Making art when travelling - not always easy but totally doable! Here are 6 ideas to make it work for you, whether you're travelling across the world or making art in your home town.

{Sidenote: I’m trying out audio versions for longer posts; let me know what you think!}

As I write this post, I’m sitting on the patio of a little casita by the Pacific in Mexico. {I know! And sorry!}

It is indeed idyllic; looking up I see palm trees with their fronds softly swaying and rattling together. The zig zag shapes of frigate birds {which I found out have up to a seven foot wing span!} draw lazy circles in the sky overhead.

I can hear the thud of waves on the beach below, which is reached by wandering down a jungly pathway punctuated with hammocks and huge tropical blooms.

It’s my first big solo trip in many years, and the first which is more than simply a holiday. It’s partly an experiment to see whether I can do the travelling my heart longs to do while continuing to operate my little business from the road.

Since it’s largely online, in theory it should be easy! And so far it’s been going quite well, although finding some kind of rhythm has been an ongoing test.

Travelling is a gift and a privilege, but like anything it comes with its challenges too.

For me that means an intermittent feeling of ‘untetheredness’, which can feel disorienting. I don’t get lonely, but travelling alone can see you spending a lot of time in your own head, which for some of us is a little risky. 😉

Anyway. Part of the travel experience for me is to carry on making art, because it’s such a big part of who I am, and frankly with the inspiration travel brings it’d be crazy not to.

So today I’m sharing six insights I’ve learned as a travelling artist that might help you not just if you’re on the road, but if you want to venture out with your supplies from home too.

Travel can be down the road as much as in another country!

Travelling with art supplies //

1. Scale down your usual supplies

I shared the art supplies I brought with me here {somehow managing to leave out the all important tape!}. For me the key is to maintain the thread of what I’ve already been doing at home; in the past I’ve taken pencils and watercolours because they don’t take up much room.

But watercolour isn’t my medium, and I’d far rather draw in charcoal, so that makes me less inclined to actually make art while on the road! Especially art I can feel satisfied with, and perhaps even expand on when I get home.

So it makes much more sense to bring what you already use and love, and simply to scale it down. It also allows your current focus to evolve in a fresh environment.

It wasn’t practical for me to bring paints and brushes, but for me Neocolors and Inktense blocks are a good way to continue using the strong colours I like on a smaller scale. They are versatile, since you can use them wet and dry, are small and therefore easy to pack, and work well if you like mixing your media.

I added in charcoal – both willow and compressed, although so far I’ve only used the compressed – a couple of water brushes, as large a sketchbook as I can carry, a small flat paintbrush, and a small tub of gesso.

Add baby wipes and tape, and I can more or less replicate what I love doing at home.

I miss working large but am still very satisfied by using what I’ve brought to make quick and easy sketches and mini paintings. I fitted my favourite colours and some charcoal into my Neocolors tin, and it’s plenty.

This post has links to all these supplies.

Making art while travelling //

2. Immerse in the full sensory experience

One of the delights of travel is immersing yourself fully in a different culture and environment. It’s a jump start out of your regular habits, and can make creativity become a truly multi-sensory experience.

Here in Mexico, the intense heat makes the air feel thick; you either embrace the fact that you’ll be constantly bathing in your own sweat or you fight it and make it pretty miserable.

The light here is so different from at home; the sounds and smells too.

Every day I’m hearing different bird calls, drums from musicians on the beach, Mexican music blaring from car stereos, the delicious sound of Spanish, sometimes the unique heavy pattering of sudden tropical downpours. Even the sea sounds different here.

I make my own soundtrack too with my favourite music {I recommend choosing something completely new to listen to for extra shifting-into-a-new-energy}.

And let’s not forget the change in diet. Since I’m out here for a month, I am cooking at home rather than eating out for every meal, but I’m still enjoying the culinary delights that Mexico has to offer.

Mexico //

3. Take all the photos

Taking photos is a no brainer obviously.

I brought my DSLR {after vacillating over whether it’d be too heavy – very glad I decided to include it!}, and have my phone for quick snaps and selfies {not that I take loads of those, but it proves I was actually here ;)}.

I have a card reader to transfer DSLR photos to my computer, and use Airdroid to quickly move photos across from my phone.

Taking a camera everywhere I go helps me notice more in what can sometimes feel like an overwhelming visual feast.

I take close up photos as well as scenes; I can document my trips to interesting local shops and nearby beaches.

And I can use editing apps to crop and enhance, as well as share and stay in touch with my peeps via Instagram and Facebook.

Some of the photos are more holiday snaps, others I take with possible future paintings in mind.

Many offer a springboard of inspiration rather than being something I plan to faithfully copy.

As an artist who doesn’t paint what I see in any kind of literal way, this means of gathering inspiration is invaluable.

Making art while travelling //

Evening at the far end of the beach; a few spectators but mostly left to mind my own business!

4. Making art in public

A tricky one for many of us! I find that being watched is a surefire way to keep me out of my zone; I find it hard to concentrate with an audience, or go deep enough into the process to create the kind of work that satisfies me.

However, if I go to less populated areas, like the far end of the beach, a few people will sneak past to look, or outright ask to, but in much more manageable quantities!

The trick is to smile and nod, say nothing {unless they ask a question obviously}, and carry on; people don’t tend to linger long and it’s a minor enough interruption to stay focused.

If in doubt, headphones and sunglasses are the international sign for ‘don’t disturb me’, according to a friend of mine. 🙂

I probably don’t make my best work this way, but it’s so lovely to make art outside, surrounded by a new and ever changing view, it’s totally worth it.

Making art while travelling //

5. Allow it to create an anchor for you

As I mentioned earlier, being in a new place {and a new time zone} can result in feeling a bit untethered; we’re away from everything familiar, and while that’s exciting, it can also be a bit disorienting.

Continuing the thread of making art that’s ever present in my life helps me remember who I am when there are no other external markers. {I have yet to master doing that 100% internally.}

Many of us find comfort in our creative process, and this is no different.

Pelican in flight

6. Take an art class

This is something I plan to do for the first time on this current trip. I’ve found two workshops in new-to-me creative activities and am very excited to learn new things!

One is a macrame wall hanging class, and I also discovered an artist who runs encaustic art workshops from her own gallery here.

Encaustic is something I’ve been wanting to try for years, so this is a very exciting prospect on top of being a way to make art while on the road.

Taking art or other creative classes is a chance not just to introduce perhaps a new medium or approach, but also to meet like minded people, and when you’re travelling solo that can be nice, even if you’re a raging introvert recluse. 🙂 I’ll keep you posted on how the workshops go!


Do you make art while travelling? Got any useful tips and tricks that make it work for you, whether you’re roaming the globe or a short walk from home? Share them in the comments!