Travel Watercolor Kit

Over the weekend I constructed myself a tiny travel watercolor kit and I’m pretty jazzed about it.

I’ve been kicking around the idea of a year-long project like Justin’s poetry project, but with watercolors. The paintings would be small, and should take no longer than 20 minutes: a daily, meditative practice.

A few years ago I had found this traveling workman’s file holder, which I thought would make a great travel kit, and it does, but maybe for more intensive paintings where I need to carry a little bit more. I tried using it at work once, but ended up breaking my water bottle which provided an extra level of annoyance I couldn’t afford. It was just a little too much for quick breaks, so I never brought it back.

For my potential project, I need the kit to be very small, like maybe it could fit snugly inside a hollowed-out book and then stuffed in my workbag. I got the idea of a super tiny travel kit from a woman at one of the knitting groups I frequent. She had the tiniest of tiny travel watercolor kit with a tiny brush and a tiny little sketchbook. I tried to find out what hers was called, and sought a little online for it, but then I thought I could just as simply make one myself.

Justin & I found these little spice containers at the Good Fortune in Cranston in the back market section. It has several compartments and folds in on itself to be about the size of a half pack of cigarettes. Justin tried using it as it is, but we decided it would be better if we found little paint pots to add into the covered channels. I used some double-sided tape to fix the paint pots into the channels and cut a sponge to fit the back (removable) portion.

It was probably longer ago than I remember, but I recently had found my watercolors from Ken Spiering‘s classes at SFCC in the late 90s. I was shocked to see many of them still liquid enough to get out of the tubes. I looked online to see if I could find a 9-color limited palette using what I already have; I found an eight-color starter list online, then I made some substitutes and tests:

For Test 1 I used some of the listed colors I had from my original travel kit, presuming (incorrectly) that they were all still available from the tubes. I was wrong enough to have to do Test 2, which is my final eight-color lineup, plus Yellow Ochre which I threw in because the original Gamboge (not from my original school set) had dried up like a bone. I ended up substituting Gamboge with Cadmium Yellow, which is a bit more opaque, but will do for now. Also, the Lemon Yellow I had is either missing or I had used gouache, so I substituted Lemon Yellow with Azo Yellow, which is a bit greener, but still gets the lighter, cooler yellow when needed.

The rest of the color setup is the same, I think. The two reds are very similar in hue, but the Quinacridone Red is more transparent and slightly cooler than Cadmium Red. Overall, the palette is really warm, so I predict I may have to add some cooler hues eventually.  I made a few quick paintings to see how I like the palette, and overall I’m pretty happy with it.

So, that’s it for now! I plan to use December for building a habit to take the kit with me, refine the kit as necessary, and then start my year-long project in January.


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