Monday, November 6, 2017

Product Review: Travel Painter Art Box

The Travel Painter Art Box

I always enjoy reviewing new products for the outdoor painter.  It's an opportunity to try something new, perhaps help the maker improve the product—and get out in the field to paint!  This time around, I'm reviewing a new paint box from Russia.

Good hardware all around!

Finely crafted box interior

Palette is slid out, showing contents of box interior. 
I've removed the two dividers that would partition the interior into three sections.

The Travel Painter Art Box is advertised as a tripod-free paintbox.  It's a slim, lightweight pochade box beautifully constructed that can be used either on the lap or while standing.  To stand, a comfortable cloth belt attaches to the box so it hangs from your neck and is steadied by your chest or belly.   For left-handed painters, the maker has a clever way of changing how the strap attaches.  Three adjustable compartments inside the box allow for several paint tubes, short-handled brushes and short turps jar.  The lid can hold two 6x8 or 8x8 panels.  Two wingnuts on the lid allow for easy angle adjustments of the lid for painting.  All in all, it's a very simple but well-crafted box and a good value at $89 US.

I took it out on a couple of trial runs to see how it works.  Overall, I was very pleased with the lightness and ease of use.  I hiked in over a mile and back with it on a woodland trail, and I didn't feel the weight more than I would a DSLR camera.  It took just a moment for me to open it up and start painting.  It's a box I'll carry on my next road trip, which will involve hiking to painting spots—and certainly overseas to Scotland and Italy next year!

Here you can see how the strap is positioned for a right-handed artist.

Here are some observations:
Panel Size.  The maker notes that the box is made for panels that are 20 cm wide.  He recommends using boards cut to the metric standard rather than to an avoirdupois standard; 8 inches is a little larger than 20 cm, and sometimes a 6x8 board is a little smaller or bigger than what's advertised.   Fortunately, I found that a 6x8-inch Ampersand Gessobord fits exactly with just enough room to slide the panel in and out easily.  But I also learned that a no-name brand of 6x8 panel I also use is too big; I had to trim off a fraction with a utility knife for it to fit. 
Brushes.  I use mostly Grand Prix flats from Silver Brush.  These are too long to fit diagonally in the box.  I took three and trimmed off about a half-inch so they would fit.  Other brands or models may require no trimming or more.  But I wanted to fit everything in this box, as I didn't like carrying an extra bag.  Also,  I didn't want to deal with a brush holder.  When  painting, I just slid the palette open a bit so I could shove the handles into the box to secure them. 
OMS container.  Again, I wanted everything to fit inside this box.  I'd lost my tiny Guerrilla Painter turps jar, but I had found a small metal screw-cap medium cup.  It doesn't hold much in the way of OMS.  Then I remembered that Gamblin's Solvent-Free Gel can be used as both a medium and a brush cleaner!  I packed in a tube of this instead.  Perfect solution to the messy, welded-on-lid problem with medium cups. 
Paper Towels.  I use paper towels when painting.  I figured that for two 6x8 paintings, I wouldn't need very many.  So I ripped a few sheets off the roll, cut them into squares, and used a bulldog clip to hold them together.  This packet fit neatly in the box.  When I painted, I just clipped it to the lid for easy access.  As the paper towels got soiled and unusable, I just stuffed them back into the box for disposal later. 
Palette.  The palette is 20x20 cm, just like the box lid that hold the panels.  I always like to have my palette at least as big as my painting surface.  This is polyurethaned plywood, the same as the rest of the box, and nicely finished.  It slides easily in its groove—a little too easily, actually.  While painting, I was worried that the palette might slide out entirely.  This didn't happen, but I recommend that the maker add some sort of “stop” or lock for the palette to avoid this.  (When closed, the hinges of the box lock the palette in place.) 
Comfort.  As I mentioned earlier, you can either paint with the box standing or sitting.  I chose to stand during my first session.  I was a little puzzled at first with how to position the box against my tummy and to get comfortable with the strap.  (The photos show you how it's done.  You'll note that I have the strap positioned a little differently from the way it is on the website for the box; I found what worked for me.)  But once I was over that minor hurdle, using the box was a piece of cake.  With my left hand I steadied the box and hold a paper towel, and I then painted with my right.  In my second session, I sat with the box in my lap.  This was, of course, even easier.
I highly recommend this box for anyone who needs to travel super-light.  It's the kind of thing you might throw over your shoulder and take on a daily hike or bike ride just in case you run across something that needs painting.  It's also great for study-to-studio work and gathering reference sketches. And it's definitely what you'd take on a trip where weight and space are at a premium.

You can find out more about the Travel Painter Art Box and purchase it at for $89 US.  By the way, it didn't take it very long to get from Russia to New Mexico, only two weeks.  You can probably get one in time for Christmas!

Here are the two paintings I made with the Travel Painter Art Box:

Lake Study I - 6x8 Oil - Available

Lake Study 2 - 6x8 Oil - Available

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