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Saturday, July 18, 2015

What Happens to Pastels After 6 Weeks of Travel

'Summer Enchantment'             5 x 11.5        plein air pastel              ©Karen Margulis
painting available $75
I am home. It has been a whirlwind of travel beginning in June with two weeks in New Mexico for the IAPS convention. Then on to Europe for four weeks. My careful planning paid off. Everything went smoothly except for a couple of mishaps that ended well. (and gave me material for better stories!) I packed well and my luggage made it through it all. It is always a relief to see your suitcase on the belt at baggage claim!

What about the pastels and supplies? Did I plan well enough? Did I have enough supplies for 6 weeks of painting and teaching? I am happy to report that the answer is YES! Have a look:

The BEFORE shot
I wanted to travel light. My goal was to fit all of my art supplies in my backpack. I managed to do this although I traveled with my tripod in my suitcase. Click here for a blog post about the supplies I brought.
I brought a Heilman double sketchbox filled with an assortment of Terry Ludwig and Girault pastels. The photo above shows the box before I started my travels.

The AFTER shot
The pastels are a little dusty but held up quite well. Most importantly I selected a good variety of colors. I was able to paint everything from the New Mexico arid landscape to the beaches and wheat fields of Normandy to the lush countryside of Sweden and Finland. I only purchased two pastels on the road....a pale yellow Unison and a pale pink Sennelier.  I had a good variety of colors/values and spices which made it a very versatile collection. There was no color I would eliminate!

I am very pleased with the Heilman double sketchbox. It protected the pastels well except for the day I had overloaded a row and a few were broken. I loved how small and light it is. It fit on my tripod with the easel adapter which made set up quick and easy. I never chose not to paint because I dreaded setting up! It was painless.

So just how much abuse did this box take in six weeks? Here are the figures:

  • Nine plane flights.  The box was in my carryon except for one time but then my suitcase was 1 pound over the limit! 
  • Eight times through security and the box was flagged for inspection twice....in Sweden and in Charlotte NC. They didn't open the box just swabbed and asked about it.
  • Three long distance train trips.
  • Two bus rides.
  • One shuttle ride.
  • Countless van and car trips. Imagine this box in a backpack being thrown in and out of vehicles as we traveled to new locations and painting spots.
My final thoughts....This box and set up is a winner! It served me well and allowed me not only to paint for myself but to paint many demos both in France and Finland. After I clean the pastels and place some of the smaller broken pieces I will be ready to go again!


Nini and the Sea said...

How do you clean pastels? I noticed they look much more dull in the after shot, it's good to know they can get back to their original brilliance!


Karen said...

Nini, there are many ways to clean them. Some put them in some cornmeal and shake them. I love using fine sand to gently clean them. It is also easy to just wipe them down with a tissue of paper towel though that is more time consuming. They look dull in the after photo from use and from dust from travel.

Mary Pyche said...

Congratulations on a wonderful, safe and successful trip! Glad it all worked out.

katybee said...

Welcome home from all your adventures! Fun and interesting photos. I was amazed that with all the painting you did that your pastels aren't more worn down. They do last a long time. Did you find the double sketchbox much easier to carry than a backpack size?

robertsloan2art said...

Love your before and after on the pastel box! They do get a little dull after painting, especially repeated painting. I usually clean them with a tissue or my painting rag, but that does get time consuming. Sand, corn meal or rice and shaking in a small Tupperware container always works well. It just takes more of my limited body energy to do it.

For me it also depends on how many need cleaning. If it's the whole box the corn meal exertion's worth it: the task will be done. If it's the dozen pastels I just used, wiping them with toilet paper or my art rag will get the box looking bright and ready for next time. I try to clean them after every use to avoid a major chore that will use up the energy of a painting session, which I think is probably disability runaround. I do that with a lot of cleaning up things because then on marginal days I still may be able to paint or sketch.

Or maybe the world is just made up of Messy Desk and Tidy Desk people, a quirk that implies nothing about skill or ability or creativity.

You have no trouble using a loose non-organization of colors in your box. I organize like Richard McKinley does, with hue on a spectrum band from left to right and value top to bottom in two batches - four rows for spectrum colors, two rows for neutrals warm and cool also organized by spectrum with pure gray in the 'blue' band. What I suspect is that you get used to it by hand memory - reach for a color to be where you last put it, not by visual organization. By now you probably have that box so familiar you could use it in the dark!

You can fit a lot into a small box when not using slotted foam! I love that double sketchbox Heilman. It's proved its value, something for me to save up for someday.

Today's panoramic painting is lovely too! Thanks for chronicling your trip in so much detail. Ari purrs and sheds Cat Hairs of Inspiration at you! Welcome home!

Dawn Hartigan said...

I wondered if you could share some tips for dealing with bugs and weather conditions. For example the red ants here in S.C. are annoying and making sandals not good footwear, even though I'm on pavement and not the bare ground. I paint early in the morning,( 7: 30 - 10 am) because the temps are so high (90 - 100) recently, but there are changes that happen in the afternoon skies etc that I''d like to paint. Just wondering if there are any tips
that wok for you you could pass on.

Also can you recommend a good backpack that would carry an easel and other necessities. Thanks I appreciate it.

Karen said...

Thanks everyone for the comments! Much appreciated!
Dawn....great questions for plein air. You could put down a piece of vinyl tablecloth to stand on. Bugs and weather are just a fun part of plein air....m]they make me paint faster! I will do a blog post about this topic. As far as backpacks.....everyone has their favorites but mine is an Orvis businessman backpack. It isn't big enough for an easel but it is manageable!

Raxu Helminen said...

As a relatively new pastellist I would have loved to see you paint in Finland! Next time be sure to announce, I will be there, looking over your shoulder, hehe :) Have been a watercolorinst so far, yet now I fell in love with pastels and have been following your blog and tutorials for a while. You are such a great artist - thank you for sharing your art and professional advice!