I don’t necessarily consider myself a neat and tidy person. But when it comes to my work, I’ve gotten borderline fanatical about having everything sorted and organized. I don’t want an idea to strike or find I need to have “x” right now for whatever I’m working on and have to break concentration and hunt around for it.
I’ve been in my current studio space at our home for over ten years now, using a couple of IKEA cupboards for supplies and some thin plywood boxes with dowel dividers my husband made for me years before that for canvas and painting storage. The IKEA units are doing great, the old canvas “racks” were well past their sell-by date. So a few years ago we were able to hire a contractor who was also a cabinet maker to build new storage units from birch plywood to my specifications. What a luxury! But also practical and financially sensible because properly stored paintings and canvases (I use RayMar geesoed cotton canvas boards almost exclusively) are less likely to get damaged. Plus we live in earthquake country. Every cupboard, cabinet and bookcase is attached to studs in the walls.
Come take a tour of how I store my art supplies and equipment…
These units are in the northwest corner of the studio. On the left is an IKEA cupboard which contains all my supplies that aren’t in use. The top shelf holds greeting and notecard inventory in, yes, IKEA boxes. Next is a variety of containers. The next three shelves are drawing media, brushes, varnishes, odds and ends. Second from the bottom is paper for printing. And at the bottom are old sketchbooks. All the way on top is a speaker.
On the right is one of the custom storage units, designed to hold paintings up to 5×5′. The top two shelves have miscellaneous things that don’t fit anywhere else. The bottom holds all my oversize paintings and canvasboards. The curtain, just an old one I had around, is to minimize dust.
On the south wall of my studio are four units ranged next to each other:
These are two side-by-side IKEA cupboards. The one on the right, starting at the top, is blank sketchbooks, then small canvasboards and some stretched canvases with a gallery wrap so I don’t have to frame them. Second from the bottom are canvas pads and oil paper pads, a few small toned canvases and my watercolor papers. On the bottom is my plein air carry-all, a plein air panel box and some large size drawing pads.
The left cabinet holds my old paintbox I’ve had since I was a kid, a pochade box from the Sennilier art supply shop in Paris, more plein air carriers, then various paper towels and brush holders, finished small works (see detail below). Next, drawings to be framed or referred to, below them a black plastic file organizer and binders for location watercolors and at the bottom old work framed and unframed. The two stacked boxes hold plein air oils.
This is the middle shelf of the cabinet on the left. I’ve used cardboard drawing pad backing for dividers, labeling them with a Sharpie, to separate and organize old paintings from workshops, projects, preliminary studies, in-progress repaints, available for sale, etc.
And here are the closed cupboards above on the left, next to my frame and painting storage units on the right. Of those, the one on the left mostly has the frames. It was designed to fit over my steel flat files. The one to the right of it is pretty much all paintings except for some big manila folders at the top right which hold working and finished drawings and next to them about a half dozen framed giclees. All the shelves are adjustable.
Finally, here’s my painting table set up and ready to go. I clean the palette off on Friday afternoons and put the paint into one of those paper-lined round storage containers. My current palette is a leftover piece of Swanstone countertop. I got the idea from the Underpaintings online magazine some years ago. I like it because it’s a neutral color, it’s not reflective and once a film builds up on to a certain point, my husband is kind enough to sand it off for me. It’s the same color all the way through. As you can see I have an eclectic collection of containers for brushes, pencils, etc. Some are souvenirs of our travels, like the fish pitcher, which I got at a Debenham’s department store in London, England. I also like interesting coffee mugs with or without broken handles.
So there you have it, how one artist organizes her work life. If you have any ideas or want to share what you do, please leave a comment!