I’m about to leave for a field trip- all the way around the globe to Australia. I think it’s about as far away as you can get from Oklahoma. As I am preparing all my gear, trying to travel light and be equipped for drawing and painting sketches, I was eyeing those little travel watercolor kits they sell online at the better art supply websites. There are a few to choose from, all are cleverly configured but they all have one thing in common: too expensive. $100 for a teeny box of colors with a plastic flap and built in waterbottle? Tempting, very tempting, but annoying to the extreme. I want the compact convenience combined with the colors I want, at a low low everyday price. Which is what I got by assembling a few small household items:
One tin box of mints, mints removed (Altoids is a good size)
One contact lens case, contact lenses removed
One small tube each of Winsor & Newton watercolors: Transparent Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Indenthrene Blue and Ivory Black
One small natural sponge, cut in pieces
The contact lens case makes a perfect half-pan container for your paints. Truly, you only need these four colors. They are brilliant and deep and transparent and mix together beautifully. Mix the black with the yellow for a brilliant green, mix the alizarin crimson with the black for a rich brown, the crimson with the blue for a great purple, add a little yellow for a brown, and so on. Full spectrum palette. I sqeezed about half a tube into each cup and let it sit out to dry completely for a couple of days in the sun. Now it’s hardened for travel, and all you need is a wet brush to get your color onto the mixing area: the open lid of the mint tin. The cut up pieces of sponge hold the contact case and lids in place in the tin and provide a nice place to blot extra water from your brush. The cost? The paints were $22.63, and I got two travel kits out of them, one of which made a dandy birthday present for my very good art pal Becky Way (see her fabulous pastels: http://www.beckyway.com/); the contact case was an old one that came free with a bottle of disinfectant solution; the mint tin came free with the mints: $1.75, plus or minus. Total for my travel watercolor kit: $13.06. Of course, if you have tube paints, a mint tin, a small sponge and an old spare contact lens case lying around, the whole thing’s free, right?
Add a Moleskine watercolor sketch book, a brush and a water bottle and you’re set for Australia!