When I work with new coaching clients for the first time I find myself making the same recommendation again and again: work on editing. I get it, editing is hard! Whether you’re trying to focus on a piece of art or wrangle your overflowing supply cart into submission, editing is the key to finding the space and time in your life to do all the things you want to do. This list of organizing ideas for artists is here to help you tackle that to-do list one step at a time.
It’s true that a cluttered space leads to a cluttered mind but a cluttered mind can also lead to a cluttered space! That’s why, alongside tips for sorting your supplies, you’ll find some of my tips for organizing those brilliant thoughts inside your brain.
Organizing Ideas for Artists: Studio & Supplies
If you haven’t read my in-depth blog post all about art studio organization then that’s a good place to start!
But I know that most of us spend a lot of time painting at our kitchen tables or tucked in a spare corner of the garage. What starts as a “here and there” transforms into something new. Then, once you start acquiring more and more supplies and getting to the point where you’re creating with intention, painting just becomes a whole ordeal. You have to pull out supplies that from all the little corners you’ve squirreled them away, set up your space, paint, and if you don’t finish right away you must decide whether to leave everything out since you’ll be painting again soon or put it all away to reclaim your kitchen.
Sometimes the stress and mess of that whole experience is enough to deter a person from trying to paint altogether. I never want that to happen! So I thought I’d share some of my organizing ideas for artists to keep there supplies under control and easily accessible.
- Use a cart for current projects. You know those cheap three-tier carts you can get at craft stores? Get one of those and find a dedicated spot for it. You can use that to store only the supplies necessary for your latest projects. This makes it easy to set up and put away your products each time you’re ready to paint.
- Plastic wrap is your friend. People are always shocked when they hear me admit that I don’t wash my brushes every time I use them. If one of my favorite, densely-bristled brushes is already packed with the paint I need for a project, I’ll secure it in plastic wrap and drop it in a plastic baggie to keep it fresh for the next day. This works even if you’re not using a paint like DIY Paint that can be reactivated with water.
- Versatility is key. This is an evergreen piece of advice but it’s important to think about versatility before investing in any “organizing” tools. Pegboards are great for two reasons: they take advantage of vertical space while also being versaile themselves! I love using them to hang things like aprons, drop cloths, drying canvases, small buckets of pastels, and more.
- Keep things visible. I know minimalism is a popular design trend, but one common thread among artists is that we fall into the “out of sight, out of mind” trap more often than not… especially when it comes to art supplies! True minimalism doesn’t mean hiding all your belongings, it can also mean keeping them visible so you don’t end up with more than you need. It’s why you see me using a lot of clear jars; I like to keep my things groups by type and arranged by color.
- Keep things accessible. Nothing throws off your creative groove more than having to hunt for a specific tool! Keep things accessible by adding magnets or velcro to the back of your most commonly used items and sticking them on the side of your easel or cart.
Organizing Ideas for Artists: Ideas
The hardest thing for me to organize? My ideas! I feel like there are always 200 beautiful ideas fluttering around my head like butterflies and I feel like I need to catch them as soon as I see them or they’ll be lost forever. For a long time that meant scrambling to write things down on sticky notes and random envelopes.! Creative brains are always coming up with new ideas and there’s only so many ways to organize random scraps of paper that say cryptic things like “HATS!” or “confetti,” right?
When you’re trying to run a family and a business and make art and have a life, well, things start to feel overwhelming and suddenly the ideas on those scraps don’t seem so important.
Instead of losing those ideas forever, what if you had a system to organize them?
Technology is our friend! These days there are a million different apps to help us get out lives in order. Here are some of my favorites:
- Trello. This one is for all my list lovers out there! Trello is a completely customizable task management system that you can sync across devices while collaborating with others. I love using Trello to plan projects with my team,
- Asana. Similar to Trello, Asana is a project management tool that I love using to plan out my content. Color-coded tags mean that I can see, at a glance, exactly wat I have coming up and when.
- Pinterest. This app is the MVP of tools. When I’m planning a new piece or working on the latest issue of The Turquoise Iris Journal, Pinterest will always be my go-to tool for organizing ideas.
- My notes app. When I’m on the go and really don’t want to forget a good idea, I pull out my phone and use the voice-to-text function to add it to my notes app. Something about saying it out loud makes it easier to communicate than trying to text it.
Tech-free tip: Life really changed for me when I created a notebook system. I bought a bunch of notebooks, all the same kind, and labeled them according to subject. You can organize your notebooks however you’d like, but some subjects to consider include: art, business/marketing, personal development, and home. You can even divide each notebook into sections like “ideas,” “notes,” “lists,” and more! Then, every time you have a new idea you can simply pull out the corresponding notebook and add it to the correct section!
Organizing Ideas for Artists: Spring Cleaning!
Before I set out to organize anything, whether it’s my closet or my studio, I make it my goal to edit ruthlessly. That means eliminating anything I haven’t touched in the past 6-12 months. I’m a big fan of Marie Kondo’s methods for organization and tidying up: if you don’t love it, don’t keep it. That sweater you haven’t worn the last two winters? It’s time for it to move on to a new home. The last four scraps for a transfer you’ve been holding onto for 9 months? Use ‘em or lose ‘em.
Here are my methods for editing:
- Make it part of your routine. You know that time of year when the season starts to shift and your sleeve length starts to change? That’s the perfect time to go through your wardrobe and look for those old pieces. Set aside one night a month to go through your art supplies and toss out anything old or unusable. Keep a running list of what you actually need to be replaced.
- Consolidate. Did you end up with two open containers of your favorite Blue Iris paint?? Oops! Been there, done that. Whenever possible, consolidate open containers of the same product. Also, as fun as some specialized tools can be, it’s better to look for products and tools that are multifunctional if space is an issue!
- A “maybe” isn’t a yes. If your answer to “Will I actually use this in the near future?” an enthusiastic yes then it’s not worth keeping around!
- Get over-analysis paralysis. Are you a furniture painter who collects pieces of furniture but can’t decide how to paint them so they sit around, collecting dust? You’re in good company! Sometimes we are undermined by our own best intentions. Don’t let the fear of creating a perfect piece keep you from getting started; read my tips for beating artist’s block!
I once read that the biggest influence on our success is whether or not we take immediate action on a new goal… Like, within minutes! That means that when we say we want to start running every day, we shouldn’t wait until tomorrow to start. We should lace up our sneakers and jog right away, even if it’s just for five minutes!
Don’t let this blog become just one more thing you’ve added to your Pinterest board!
Choose one small action step and start today. Sort your paints by color, clean out your supply closet, download a new app.