Wednesday, February 20, 2013

5 tips for jetsetting artists

As I've had a "holiday" week entertaining my American visitor, I thought I'd share a few little international tips for jetsetting artists or aspiring jetsetters!

My photo of a prop on set of The Winter, my friends' feature film.
Check it out. :)
1. Distinguish work and business.

Many of us are professional artists, so we are the business. But that doesn't mean that when you travel and also partake of some art that you are in a country on business.

When they ask you at passport control if you're there for business or personal travel, think about if you are actually conducting business on your trip. If you are, you probably needed permission and a visa. So, are you selling your work? Are you there for appointments with people related to your day-to-day business? Have you been paid or sponsored for your travel or visit by a business related to your artwork? (residencies can be a grey area here, it's best to ask your sponsoring body) Don't lie! (of course) but don't say you're there on business out of the excitement of being a new artist going somewhere on vacation to paint. We can all be quite proud to firmly announce our professional status when we're starting out! But do it when appropriate. What may seem work to you, is not necessarily business activity in the eyes of immigration. (and you really don't want to miss your flight)

2. Always bring unfinished work in and out

Regarding import and value-added taxes, check if you'll have problems bringing things back home with you. Even if you made the painting, if complete it's a taxable retail item when you bring it home and you created it entirely abroad with materials from abroad it could be an import!

I often bring at least part of my materials with me (rolled canvas is an easy option) so there's a portion that is 'materials returning to country of origin'. And I never bring back stretched or framed complete works. Partly this is just how I work - I rarely would finish a painting in the span of a holiday so it would need more painting anyway.

And most importantly - don't just listen to me! Some countries might consider materials of value. So always research your own countries of travel to be sure of any limits on what you can bring in and out, and what import rates might be. Small amounts of materials or partial paintings, "hobby" quantities, shouldn't be a problem.

3. Using Google to shop and ship in the unknown

Going somewhere but don't want to bring a lot of supplies? Google "art supplies [city name]" in a big city near where you are going. Even if you can't get to that shop, it will help you find the exact names and brands to Google for your paint or materials. Also, many big suppliers will do mail order - so if you have an address where you'll be staying, they can send your items to you. Some may also be familiar with regular art holiday groups and locations, major hotels, or artist residencies, but be prepared to explain why you need the order locally even though your credit card is from abroad.

For shipping abroad, Google is great for getting postage estimates. Think you might need to ship to Australia? Want a general price idea? Google somewhere in Sydney and get an address to copy into the USPS or Royal Mail postage calculator. I tend to Google either a town hall in a main city ("town hall Szczecin poland") or a well-known international hotel ("Marriott Brisbane Australia"). More often than not you'll get a result with a full address. Do always use the city and country, most city names exist in more than one country.

4. You CAN pack art materials

On the whole, commercial artist paints are not flammable by airline standands. The oils or ingredients used have flash points well below airline requirements. Some oil painting mediums are unsafe, so skip those, but your paints are fine to put in your checked luggage (not carry-on, just to be safe).

Most paint manufacturers also have data sheets one their websites that you can print to show actual details of the flammability point of the oils and materials in each paint, and this can be packed along with the supplies in case of examination. I have traveled trans-Atlantic for over a decade now with oil and acrylic paint and never had a problem.

5. Think light!

Beyond your luggage that we've talked about, think about your day to day. If you'll be going on walk, hikes, or rides to sketch and paint, you'll need to carry your stuff. Now my perspective is from someone who generally is carrying her own gear much of the time - not driving. What doesn't feel heavy at first gets annoying when you're schlepping it around on your shoulder for 6 hours!

Example? I have a great Russian easel - this is sort of like a portable French easel except it faces the other way and the telescopic legs are metal. While technically portable, it's bloody heavy. I gave up on it years ago. My "kit" is now a cosmetic bag of 6-8 tubes of acrylic, a couple brushes, an old CD (thumb through middle, it's a mini palette!), a few paper towels, camera film canister (for water), and a clipped bunch of watercolour paper or a sketchbook that will take paint. My bottle of drinking water can provide fresh brush water. To be clear, I'm not painting plein aire - I paint studies to take back and use for reference. So it doesn't need to be finished, large, or on canvas.

So think small and light and see what you can come up with! If you're going on a group trip, see if you can split the load. Everyone bring a basic palette range then maybe have each artist bring one or two rarer colours in case someone fancies it. Share instead of all of you trying to bring a full range of everything. Share a roll of rags or a spray bottle. You'll actually have more fun with a limited but lightweight kit than lumbering around with far more materials.

See the coast paintings
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