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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Getting Business Ready: Studio Inventory and Organization

For most artists, the first foray into painting or drawing often starts small, perhaps a simple pad of paper and some pencils, or just a few watercolors, but often as one's skill improves, the number of tools, media and finished products will increase, often to the point that finding the right equipment when needed is difficult or near impossible. I have faced this in my own studio, and often have found myself at art supply stores needing a particular color, but realizing that I didn't actually know which one since I had so many.  This can be resolved by creating an inventory of your supplies, and organizing the supplies into easily identified containers.

To inventory your supplies initially use a simple spiral bound notebook.  Your inventory should be divided into first the media, then under each heading the appropriate supplies. For example, for watercolors you should have a section for brushed, watercolor (tube and pan) paper, gum arabic, tapes etc.  You will find that for each product you may have various quality items, and you can create sub-categories as needed. This is esp true of brushes that come in a variety of quality, size, and shapes and you may want to create as many subcategories as needed.  For my own brushes I have both cheap brushed, and higher priced brushes of various sizes and shapes.  You may even want to categorize further such as their uses-liners, shaders, wash, mops etc.  For all items list how many you currently have on hand, and anything that is getting low.

The same sort of categorizing is useful for papers. I have many kinds of pastel, watercolor paper-loose, block, books etc.  When you have finished inventorying your supplies, it is helpful to purchase a three ring binder with dividers and report covers. This will become the nerve center of your studio.  Before making a final copy for your binder, go through and decide ultimately how much of each item you want to keep in your studio.  You may find that you only use a certain type of brush, or prefer a particular brand of media or paper.  Once finished, create a final printed document with separate listings of those items you want to keep on hand, and how much you currently have available at that time.  You might find that there are a number of items in your studio you seldom or never use, and decide that this is a good opportunity to donate the items or sell them on an auction site. 

Finally, create a master shopping list of the frequently used items.  Be VERY specific on the item size, color, description.  It is much easier to replenish your studio when you know EXACTLY what you need, and don't have to guess. You can even create another separate area just for notes on the performance of each item. This can help prevent buying an item of little use, or one that performed poorly.  You can also have a wish list area for items that you want to try or add to your studio.

Once your Inventory is completed, it is helpful to store items such as acrylics and watercolor tubes and the like in small containers or plastic shoe boxes that can be purchased at most Dollar stores.  Use a permanent marker to label each item on the end and top so that it is easily identified. My studio has shelves and I label the end of plastic boxes that I saved from my many Chinese food purchases.  Once labeled, stick with your system.  Return items you are finished with to their appropriate places, otherwise chaos will once again overwhelm your work area. 

For my brushed I have several containers of different sizes.  I have a large Gallon paint container that can be purchased at a home supply store such as Lowes or Home Depot that I store my large Oil brushes in, and a number of cups for the brushes. It is ok to get creative, and thrift stores can be a great place to find cute cups that can be re-purposed as paint brush holders.  My favorite is a pottery cat mug that I use to hold my ink pens and miscellaneous brushes.   I also have small Uline bins that I use to hold the large grounds and craft paints.  These are also labeled so that I can easily find what I need. 

Keeping your studio organized will drastically increase your creative.  It will also allow you to do what your really want, and that is to create. 


  1. I am trying to get my studio organized now. I moved over two years ago, but circumstances have prevented me from putting things in order until now.

    I do agree, the a well organized space will increase creativity. One of my favorite ways to organize is the stacking, rolling drawer sets that you can buy at Wallmart or any such store. They also make much smaller stacking drawers that I use for a number of thins from batteries to scissors.

    I also like to use the set of tiny drawers that you can set on counter or hang on a wall for blades and erasers, Picture hangers, putting various sizes in different drawers, so many small things artists tend to collect for matting and framing and making art of all kinds.

    Having all of my materials where I can easily lay hands on them just makes me want to make use of them.


  2. Thanks Linda for your input. I like the stacking drawers as well, but had so many of these little used fast food containers I decided to put them to use rather than send them to the Landfill. Anything that makes the studio more efficient is going to help the artist creatively and give more time for painting.