Marine Corps veteran and artist, Jessica Rambo, founded and operates the Painted Buffalo Traveling Studio. The Painted Buffalo provides veterans with art supplies giving them a non-verbal outlet to tell their stories and express their feelings. Amid a converted Skoolie, this traveling studio can go where a veteran is and teach them valuable art skills, all while providing the comforts of home. Additionally, the Painted Buffalo skoolie is a home on wheels for Jessica, her two kids, three dogs, a cat, and two geckos.
Meet Jessica Rambo
Following 10 years of service in the United States Marine Corps., Jessica Rambo was medically separated after an accident. With two young kids, Skylar and Liam, Jessica felt lost and not sure where to go. On a whim, she ended up applying for art school and their lives drastically changed. Jessica found purpose in her art and gradually began piecing herself back together and rebuilding her family.
During art school, Jessica purchased her first skoolie with the hopes of turning it into a home. With minimal building experience, the process was slow but each piece came together. Jessica could feel their lives falling back into place. Although this skoolie build was far from perfect, it was home for her and her kids.
Once Jessica completed art school, she had a new dream for her family that began with a new skoolie. This build went much quicker and smoother than the first one. Learning from her first skoolie, Jessica made a game plan. With better time management and the right skill set, she was ablt to turn her 2001 Blue Bird All-American school bus into their new home on wheels.
Powering the Painted Buffalo Skoolie with Battle Born Batteries
Adding a robust electrical system to the skoolie was an essential component in the new build. After consulting the skoolie community for electrical component recommendations, Jessica determined Battle Born Batteries would be the best fit. “Battle Born is known for their reliable service, product, and great customer service. They also treat their team members like family, and that matters to us.”
Powering all of the electrical components in their skoolie, the Painted Buffalo’s electrical system contains:
- 2 – 270Ah 12V LiFePO4 Deep Cycle GC3 Battle Born Batteries
- 1 – 3000w 24v Inverter/Charger
- 1 – 400-Amp Fuse Kit
- 1 – Ve Bus Smart Dongle
- 1 – Orion 12 to 24 DC to DC Charger
- 2 – Victron MPPT Charge Controller, 150/60
- 10 – 365w Solar Panels
Their new electrical system changed their lives in more ways the Jessica could have imagined. While living in their previous skoolie, Jessica was constantly plagued by battery anxiety. Always worrying about the weather and never knowing if they would have enough power to run everything. With their new Battle Born Batteries powered system, Jessica is able to power everything they need. They even have enough left over to help others, no matter where their travels take them.
Life on the Road with the Painted Buffalo
After the completion of their skoolie build and the installation of their Battle Born Batteries electrical system, Jessica and her family headed out for full-time life on the road. While full-time travel isn’t for everyone, Jessica loves the way it’s brought her family closer together. They are able to learn and grow alongside one another.
Overcoming challenges together has created an unbreakable bond within her own family, with other skoolie families, and with people, they meet on the road. “Some of the biggest rewards have been turning social media friends into real-life friends, connecting not only with the nomadic community but also the veteran community, and showing my kiddos to dream big because we can make it happen!”
In addition to the typical challenges of life in a home on wheels, Jessica is also raising her 15-year-old daughter, Skylar, and 12-year-old son, Liam. Raising kids on the road comes with a need for compromise. Jessica makes sure to include them in every part of their travel plans and always takes their input into consideration. They meet up with friends regularly and take breaks from traveling in groups, when necessary, too.
Another thing that makes full-time travel easier for Jessica and her kids is traveling with their pets. They love having the companionship and sense of stability that their four-legged friends offer them. The Painted Buffalo skoolie is also home to three pups: Bella, Atlas, and Hatchet, their cat Sushi, and 2 leopard geckos. Jessica and her kids love having their pets accompany them on all of their adventures.
Living out the Mission of the Painted Buffalo Traveling Studio
Over the course of their travels, Jessica and her “zoo” have visited over 38 states, been to more than 30 National Parks, and attended 300 different veteran meetups. They’ve attended various gatherings in the nomadic community including competing on Gutted Season 2 with the van team. Each step of their journey has allowed Jessica and her children to see and experience the world in ways they never would have been able to.
It’s next to impossible for the Painted Buffalo crew to pick one place they’ve traveled to as their favorite. They each have favorite memories they’ve made along the way. Liam fell in love with Alaska last summer after enjoying some incredible fishing there. Skylar’s favorite memories are any time they get to visit big cities. Jessica was awestruck by the beauty of seeing bison in Yellowstone. While these memories top the list, they’ve made countless more that grow their passion to continue traveling.
In the midst of their travels and adventures, Jessica makes time to give back to the communities that they pass through. Jessica was a veteran who was struggling after her time in service and found healing and restoration through art. She understands, firsthand, the power that art can have in transforming one’s mental health. Her mission, and the mission of the Painted Buffalo, is to help veterans tell their stories and work through hardships.
The ‘Paint Can Project’
“The Painted Buffalo Traveling Studio is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit Veteran Artist founded and operated mobile art studio. In between adventuring around the United States in our converted school bus, we focus on getting veterans art supplies to tell their own stories through art.” A Glowforge laser printer, a ceramic pottery wheel, painting supplies, and more are in the traveling studio. Jessica provides veterans the space they need to work through what they’ve been through with art. Everything is powered through the Battle Born Batteries electrical system. This allows Jessica to bring the art studio anywhere she desires and meets veterans where they’re at.
“Together we seek to build bridges of cultural understanding through artistic expressions for Veteran Artists. We are dedicated to building a bridge between each participant’s capabilities and his or her own imagination. This way we can provide a place where veterans can non-verbally speak through their art at their comfort level and feel the comfort of home at the same time.”
In addition to the Painted Buffalo Traveling Studio, Jessica started the Paint Can Project. After helping veterans experience art in the mobile studio, she ensures that they go home with the supplies necessary to continue creating. “The Paint Can Project is dedicated to getting veterans across the country outside with art supplies in hand telling their own stories through art. Each ammo can is filled with specially selected art supplies, veteran-owned products, and products from our ally companies”
What’s Up Next for the Painted Buffalo Crew?
Over the last two years, the Painted Buffalo crew personally donated over 150 ammo cans. The cans were delivered across more than 37 different states. Each one is full of art supplies and other products that are catered to the specific veteran’s desired creative outlet. It also serves to remind veterans that they have a community of support standing behind them.
Jessica and her family can’t wait to continue traveling around the west, meeting up with fellow nomads, and attending more gatherings. They’re also looking into purchasing a plot of land to help their outreach grow and continue helping more veterans.
“With the use of community-based art practices and Art Therapy methods, the Painted Buffalo Traveling Studio is dedicated to getting veterans outside, art supplies in hand, telling their stories. We couldn’t do that without Battle Born.”
Keep up with the Painted Buffalo’s upcoming travels and veteran outreach by checking them out on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, and their website.