My Art Studio on the Road

31 October, 2023 5 comments Leave a comment

Karen Richardson and her husband with their Airstream

My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring western USA and Canada in our Airstream trailer this year. It has all the comforts of a small apartment, and I often refer to it as our mobile condo.

During the 20 weeks we were away, we drove just over 20,000 km which made for a comfortable, relaxed pace. Some locales we visited only a day or two, and others had us settling in for a week or more, depending on what there was to see and do in the area.

High Desert reservoir, photo by Karen Richardson

In previous blog posts I shared my favourite photo highlights from the first half of our trip. If you missed them, here are the links:

My Summer Travels in the High Desert

Pacific Northwest: Forests and Freshwater.

I will be sharing more travel stories and including videos and photo highlights of our trip in coming months, as time permits. I have a lot of painting to do, since the fall and winter seasons are when I produce the majority of my artwork.

Karen Richardson in her mobile studio

However, as we travelled, I made sure to take time for a few hours of painting every week or so.

I have learned that this regular creative time is essential to my well-being. I get cranky if I have a long stretch of time without having fun making art.

My husband would go off to see a car show or for a walk, and I would set up my portable studio at the dinette in our trailer, as pictured here.

Karen Richardson's mobile studio setup

My painting setup is very simple: a fistful of brushes, two small travel palettes, a dozen small tubes of paint, pre-cut sheets of watercolour paper, a few foam board supports, and some reference photos. I also employ a folding LED desk lamp, old rags to protect the dinette surfaces, and some repurposed pantry equipment.

I generally had three paintings in progress at any one time, so if I had to stop working on a painting while it dried, I could work on another one in the meantime.

Getting all my equipment set up at the dinette takes about five minutes, so it is no trouble to paint for just two or three hours, and then put everything away.

Cleanup takes about ten minutes, including washing my brushes. Watercolour is especially suitable for a mobile studio like this, as there are no solvents needing disposal.

Karen Richardson's drying area in the RV

To avoid the risk of mould or mildew, I have to let my paintings, brushes, and rags dry fully before I pack them away. I also need to let my palettes dry so the paint won't spill during storage. Watercolour paint can be reused another day, by adding water to dissolve the dried paint. This is another factor that makes this medium ideal for travel.

I came up with the idea of using the shower stall in our Airstream bathroom as an overnight drying area. This keeps all the materials out of our way so we can use the living area of the trailer. This photo shows three paintings drying after a painting session.

The shower seat holds the paintings on their supports as well as my palettes. On the floor is a zippered clear plastic bag (the kind that blankets come packaged in) that I use as a storage case. Resting on top of that is a rag and my wet brushes. The shower stall has a small retractable clothesline (not shown in the photo) that I use to hang more rags to dry.

After drying, all my painting supplies fit into the blanket bag, which I then stow into one of our overhead cupboards in the Airstream.

New works by Karen Richardson


I was very happy to complete these ten new paintings during our travels. That equates to an average of one painting every two weeks.

Mounting paintings in Karen Richardson studio

Back home in my art studio, I mounted the watercolour paintings onto archival wood panels, shown here.

I use various heavy objects at hand (including my awesome pebble collection) to help affix the watercolour paper to the cradled panels.

Once the adhesive was dry, these paintings were trimmed, varnished, and framed. A few of these new paintings have found their forever homes and the rest are being delivered to my retail galleries in Huntsville, Fenelon Falls, and Port Perry, ON. To view details and locations of the remaining pieces, visit the New Paintings page on my web site.

For a complete description of how I mount and varnish my watercolours, see my article Framing Watercolours Without Glass.

We had a wonderful holiday and it feels great to be back home again. I am keen to start on several large scale northern landscape paintings in my roomy studio. Now that cold weather is here, my little gas fireplace will be put to good use.

If you have comments you wish to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post. 

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more travel tales, painting stories, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming exhibitions.

« previous post   |   next post »

Leave a comment

Comments are checked before they appear


  1. Darlene Kranz November 13, 2023

    Thanks for your tips on how you painted on your travels in the Airstream

  2. Ruma Sen November 13, 2023

    So nice of you to share your tips. Your paintings are phenomenal and your perseverance is something to emulate. I love the artworks you have created on your travels. Thanks for sharing these nuggets of information! Best wishes always!

  3. Tim Thorington November 05, 2023

    Another great blog. Thanks for keeping us up to date. It was awesome seeing you at the recent get together in Ajax…

  4. Frank Lomoro November 02, 2023

    Congrats on the WIW award, you deserve it.

  5. Frank Lomoro November 02, 2023

    OH MY GOD you are amazing.I look forward to seeing your new works of art. I am sure you could paint up side down if you wonted to….. Frank