Where’s My Head?

Posted: January 13, 2013 in artist's tools, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

To begin, sorry about taking so long between posts. The world, myself included, was overtaken with sad, bad news and the writing of a semi-facetious blog for artists, even struggling ones, didn’t seem all that important for a while.

But when I thought the thing through, I realized that  no matter how sad or bad the world is, we must respond with our art — our smart, heart-felt art.

So here we go and I hope not to get sidetracked again.

I am not including a photo in this post because it would be just too disheartening. The topic  of the post is organization, and I am in the middle of my semi-annual attempt to practice what I preach on the subject. At the moment, however, it seems as though everything is on its way to somewhere else and my worktable is harum-scarum with no place to actually work. Organization, as you may guess, does not come naturally to me.

Still, as we budget our money, we must also budget our time and I am fed up with spending hours surveying the wreckage that is my living room in order to find the right brush, or my clear gesso, or anything else that I desperately need at the crucial stage of a project (I make collages, in case you were wondering, and John Heartfield and Max Ernst and Lou Beach are my heroes even though my work doesn’t look much like any of theirs). Also, it is so much more pleasant to work in a place that is not junked up and just plain dangerous looking. Part of the problem, of course, is the fact that we accumulate supplies and materials somehow as if by magic and it’s easier to put them on the nearest flat surface than where they belong. Sometimes you might even acquire something you’ve never had before (I am now the proud owner of over 200 vintage ties) and they tend to sit for months in the same paper bag you brought them home in. This sort of behavior is heading into Hoarders territory and I do NOT want an Intervention wherein earnest friends and family urge me to throw away my precious stuff. I just need to organize it, that’s all.

At any rate, my self-imposed job for the week is to put like-with-like. All paints together, all fabrics together, all brushes together, all colored pencils and pens and markers in their separate bins. This can be done on the cheap, by the way. You do not have to buy the special “artist’s organizers” found in Michael’s. Although I support locally owned artist’s supply stores, and go to them when only the best will do, containers do not fall into that category.

Organization allows you to find what you’re looking for when you need it. This sounds simple and obvious, I know, but it’s not that easy when you’re working in a cramped space, as I’m sure many of us starving artists are. I’ve used clean cardboard boxes large and small; shoe boxes (good for organizing samples & card-size paper), stackable in-boxes and trays, even magazine racks and laundry bins. Scout out your local thrift store and you’ll find a lot of stuff that can be put to use as storage. You may even find a sturdy office supply cabinet or two.  Think vertical, because otherwise your stored stuff will wind up in a sprawl all over what should be your working area (otherwise known at least in my case as my living room). But you also have to think accessible; in other words, if you stack a lot of cardboard boxes on top of each other it will be a drag to have to take apart the stack to get to the bottom box, no matter whether the boxes are labeled or not. Labels, by the way, are a good idea. If you have to stack boxes, at least put the least used items in the bottom box and don’t make the stacks too high. Three or four boxes should be the limit. Use stackable trays, etc., whenever possible, or furniture with drawers. Drawers are good.

The thrift shop is always my first stop. Big Lots and Costco also have some affordable storage containers. Myself, I don’t shop at Walmart for a number of reasons but that’s up to you.

Use your imagination and you’ll come up with a workable system of organization, no matter what the size of your home or apartment. (If you have your own dedicated studio space, you are probably reading the wrong blog). For little cost on your part, you can get your stuff together (literally), and thereby give yourself both more time to make art and less time for hair-pulling frustration.

A word of warning: One thing you do not want is to find your materials ruined by water damage, mold, varmints, or other damage. NEVER store anything in a damp basement. Cedar chips are good for keeping insects away from fabric so toss a few in, even though the container appears to be airtight. Wood cabinets with drawers are sturdier and nicer looking than cardboard boxes, so keep your eyes open in the thrift store and replace the cardboard when you find something better. Ditto for plastic racks. They’re fine in the short run but over time start to sag.

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Comments
  1. Linda_XX says:

    This is all good advice. An addition to this would add would be to *not* put all like-with-like together, if you use your products in more than one area of the house, but to have multiple locations where things belong.

    For example, there are three places in my home I will set down my tape gun. I absolutely won’t even set it down if it is not one of those three places, but if it were only one place then I would set it down wherever it was convenient when I didn’t want to climb stairs. Same with pens, rulers, regular tape, etc. All items have their own spots, but they have multiple acceptable locations. This might be a bit much when you are just starting to get organized, but –unless you have a very small space — it will help you keep your organization better once you achieve it. (as for me… I am obsessively organized. When I worked for the District Attorney I got commended for re-organizing their entire mail system, as the disorganization drives me to crazy-ville. But… that is me, and it has its drawbacks, too.)

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