If I am going to paint from my van, then there is no limit. I will take my sturdy French easel and as many pastels as I can find boxes for. But, the emphasis I wish to make with this thread is how to go light.
"Light is right, less is more," and all that stuff. I enjoyed taking up the sport of mountain climbing in my late twenties, but suffered from the mentality that the army had given me that I could pack heavy because I was tough. After many years, and much trial and error, I got the knack of going light. And I enjoyed telling new companions who came out of the army and into backpacking, "you need weight therapy!"
Go to as many tobacconists as you can find and see who will sell you empty cigar boxes. Many don't resell them, you see. I prefer the flat or shallow kind, so my pastels aren't going to rattle around. Do not pay much more than a few dollars per box. The junk store will try to make you pay $10 for a cigar box, but I find the cigar shops will let you have them for $1-3.
And be a peach while you're there and buy your husband a nice cigar.
Try an upholsterer for thin foam as gasket material. I buy as big a sheet as possible to cut to size.
Roll of Thin Foam
Thin wood is the standard for nice cigar boxes. If you look closely, even the ones that look cardboard or paper can actually be covered wood. Of course, some have a little hasp, and open upward on little metal hinges. Others lack the hardware, and the lid fits snuggly in the top of the walls. The hinge is just paper. Some have removable lids. I use all sorts; finding different uses for each.
Roll of Thin Foam
Another trick I've found for cigar box pastel kits has been to put in dividers. There are dividers to organize the single layer, or dividers that create a second tray. I use Fome Core, which is a rigid framing board, to cut my dividers as needed. The tray for a second layer also has a broad ribbon underneath to facilitate lifting, and the tray then rests in the open lid. I'll post a picture of that next time, when we choose our palette.
Stack two or more cigar boxes with a band or miniature bungee cord, like a school child with his books. If you're cunning enough, perhaps your support paper or board will also fit in this bundle.
The next size up from the cigar box can be a store bought travel box designed for carrying pastels. See them at your favorite art supply retailer. Or, my choice is to select an original shallow wooden box that housed my pastels when they came from the manufacturer. Since I have taken out the original contents, then I have a number of these "empties".
Judson's Art Outfitters has a new cigar box paint box that adapts to a camera tripod. If this product existed when I ordered my pochade box, I may have considered it instead because of it's compact qualities. Remember that developing your real cigar box into a small pochade can suffer from the flimsy nature of most cigar boxes.
This young Viennese artist has built his blog around the subject of painting from his cigar box. A great theme that works for me!
Michael Ornauer - Painting in the Zigarrenbox
The Pastel Palette
(Pastel palette with an emphasis on plein air)
The Pastel Palette, Part 2
(continued palette focus oriented for the studio)
Next, we'll cover what to put in your cigar boxes for your pastel sessions. Some pastel artists wish for many sticks, but there is a way to pare your kit to only six colors. Don't miss my posts on plein-air palettes with anywhere from 6 to 50 or 60 colors.