don't tell my pastels or they will get jealous!
See you there!

Karen said...

Too funny! I hope we get to meet!

JoAnna Carrozzino said...

Great tips! I never would have thought the TSA would treat a box of pastels so suspiciously.

robertsloan2art said...

Great tips! I flew when I moved from Arkansas to San Francisco and perhaps it was because I was handicapped and got a lot of extra attention anyway, they didn't give me trouble about my pastel box. I had it in carry on and explained what it was when it went through the scanner. I was prepared to open it and take the pastels out but I think they just took me at my word.

I had a little more trouble over having water in the barrels of a couple of water brushes and having to empty those into a trash can and refill them on the plane.

Karen said...

Wow! I never would have thought about the brushes that hold water! Thanks for the heads up!