Photo caption: Doing some urban and travel sketching and painting is a good excuse to paint some of your favorite places. Photo courtesy of John Milan.
Paint this picture in your head (pun intended), you’re driving down a scenic highway with the radio on, the wind in your hair, and a cool drink in the cup holder. The sun is shining beautifully behind the clouds and you’re almost to your campsite, where you can park your cozy and comfortable van for the night.
You’re thinking about everything that has inspired you throughout the day, and you’re excited to start sketching in the back of your van, grateful to have everything you need to live creatively on the road.
Sounds dreamy, right? If that sparks a desire in your heart to buy a van and be a traveling artist, this is your sign to go for it! Below are some tips for making art, because, yes, it is more than possible to create great art while living in a van.
First, minimizing your art supplies is key. This can be difficult for many artists, as it’s super fun to have lots of different materials and colors to choose from, but you can’t afford to waste space in a van. Be intentional about the supplies you know you’ll love.
The great thing about working with limited materials, however, is that your work will naturally have a more cohesive look to it. A unified body of work will emerge automatically, and you will also find yourself free to discover new techniques you otherwise may not have with more materials.
For example, a small selection of your favorite mixed media supply, like miniature spray paint, six oil paint colors (three warm and three cool colors), and your most used acrylic paints is a great basic kit for your paintings.
Additionally, having a small container of miscellaneous mixed media supplies and dry media is convenient and versatile. Paint that comes in pans like watercolor or gouache (which is opaque watercolor) are also great options for their variety and portability.
What’s worth bringing a lot of is brushes. Bringing lots of brushes is more important than other art supplies because this allows you to achieve a wider range of effects. You can quickly fill large areas and also add fine details.
Refillable water brushes in addition to traditional brushes are another good option, especially for doing quick sketches in places away from your van.
Fit all of your supplies in a hiking backpack so everything is easily portable when you want to sketch away from your van.
A small plein air paint box as opposed to an easel will be perfect for the artist's life in a van, or you can be innovative and build an easel that folds out of your bed. Generally, however, small pieces and pieces on sketch paper will be your main surfaces to work on. This is a great opportunity to focus on filling a sketchbook and sharpening specific skills while traveling.
Painting in a big, beautiful studio is wonderful, but there’s something special about the experience of creating art while traveling in a van. It imbues a sense of adventure, innovation, and freedom into each masterpiece you create. Enjoy the creative journey of life on the open road and make art that will encourage others on their journey too!
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