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Travelling with Pastels

By Jan Chesler

4th December, 2019

Recently I had the pleasure of travelling to France for a family vacation. We were planning to spend 3 weeks in the south of France and I decided to take my pastels with me. After all, how much fun could it be in such a lovely area without a little pastel painting time?!

I have taken my pastels on previous trips and I keep tweaking my art travel bag each time. I have learned a few lessons along the way that I will share with you today.

I can’t take all of my pastels so first off I have to pare down the number. The first few trips I packed just a small 6 inch square box that held two layers of small sticks, including mostly hard and a few soft pastels in primary colors. Over time I decided I wanted to include more soft pastels for those luscious finishing touches, so I added a bigger box I repurposed from an old fedex box. I included soft foam to protect the sticks and I have two layers of sticks in the box. The box closes securely but I give it extra security with rubber bands. I include my business card with contact information and a safety label for airport TSA agents. Here are my current two small boxes of travel sticks.

In the past I have taken my pastels in my carry-on bag. I didn’t want to take a chance on them being lost or stolen in checked baggage, and it has been nice to have them with me so I can paint in the event of long lay-overs or delayed flights. I carry finger cots, some paper towels, a paint brush for scrubbing, tape, a small plastic trash bag, and various small sized papers and clear bags for storing works-in-progress and finished paintings. I keep the paper and clear bags in a stiff package used for Colourfix paper.

My carry on art bag is a standard rolling crafts bag I purchased at a hobby store. It has lots of compartments to hold miscellaneous supplies and includes a roomy interior big enough to hold my papers securely without bending them. And it fits in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of me on an airplane.

This past trip the airlines cautioned against taking any powdery substances in carry-on, so I decided to pack the pastel boxes in my checked baggage on the way home. What a mess I found when I got home! Pastel dust covered everything! The baggage handlers must have tossed that bag all over to create so much dust. If I ever do that again I will wrap the boxes securely in saran wrap to try to minimize the dust.

I like it much better taking them as carry-on. I have occasionally had airport TSA agents pull the bag aside to check out the pastels, but I’ve never had them confiscated. And they don’t get dust all over when I take them as carry-on, because I’m very careful not to be rough with the bag. It was especially nice to have them on this last trip as we had an 8 hour delay at one airport and I could pass the time painting.

One thing to consider is the weight. Pastels are heavy, and baggage weight is limited. Be sure to check with your airline in advance to make sure you don’t exceed the weight limit. You can buy a small inexpensive travel scale to weigh your bags in advance to make sure you stay within the required limit.

All-in-all, travelling with pastels is very easy and so worth it. There is no better travel memento than the personal paintings you created of the beautiful things you’ve seen while you were visiting new places. Here are a few paintings from my last trip.

You can check out more of my art at jan-chesler.pixels.com. In the meantime, happy travelling!

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