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Three Ways to Lighten Your Pack

Are you stuck in a rut with your nature sketches? Do you find yourself using the same colors over and over? Are you wedded to that one special style of sketchbook?

Maybe it's time for a trip to the art supply store. It's easy to purchase supplies online, I know, but I find that actually seeing new colors of paint and touching real paper is more inspiring. Then again, if trolling for what's available online helps you think outside the canvass and try new techniques, then that can be inspiring, too.

Wcsamples copyA dazzling (and lightweight) way to try new colors and pack them along on a walk is to use a color chart. Daniel Smith Art Supplies makes one with 238 (or 66) watercolor samples, each one a dot of colorful paint, labeled by name and grouped by color on four different sheets of paper. I made a color chart right away, touching each paint dot with a damp brush, curious to see how "rose of ultramarine" compared to my usual "quinacridone violet" (much livelier, I found). This particular product is only available by phone from Daniel Smith at (800) 426-6740.

Many hikers include water brushes in their traveling kits, but I couldn't understand why until I actually saw one while perusing the art supply store. Think of a fountain pen: You dispense the ink in its reservoir by pressing the nib to paper.

Lemon copyThe Ninji water brush works in the same way, holding clean water in its reservoir, which you dispense by pressing the brush to the paper. To use it, simply run the water brush over a sketch you've made with watercolor pencils or crayons--and you have paint! The brushes themselves come in three different sizes, and I find "small" most useful, comparable to a number 6 round watercolor brush. Why do you need this tool?  For convenience. You can leave at home your water container, your travel palette, and even your paintbrush if you tuck a water brush and a few watercolor pencils in your pack instead. I painted this image of a lemon and kumquats using a waterbrush.

And how about painting on an artist trading card?  These tiny cards measure 2.5 x 3.5 inches and have become the darlings of the art world.  You can even find online galleries of them on Flickr and in Switzerland! Artists hold swaps of mini masterpieces, painted in watercolor, printed in ink, even collaged. You can mail them as little postcards or tuck them into tiny envelopes or clear plastic bags to exchange. You can find mini pre-cut mats if you end up creating a masterpiece! A package of 10 artist trading cards weighs far less than a spiral-bound sketchbook, and you might find yourself painting something totally unexpected on this miniature canvas.

Tradingcard copyAt left is a trading card next to a water brush.

Have you found other ways to travel light with art supplies?

-- Sue Fierston paints and teaches just outside of Washington, D.C. in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. As a painter, she works in acrylics and watercolor and is in the middle of a series called "100 Flowers." As a teaching artist, she works with teachers to bring art into their classrooms in grades 4-8. Her posts focus on her nature-themed art collaborations. For a look at her paintings or more about her teaching, check out her website at suzannefierston.com.

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