Wednesday, January 27, 2016

It's the Little Things!

Years ago I bought a beautiful leather purse, big enough to carry small painting tools.  The problem with a purse like that is the bigger the purse, the more I carry.
After a year or so I realized my back and shoulder did not like this new arrangement. So back to the small purse I went.

That left me with the issue of how to take painting supplies with me.  I have been plein air painting for about 15 years and I have a set up for that that I keep at the ready in a backpack. I love to plein air, but these days I don't have much time for that.  I also have two or three different kits for travel.  Each is designed for my mode of transportation. For example, you can take a more stuff on a road trip than you can on an airplane. I have been travel sketching/journaling since my dad took me to Italy, and I hope to travel and sketch a lot more in the future.

My sketching has evolved to include so much more than just traveling. Over the last ten years I've plugged into other sketchers online and followed their blogs and learned so much. They are a diverse group and they have inspired me. These days, with my limited ability to get out, my sketchbooks have kept the art alive in a simpler, smaller, more manageable way.

I began to sketch the everyday things both at home and anywhere I went.  The coffee shop, the doctors office, (I seem to be in those a lot these days!) church-you name it. But now I have this small purse, so I end up with another bag to hold my little supplies and also carry my little purse.  I take this with me and leave it in the car if I'm not going to need it.  But often I carry it with me everywhere. This was not making a whole lot of sense! But the need to sketch is great  and we must make sacrifices for our art!!

little field box
Many sketchers have their preferred tools posted on their blogs and I began to experiment.  Of course I invested in a tiny field box from Winsor Newton (use those 40% off coupons) that I was carrying in my leather purse and have since been schlepping in my "round the town bag".

I have several portable palettes that all have their purpose, but are bulky or add too much weight to a purse. I needed a fix so I've been on the lookout.  Many artists use empty Altoids tins converted to watercolor kits.  I even found something I thought might work.
It's been sitting on my desk for weeks, but I was still thinking it was too bulky and that I was going to have to buy some Altoids!
As I was cruising around on the Internet browsing blogs I stumbled quite by accident on  And there it was.  Under SHOP. A girls gotta shop, right? The perfect palette for my purse!!  Of course it's $30 for something the size of a business card-but it has metal tins and a magnetic base and is just, well, perfect! I was tempted.  Then it dawned on me.  Why not use my old business card case.  I haven't handed out business cards since I quit showing and teaching.  So I dug it out. (I had just run across this and it was sitting on my desk waiting for me to put it away.  Now you KNOW if I had put it away, I would not have found it in any timely fashion-since I can never remember where I put things! So this was meant to be!) Now to figure out how to make this work.

When I had googled palettes earlier (I am cheap by nature) trying to find, despite great odds against it-a used one, what popped up under palettes was a lot of makeup.  This made me think. Eye shadow!

I went and got an old eye makeup case that I'd never used intending to cut up the plastic divider and stick it in my case, but when I began to pop the eyeshadow out--KISMET-there were metal inserts holding the eyeshadow!! I popped those out without too much trouble and washed out the residual shadow.
 Eight metal tins that fit exactly in this little business card holder!

Originally I was just going to glue them in place but since the online version was magnetized it occurred to me that I had business cards with magnets on them.  Again, it seemed meant to be. I took the card off the magnet, glued two together so it would stick to both the holder and pans and BINGO!  Tiny pocket palette for my purse.

 The final detail was painting the lid with white paint from the hobby store as the mixing surface. I filled the little pans with my warm/cool primary palette using paints that I have since abandoned but won't throw away!  I used some of my usuals if there were no suitable colors in my outcasts. I left one tin empty and I will fill that with whatever paint I need and don't have the next time! My palette colors change depending on the subjects so I will have to see what I colors I use most.

you can see the paint colors here. 

Filled with tube paint that I let dry slightly and 3x5 moleskine pocket journal, a water brush, mechanical pencil and waterproof ink pen I am ready to sketch with color anywhere anytime! And I can ditch the "around the town bag"! AND it cost $0!!  It's the little things
This being cause for celebration--I am off to sketch!


  1. How perfect! I have met a new friend and she is an artist who teaches, just not currently, so she is all mine. But..she can never replace you ,Michelle. I miss you much.

    1. I soo wish I still taught and you still lived here! I'm glad you found a friend who will do art with you--we can do art together through the internet! hugs to you!

  2. That's definitely a cause for celebration, Michelle! I enjoyed this post so much. I've seen those little palettes on and thought they looked great, but I haven't splurged on one yet. Your business card case works perfectly, and it's fun that it has your name on it.

  3. Aren't you just the clever one! You are creative in more than one way obviously. Must run in the family!

  4. Great article! I am always trying to find smaller and smaller setups - but like you, never seem to use them! Have you read any of James Gurney's posts? He's a master for creating smaller painting setups, although a bit larger than your purse! Here's his blog with a search on painting gear:

    1. No, Nancy, I've never heard of him-yay-someone else to check out!! Always learning and tweaking. I've already used this set several times because it is so handy! It won't produce great works, but it's great for everyday stuff! Thanks for reading!