The flying artist

November 9, 2007


This morning Dianna Burns of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan asked
about taking oil painting equipment and canvas overseas for an
extensive trip. "While I'm used to dragging my oils around the
country," she says, "I'm not so sure what to drag out of the
country." Dianne paints large--all above 16" x 20". She wanted
to know about tacking canvas over plywood, rolling up for
shipment back, and proper stretching later on. Oil is her
game--she's not about to do watercolours or acrylics.

Thanks, Dianna. Heading overseas is not like throwing
everything in the old SUV. You have to think things out and
pack carefully. Also, with the current terrorist paranoia, you
have to make sure things don't get turned around at
airports--both coming and going. If you must have favorite
pigments or palette knives with you, don't take them as
carry-ons. Pack them deep inside your checked suitcase. Buy
bottles of oil and volatile spirits there. Never take spray
cans on planes. Here are a few ideas:

You don't really have to take a lot of stuff. Art materials are
excellent on both sides of the puddle. There's actually a
benefit of buying there: While you may miss your comfort zone,
you'll be using stuff that may be slightly different than
you're used to. This never hurts anyone. For those of us with
practical interests in standard size pre-stretched canvases
you'll find the Continental inches-metric difference. Tacking
canvas over plywood just doesn't cut it for those who cherish
the "spring." A sweet solution is to take along a few favorite
stretcher bars--or buy them in England, if you happen to go
there. You can get yourself a staple gun (with short staples)
and stretch and pull off as you go.

A total of eight stretcher bars of four lengths bundle up
nicely and can be used to make six different sizes. Consider a
pair each of 16", 20", 24" and 36". I recommend sauntering into
a Paris or a Prague supplier and asking politely for a fresh
roll of Belgian linen. Check the priming for cracks. Rolled too
long, priming can have cracks. You'll just love the fresh

When packing to come home, roll your canvas with the paint side
outward, interleaved with blank newsprint between. Don't sign
your work. Your own unfinished art is never dutiable. Give your
leftover paints away. Abandon your staple gun.

Best regards,


PS: "My favorite thing is to go where I've never been." (Diane
Esoterica: "One's destination is never a place," said Henry
Miller, "but rather a new way of looking at things." Mixing the
familiar with the strange, foreign art material stores are
great places to start. Many of them can be found close to
famous art schools. By the way, buy a giant, long-handle
hogs-hair and a Rubens' palette while you're at it. Be
prepared, and be prepared to stretch (no pun intended). Abroad,
don't push yourself. Most of us find new and enriched
environments daunting and difficult to exploit every day.
Undisciplined wandering is part of the travel game. "Not all
who wander are lost." (J.R.R. Tolkien)