Posts Tagged ‘collage’

Dear Fellow Starvelings,

This week I’m getting ready to visit my Mom in Michigan. I do this every year, and every year I want to spend more time with her.  She’ll be 97 years old soon, and I treasure every minute with her. Sure, we talk on the phone several times a week but that’s just not the same as a good hug. She has a lot of stories and a lot of wisdom to share, and this year I want to act as her secretary, taking down those stories in a manner I hope will do her justice. I’m also going to bring her a present, which she’ll almost certainly try to refuse, but I want her to have it anyway. It’s this collage I did wherein I picture Mom and me as two little girls together:

mom

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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.