How to be an Organized Artist

They’re just too creative to deal with the squareness of staying organized. But an organized artist is a more effective one, able to spend more time working and less time searching for paint, cleaning off the workstation, or figuring out how to effectively sell their work.

1. Organizing Your Supplies

Keep related supplies in the same area. If you’re a photographer, keep all the necessary lens, cords, and batteries in the same quadrant of your home or studio. Paints should be kept with brushes, cleaner, and canvas, print supplies should be by the ink, etc. Make broader groups and areas for your supplies to make finding them easier, limiting your search to a much smaller area. Some ideas include:

  • Essential supplies area — the things you use every day.
  • Inspiration and reference area.
  • Dedicated work area .
  • Infrequent or secondary supplies area, tucked out of the way.

Make an effort to clean a dedicated workspace after every session. This doesn’t mean cleaning the entire studio, it just means keeping the area immediately around the desk, easel, pottery wheel, etc. clean each night. Discard trash or unnecessary materials and wipe down dirty surfaces. Endeavor to leave the workspace in a way that you can sit down the next day and start working immediately, without having to do any work or tidying.

  • Even if the rest of your studio is a bit disorganized, an organized workspace will help you get down to business every time you want to make art.

2. Organizing Ideas and Projects

Keep your reference materials, sketches, articles, photos, etc., in one easy to find place. As you start planning for a project or work, you’ll likely be gathering scraps of inspiration and test sketches. While everyone has a strategy, there is nothing more maddening than digging through a book or the internet to re-find the cool idea you saw three months ago. Try out:

  • Dedicating 1 notebook, preferably with insert folders, to each project.
  • Making a bookmark folder for each project on your internet browser to easily compile online inspiration.
  • Tacking up physical inspiration on a wall or cork board near your workspace.

Make “studies,” or practice sketches, to organize effectively for larger projects.Very few artists simply dive right into large projects. Almost 100% of the time they instead work on related, smaller projects called “studies” to prepare for the larger work. You might practice the face of the portrait you’re making, sketch our different composition ideas, or practice a vulnerable or difficult part of a sculpture. Keep these organized as a way to prepare both the skills, ideas, and supplies needed for the final project.

3. Organizing an Artistic Business

Keep all of your past work organized and accessible. When you finish a project, whether it sells or not, don’t just stuff it away in a drawer. You never know when you’ll want to revisit and idea or, more excitingly, when interest in your current work will drive up interest in past projects.

  • If you do electronic work, back it up every 3-6 months on a dedicated hard drive. There is nothing worse than an accident destroying all of your old projects

Record all of your artistic contacts and connections in one place. More than many industries, successful artists need to cultivate a diverse network of other artists, curators, instructors, and gallery assistants to be successful. You never know when someone will hit it big and provide a helping hand, or when you’ll have some work you want to place in a friend’s art show. Don’t leave meetings and connections up to chance — organize and compile your contact information in once place for later.