Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fear of Flying - Airport Strategies for Traveling with Oil Paints

I have flown often with oil paints and because of my fear of confiscation have always put them in my checked baggage and had no problem.

I always pack them carefully (wrapped in absorbent paper towels, in a closed plastic container), along with a printout of the following page from Air Canada and MSDS forms, following these instructions (look under PAINT and see the heading "Exceptions" for how to pack artist's colors):

When I traveled to Paris I even printed out and attached a statement in French, stating that I was a painter and my materials were not flammable and officially permitted.

When I travel to the U.S.A. (I am Canadian), I also put a printout of the TSA site page stating they are allowed:

However, I really wish I could just use a carry-on bag so I don't have to worry about my suitcase going AWOL. And, unfortunately, these days it costs extra to check a bag.

I had always interpreted the TSA instructions to apply to checked items and not carry-on, but on re-reading the information just now, it seems okay to carry on the paints as long as the tubes are small (make sure you exclude that giant tube of Titanium White, even if it is almost empty) and you can prove they are not flammable. I think I will try this next time, and bring a printout from TSA along with the MSDS which proves that the items are non-flammable.

Of course, you can't bring a huge array of colors and you have to limit your toiletries since everything has to fit into that teeny ziploc bag, AND if you need a largish painting support you are out of luck.

MSDS forms are available online from Gamblin. Look under Gamblin Oil Painting Materials, Artist Grade Oils, and then click on the individual pigment:

MSDS forms are also available from Winsor & Newton, which provides for individual colors as well as their paint in general:

Some of my less mainstream brands such as Michael Harding have not responded to requests for MSDS. I figure if I can prove that oil paints for artist's in general are not flammable, they will probaby accept that none of them are likely to be dangerous.

It is also a good idea, if you check the paints, to politely request in writing that they replace everything in the same manner it was found. I have heard horror stories of people opening their suitcase to find everything coated in cadmium red after an officer failed to put the cap back on a tube correctly. That's enough to ruin your day for sure!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Art and Fear - Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism and Paralysis to become more Productive

I have been thinking a lot about this subject because unless I have a deadline, nothing I do is ever finished.

Why? Because I always think I will be able to improve it some day. So the paintings that have not left my studio remain unsigned, unvarnished and unframed.

What leads us to delay completion? I am no psychologist (unless you accept my armchair degree in self-help reading) but I have come to the conclusion that I believe I can improve on my mostly completed paintings, but I am also afraid to completely mess them up - and believe me that has happened more than once!

So I procrastinate - I start a new painting, take another workshop, read a book, cook something, make a phone call, travel somewhere, go shopping or any other activity, rather than knuckling down and addressing whatever it is I think needs to be changed and tackling it with courage and skill.

I think that is why I like the start of a work - it is easy to be completely free and change things with abandon. Nothing is precious. Right eye 1/8 of an inch too high - paint it out and start over! Don't like the color of the background - change it!

I have a full library of books on the subject, so I know I am not alone in this kind of avoidance behavior. Julia Cameron has written a very funny cartoon book entitled, How to Avoid Making Art, and exposes some of the silly ideas we use as excuses for not working when we ought to be working.

Right now I have two portrait studies that need a few slight tweaks and have been patiently waiting for my attention for months. So here I am, writing a post and drinking coffee instead and dreaming of my next painting.

Today I am going to head down to my studio and finish something. Nike has it right - let's all just do it!