Travel with Oil Paints - Armed and Dangerous!


Looking around in my studio for what to pack for a workshop in Atlanta, I decided to think like a Security Agent and came up with this scenario...

Female, heavy built, age 40-50, carrying sharp, pointy objects, shield and combustibles. Elevated Security Risk!

Well, all joking set aside, solvents are a definite "no,no" when travelling, because they are highly combustible and should be purchased either on location or mailed ahead of time. Of course that makes me wonder how does UPS carry this highly combustibles stuff on their planes, when I mail order?

Rather than risking loosing my supplies I opted for a small palette, wrapped my brushes in bamboo and printed a declaration with big highlights in red, explaining that "artists paints that are made from vegetable oils and contain no solvents" and pasted in on the very top of my checked luggage.

With all that preparation, my suitcase was still pulled aside for inspection and I had the pleasure of watching the security agent not only unpack literally, everything, but leisurely look at one of my paintings, while I was getting more and more worried that I might miss my flight all together.

Fortunately, everything got placed back inside, yes, even my oil paints and I proceeded joyfully to the "people's security check point" just to be stopped by another agent, informing me that my carry-on was too large. Mind you, I have travelled with this particular carry-on all over the globe without any prior problems, but this day was not to be one of them. As other people were watching what trouble I might have gotten into, I pulled out a sweater, some nylon stockings and finally all of my underwear and stuffed everything into my handbag. I thought this female agent must not wear a bra with under wire. For those of you who have been jabbed unexpectedly while going about your daily business, you know what a lethal weapon that one can be!

Travelling has really become a pain and I would not be so up in arms if I felt any safer. But, I am glad to say both me and my supplies made it to their final destination.

Here are some recommendations for travelling with Oil Paints...

First, be prepared. Have Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for the oil painting supplies you are carrying. You can contact the manufacturer(s) for copies of MSDS for the oil painting products they make.

Second, if questioned, it’s probably best not to refer to them as oil paints, but rather as “artists paints that are made from vegetable oils and contain no solvents.”

As Robert Gamblin advises, “Keep your cool, don't hassle security. Show them the MSDS and explain that you are going on a painting holiday.”

Best yet, mail ahead!

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