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A Painter’s Field Guide for Art on the Road
Emilie Lee puts the art into #vanlife. Based in California but trekking year-round and worldwide for two weeks to two months at a time, she paints wherever she goes. Her cross-country creativity and art on the road lifestyle is an inspiration and the stuff of dreams to many of us.
We caught up with Emilie while she was in Montana for an exhibition opening in Bozeman. Check out this series of videos where we asked Emilie to share a few car-life-art-life hacks on how to live and make paintings on the go, tips on plein air painting in the snow and why painting the same sunrise for days at a time is the best tutor a painter could have, whether they are in the studio or making art on the road.
Art Life Meets Van Life
Emilie pretty much has an art residency on wheels. She lives in her car, sleeps and eats in it, and it’s her studio, too. Hear how she space saves and packs supplies for living art on the road.
Emilie as a Painter on the Go
In this vid, Emilie talks about why she paints the way she does and what she’s looking for most: the opportunity to capture a fleeting moment.
She’ll take you through how she picks her vantage point during paint outs, how she paints differently in the studio and when it’s not a good idea to underpaint.
Life Hacks for Art on the Road
Emilie has years of experience as an avid rock climber. That’s a lifestyle where you learn to pack light and smart. Here are a few of Emilie’s top recommends based on her years of experience arting and adventuring on the road!
When it comes to food shopping on the road, you want to keep your energy up with tons of leafy greens. Emilie has a small cooler where she keeps her perishables and her go-to veg is kale. It keeps the longest in the cooler and is slow to wilt.
#2 The Most You Can Carry
Always have a lot of water. Emilie has a seven-gallon jug that she refills constantly. If she could accommodate more, she would because between drinking, cooking, art needs and cleaning up, the more water the better.
#3 Wardrobe Check
Emilie confesses that when she’s on the road she wears the same two or three outfits (no judgment here, girl!), and thus she has learned to just pack less. So pick your favorite tops and bottoms and leave the rest behind.
#4 Keep the Pizza Box
For storing and transporting wet paintings, Emilie uses an old and discontinued wet panel carrier from GatorBox with tracks that can size up or down. If you are going to paint on the road, it’s an essential and the only guarantee to dry wet paintings without getting road dirt or dog hair on them.
But if you don’t have a panel carrier, a pizza box will do! Just put pieces of tape on the back of your wet painting panel and tape them to the inside of the pizza box, then close it up and you are good to go.
You can also put drying paintings on the dashboard but Emilie is the first to admit that it’s a risky move — only to be used in an emergency!
#5 What Pochade Box Is Right for You?
Emilie says only two things matter for her:
- That it is lightweight.
- That it fits in her backpack.
#6 Driving Times
To stay safe when it comes to inclement weather and unfamiliar territory, Emilie drives during the day. She gets up super early so she can drive to her destination with the most daylight hours on her side. It’s the worst trying to get yourself un-lost in the dark.
5 Days of Painting
On the way to her show opening in Montana, Emilie stopped over in Utah for five days. In this video, she explains how she painted the same places over the course of her stay and why waking up to paint the sunrise is the very best teacher for a painter interested in color and light. Plus tackling the surprisingly tricky hue of sandstone at Bears Ears National Monument!