I believe that being a traveler and being an artist are two lifestyles that go well together – like peanut butter and chocolate. Assuming this is true, it follows that RV’ing and art are also compatible.
After living full-time in my RV for the past three years, I discovered they do work well together. However, I ran into some unique challenges when bringing my painting on the road with us.
Challenges I’ve encountered:
- Space in RVs is extremely limited, so it’s important to streamline art supplies
- For artists who paint inside the RV with oil paints (like me), adequate ventilation is a must!
When organizing our RV, Rich and I shopped for some art organizers to streamline my art supplies. And since I use oil paints and turpentine as a brush cleaner, I decided to check into odorless turps, too.
In this article I’ll share the best organizers I found for artists who RV or travel.
Solutions for Traveling Artists – Top ten tools and organizers:
First you’ll need area to store your supplies, tools, and organizers.
I cleared a space under my dinette where my most all of my supplies live. It’s about the size of a large veggie crate at 24″x H x 18″ W x 18″ D. There’s a pic of this space at the bottom of this post.
By creating a compact art storage space, your supplies are ready for easy access whenever you’re ready to paint.
Most of these art tools and organizers will fit easily into your RV’s storage space.
This is a must-have for all artists who use oil paints. The brush cleaning tank consists of a covered jar that seals tightly and contains a galvanized mesh screen.I use it to wash my larger artist brushes, with the mesh helping to separate the turps from the paint. (When cleaning smaller brushes, I use these covered palette cups instead.) These brush cleaners both fit inside my storage box, which helps protect the floor of my art storage area from potential spills, breaks, or leaks.
For artists who use oil paints, odorless paint thinner is another must MUST when working in any small space. I used to paint in our house, and my turps and thinner smelled up the room for days. I knew we couldn’t have those fumes in our 230 square-foot RV and until I tried this odorless thinner, I figured I’d only be able to paint outside. But once I found out how odorless it really is, I’ve been painting inside the RV with no problems. (Note: I recommend that you ventilate your RV when using any type of paint or solvent.)
I originally bought this portable paint brush holder for its mobility. However, I’ve found it to be the best brush holder ever for other reasons too. It’s shaped like a long notebook, and holds all of my 20 paintbrushes.
Brushes slip into the bottom pocket and are held in place with a sewn-in band, and a velcro strap secures it tightly. It even converts to standing tent position when I’m painting, for easy access to brushes. When not in use, it folds flat and comes with a built-in carrying handle.
Depending on the size of your RV, you can carry a variety of canvas sizes with you. The more storage space you have, the larger canvases you can bring. I decided that a 16″x20″x 5/8″ framed canvas was the largest I could carry and store in our RV.
For oil paintings: When considering your maximum canvas size, you’ll want to plan for a place to store it when your artwork is drying or during travel. See why I bought a Handled Portfolio below (#8 ) to store my painting, since I didn’t have room under my dinette for a wet canvas.
(Note: One way around the space dilemma of a 16″x20″ stretched/framed canvas is to buy rolled canvas, instead. Since it has no frame, it can fit in your main art storage space when it’s dry, along with your other supplies. You’ll still need to protect it while it’s wet and during travel, but that can be handled by temporarily hanging it on a travel clothesline or pinning it to a hard surface. Then when it dries, it can be rolled up and placed in with your other supplies again.)
As mentioned, all my other art supplies live in our dinette seat, but wet canvas won’t safely fit in there. So I use this portfolio to store my wet canvas while it’s drying and during travel. It fits perfectly underneath the sofa, between the pull-out ottoman and the bottom of the sofa, with a few inches to spare. This semi-clear Handled Portfolio is a perfect size and shape: 24-3/4″L x 3/4″W x 18-3/4″ D. This size allows for the extra space needed around the edges of my 16″ x 20″ canvas. And at 3/4″ deep, it leaves enough room so it doesn’t touch the wet canvas surface.
(Note: As noted in #7, above, if you choose a rolled canvas, rather than a stretched and framed one, you can avoid the need for this portfolio.)
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9. Sketch Book
I often paint on the sofa or in a semi-reclined chair, holding my canvas on my lap and at an angle. However, at times I like to sit at a table with a chair, so a tabletop easel comes in handy. I decided on a 24″H easel, which holds my canvas upright, and doubles as a stand to safely display my painting when we’re not traveling.
When not in use, it folds down to only 4-inches wide.
These tools and organizers have made it much easier for me to paint while RVing….which makes me one happy camper! And because they’re streamlined, it helps us keep our total RV weight as low as possible.
For fellow oil painters, the odorless turps are super helpful, allowing you to paint in your RV with almost no odors – especially if you crack a few windows. (For a great outdoor option, I also recommend a screen house, if you have room in your RV to store it. We bought LLBean’s Woodlands Screen House, and I’ve enjoyed painting outside in my “bug-free” zone in all kinds of beautiful locations around the US!)
By creating an efficient art storage space and using organizers like the one pictured here, your art supplies can travel safely in your RV. Or you can box them up instead, and they can travel with you on a train, a bus, or even a flight — minus the solvents, of course.
If you’re an artist who travels or RVs, I’d love to hear any successes or challenges you’ve had in bringing your art on the road. And for those of you who are curious about my artwork, check it out on WesternTrailsArt.com.