Portable Art


With Amuna Laima at the Los Angeles Latvian Center, having a pop-up show in honor of Latvia’s 97th Day of Independence.


Recently, I’ve been showing my work at a lot of “pop-up” shows. I use this term to loosely describe any show that is short term, and as such I typically am not able to hang pieces on existing walls. There is truly an art to figuring out how to make a body of work portable enough for these shows. Here are three steps to being that guy that can show anywhere:

Step One:

Paint Small. It may seem obvious, but many beginning painters go through a “huge painting” phase. I was no exception. I remember starting out with oils for the first time, and going after that massive 4 foot by 8 foot canvas with reckless abandon. While it is a creative high to paint on a large scale, it is just not practical, and these days I rarely paint larger than 18″ by 24″. There’s never any problem with fitting the art into the car and storage is a snap.


The edge of my paintings – canvas mounted onto gator board with a layer of gesso.

Step Two:

Use a light, sturdy surface. I paint on a material called “gator board“. It’s often used in the film industry to build models from. It’s basically like standard foamcore, but ten times more durable and just as light. To prep my surface, all I do is put down a layer of gesso onto the gator board with a mud knife, then lay a piece of pregessoed canvas right on top. After about 4 hours it’s totally dry and ready to paint on. The end result is a painting surface that is both ultra durable and extremely light – great for transporting, unlike stretched canvas that tends to get divots from other things in your car. I just can’t stand stretched canvas…

A great, lightweight easel that breaks down small and is easy to set up.

A great, lightweight easel that breaks down small and is easy to set up.

Step Three:

Find a good, lightweight display easel. There are a ton of options for display easels out there, so this is totally up to individual preference. I found this super cheap model on the Michael’s online store and found it to be satisfying. It breaks down to about 28″ long, and the simple black wood goes nicely with black frames. At the Illuxcon convention in October this year, I was surprised to look around me and find that nearly all the other artists were using exactly the same easel. Apparently the deal is pretty good 🙂 I actually added additional support to the two front legs to give it a little more staying power, but it’s not all that necessary if the painting on it isn’t over 7-8 pounds.


The black easel + black frame combo – classy!

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