Max Romey sketches by the light of his headlamp high in the mountains.

Max Romey

Portrait of Maria Coryell-Martin.

Maria Coryell-Martin


Featured Artists | September 12, 2020

I never tire of learning about inspiring artists using Art Toolkit supplies! Max Romey is an artist, videographer, and trail runner now sketching his way through Alaska. Read on about Max in his own words below.

Max Romey sketches from a helicopter.
Max Romey and his Pocket Palette in a helicopter.

Max Romey:

Growing up dyslexic, I always questioned why I continuously fell further and further behind my classmates and why reading and spelling seemed to take me so long. Watercolors and sketching became my refuge and a way to share an idea without someone telling me I misspelled it. I had always dreamed of creating and sharing stories, and my sketchbook and camera became a way I could do that.

I have always looked up to my Grandmother, a painter who traveled worldwide with a little pallet and sketchbook. She would sketch everywhere she went, Norway, France, Indiana, Cape Cod, Antarctica, the Galapagos. As a little kid, I remember flipping through these sketchbooks for hours and soaking up these unforgettable watercolor impressions that brought these places to life. Not just the big scenes, but the little things only an artist would notice and add, like the spiral of a hermit crab or pages and pages of seal studies with the occasional mermaid. I liked the masters like Leonardo Davinci well enough, but I knew my Grandmother's sketches were my favorite paintings in the world from a really young age.

Mountain Goat watercolor painting by Max Romey.

My Grandmother had pretty severe dementia toward the end of her life, and I have been taking a ton of solace in her sketchbooks. Now that I know how lines and washes go down, I feel like we share this whole language. I wish I could go back and sketch and ask her a million questions, but flipping through her sketchbooks is the next best thing. The lines and crosshatches don't make words, but they speak volumes.

Mountain watercolor painting by Max Romey.

For the most part, my process is simple. Make an outline with a pen and fill it in with watercolor. It gets more complicated, depending on where you are and how hard the weather wants to make it. Painting in rain, dust, mosquitoes, winter, boats, and occasionally helicopters provide their own challenges and make each painting unique. I am slowly learning little tricks like adding vodka in the water to keep it from freezing in Alaska’s nine-month winter.

Salmon watercolor painting by Max Romey.
Photo of Max Romey holding his watercolor painting of salmon swimming upstream.

My favorite tools

  • A small sketchbook. If I were a dragon, I would not hoard gold; I would hoard paper. I am mostly looking for something little enough to take anywhere and durable enough to survive the trip when it comes to sketchbooks. I have been really impressed with my kit; it has survived to freeze at -40f, being bounced down mountains, being plunged (with me) into rivers, getting lost in the snow, buried by scree avalanches, being carried in my mouth, and lightly being burnt.
  • My Pocket Palette. I used to think pallets had to be colossal teardrop wooden shields you carried, but modern pallets are portable enough that I rarely go out without one. It is something so simple, but having color at your fingertips is pure magic.
  • A waterbrush. When combined with one of the pans as rinse water, a single aqua brush fill can make a shocking amount of paintings.
  • A simple pen. A fine point Sharpie or something waterproof works fine. I am not too picky.
  • Music. It might seem like a strange tool, but I often get petrified when trying to make the first stroke on a bright white piece of paper. Some pump up music in my ears is usually all I need to work up the bravery to start.
Photo of Max Romey holding a sketchbook inside a tent in the mountains.

Learn more about Max Romey on: his website and on Instagram at @trailboundsketches.