How to Organize your Artwork and Keep Your Sanity!
These tips will work for any artist, whether you work in 3-D, paint watercolors on paper or paint with acrylics on large canvases. These tips are helpful especially if you are just starting your art career or if you have decided to try your hand at licensing, otherwise, you may already have a system in place that is working for you. (And if so, we’d love to hear about it in the comments)
I started licensing my art back in 1997 and over the years I have created a portfolio containing over 3,250 paintings. Finding a specific piece of art would be like finding a needle in a haystack. I don’t want you to waste your valuable time searching for art so I am sharing with you how I keep my art organized and easily accessible.
1. Number and Title EVERY piece of art.
Start with 1…or start with 100. It really doesn’t matter as long as you start from the beginning of your body of work. If you already have several paintings created, go back and write the image number and title on the back. I use a colored pencil because won’t erase or show through the paper. For my acrylic paintings I use a permanent marker to write on the wood stretcher bars.
2. Keep an "Image List"
I have an image list document on my computer and I print a new page every time I fill one up so that I have a "hard copy". I like having a hard copy of my list so when I finish a painting, I can quickly write the information down and move on. Another reason I do it this way is because I have had a couple computer failures over the years and would be frantic if I lost this important information. After creating 10-15 paintings, I update the file on the computer as well.
The image list holds all the information about the painting. I created 9 columns titled as follows…..image number, title of work, date created, description, size, medium, created for, cd #, sold.
Image number , title of work and date created are self explanatory.
Description – keep this simple, such as, Easter, spring, Christmas, teddy bear, angel, Santa, snowmen, etc. By doing this you can do a search for a specific holiday, season or character.
Size – this may not seem important but believe me you will want to include this. It seems that every time I forget to fill this in, I will need the measurements for listing the art for sale or for registering the copyright.
Medium – You may paint with watercolor, draw with pen & ink, create sculptures with clay or paint with acrylics….I would keep it all on the same list.
Created For – This is mostly for licensing purposes. It helps to remember the client you created the piece for. This is also good for commissioned work.
CD # – Which cd is the digital file stored on
Sold – It is important to know if you still have the original piece. When and if you sell your work, put the price you sold it for here and maybe the person you sold it to and the date.
3. Get Digital Files of Your Art
This is imperative if you plan to license your art! I have a digital file of all my art in order to send to licensees so they can create their products using my artwork. In order to keep expenses down, I recommend purchasing your own scanner and doing this yourself and then sending for professional scanning when a licensee asks for a digital file. You want your art’s digital files to be saved at 300 dpi, rgb, TIFF files. I have my flat pieces of artwork (watercolors) professionally scanned at Museum Photographics and my large canvas acrylic paintings I take to a local professional photographer.
Be sure your digital file name is the same image number and title as you have on your image list. I store my digital files on cds. Click here for storing cds. I number each cd and put that cd number in the "CD #" column on my image list so I can easily find the digital file when needed. Storing the digital files on an external hard drive is also a good idea so you can easily pull up an image using the file/find option on your computer’s menu bar (that is for mac users…not sure how it works on a pc) This makes it quick and easy for emailing a jpg to someone to view, for blogging purposes or to upload the .tif file to a FTP site for a licensee to download. Because hard drives are known to crash, you should still keep your digital files on cds, dvds, or compact flash for safe storage.
For 3D art, such as, clay sculptures, I photograph several angles of each piece. Number and title the piece and log that info on the image list right along with your paintings & drawings. Print the photographs and store in a binder for easy viewing then download the photos to your computer and store them there also.
4. Storing Your Original Art
Because, in some years, I paint over 200 paintings, I find the most cost effective way to store my watercolor paintings is put each work of art into an ultra-clear bag…(only .23 each for 12" x 18" bag) These are acid-free archival quality bags and come in a variety of sizes.
I then use plastic bins for storing the "bagged" originals….putting them in numerical order, of course. This method will protect the art and keep it organized as your volume of artwork increases. Once you have filled a bin, label the bin with the image numbers it contains, for example, "images 1 through 130".
For large canvas paintings, I use the same bag method. The ultra-clear bags mentioned above come in various sizes up to 20" x 30". If your paintings are larger than that, go here for bags up to 46" x 35".
When painting large works of art you will soon run out of space to store them. After I have a large painting digitally filed, I decide if I want to keep the painting to hang in my home or studio, whether I am going to give it as a gift, donate it for a fundraiser or sell it. For me, it is very exciting to have someone invest in an original painting to display in their home or office. I mean, after all, isn’t that why we paint…to share a piece of ourselves with others?? So don’t hang on to everything you create. Once you have it digitally recorded, let it go.
While you are trying to sell the originals or storing them for a gallery showing or if you just can’t let go of them yet, put each painting in a large bag and store them in numerical order standing on edge. Put a label on the top of the bag with the painting’s image number and title so it will be easy to find.
That’s it! That is my method for keeping my art protected, organized and easily accessible. I hope these tips help you and if you already have a system in place that is different from mine, please share in the comments section. I am always open to new ideas…..especially when it comes to organization.
Do you have another clever and easy way of storing your artwork? Share your ideas with us here. Thank you for commenting.