Katie Chappell Illustrator
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My Travel Studio


It's a lovely spring morning and I am spending a week at home in North East England before I head back to Berlin. Getting back to "base" gives me time to reflect on the past 18 months of moving around, and how that has changed how I work and what I travel with.

I thought i'd take the chance to share with you my results after 18 months of trial and error! 


Traveling light (and how not to do it) By Katie Chappell.



Here's my kit at optimum having-as-little-as-possible-but-still-being-able-to-do-everything levels. It fits comfortably into my hand luggage but it allows me to be a proper traveling illustrator working in both digital and traditional media.

 I use everything that's listed here almost every single day, and so far I have worked from Italy, Germany, Scotland, England, Saint Lucia, France and Switzerland with it.  Nothing beats the feeling of working on character designs with a view of the Rialto Bridge in Venice, sketching in the Swiss Alps or sitting under a palm tree in the Caribbean art-working personalised cards while sipping a guava juice. FREEEEE-lance.
1. Watercolour Postcards
Essential travel companions. I paint a few of these for every place I visit and send them to my Mum, or my Berlin flatmates, or usually Alex Davy (my second Mum). 

2. Macbook
 Having my laptop with me allows me to check emails, update my blog, do regular freelance work and take on new jobs. Although carrying this beast around the world with you seems a bit heavy and annoying, being able to book cheap travel tickets and find out about where you're going makes it completely essential. A smartphone might do some of those things but emailing is so much easier with a keyboard, and I haven't been able to create Photoshop files or personalised cards on my phone yet. Maybe one day, but for now the laptop is still a compulsory addition to the Pile of Stuff.

3. Graphics Tablet
I use my graphics tablet nearly every day when I am art-working cards for Megan Claire. It's more intuitive than using a mouse and it comes in handy when I want to colour up digitally.  This one is over 5 years old and I keep my newer one in Berlin on a desk where it wont get bashed around.

4. Paint brushes (for watercolour and acrylic) 
Brushes. They're just brushes. I keep them in this little plastic box from WHSmith so that the bristles don't get squashed in my bag.

5. Sketchbooks and Notebooks
I usually have about 3 or 4 sketchbooks on the go at once. Always carrying at least one wherever I am to catch the ideas when they spill out of my head.

6. Glasses
Handy for late-night working and any computer work when my eyes are getting tired.

7. Portable Scanner
This is my most recent addition and I LOVE IT SO MUCH. The quality is just the same as a normal flatbed scanner (as far as I can see in the month of using it so far). You just roll it over your work and the little screen shows a preview, plug it in and *poof* there's your work. It is tiny and efficient and wonderful and I bought it here.

8. Various Pens/pencils and Travel Brushes
Travel watercolour brushes are great. The little barrel holds a bit of water which means you can trek up a mountain and paint without needing to take a bottle of water and a cup with you.

9. Acrylic Paints
I love acrylic paint and these Amsterdam mini tubes are good for traveling. The quality is a little bit shit but I have mainly been using these for painting with children that I look after (and the children haven't complained about the thin, watery consistency of some colours).

10. Watercolour Paints 
This is my baby set. I much prefer the 36 colour set that I have but at almost 1kg it's a bit too big to cart around the world.

11. Moleskin day-to-a-page Diary
Excellent for writing down flight details, train times, confirmation codes, to-do lists, addresses, Skype meeting times and travel itineraries. This book is basically my brain and memory.

12. Washi Tape
For fun. Sticking spotty tape on things makes me happy. 



**Things that i've found to be Annoying and/or Useless**

Graphic Markers and their refill inks They take up loads of space, are very heavy when you have more than 30, and watercolour paints look just as good in my humble opinion. Also, LEAKAGE. (See black splodges on hand-knitted laptop cover below)

Big Watercolour Sets
You can mix the same colours with your small, more limited set... it just takes a little more effort

Brand New AnythingIf you're traveling any distance then it's probably best to take the old version of things if you can. This goes for phones, graphic tablets and cameras too. Either that or insure everything to death.

Loose Paper
It's a lot easier to work with sketchbooks when you're on the move. Scanning things in from my sketchbooks hasn't been a problem so far and it's much nicer to know things wont flap away in a breeze when you're sitting on a mountain or a beach working.

3-in-1 Scanner Printer
I'm a bit embarrassed to say that I actually packed my printer in my suitcase and took it to Berlin. WHY!? WHY DID I DO THIS? Firstly, it's ginormous (took up 3/4 of my suitcase), secondly, I was amazed it still worked after being knocked around on the plane and lugged across Berlin in an Ikea bag slung over my back. There's a chance it might be stuck in Berlin forever depending on suitcase space when I move back to the UK. It's definitely worth investing in a travel scanner and leaving the 3-in-1 beast at home.


Anyway, this is how it looks once it's all in a nice neat pile ready to pack away.


This is how the pile would look if you were a bird, or a tall person looking down.


Once it's all in there (in my ancient Eastpak that refuses to die) there is still plenty of room for a packed lunch and a few books to read on the plane.


Here's a bit of my travel studio kit that isn't so effective. Whizzing along busy Berlin streets on my bike with THIS in my bag doesn't fill me full of confidence. One fall or crash and I'm pretty sure my laptop would be dead.  If anyone can recommend a good tough 13" Macbook case i'd be very grateful!


And that's it! 3 more days at home before I go back to Berlin and i'm spending as much time at the seaside as humanly possible.