This is an embarrassing secret for many artists, something that doesn’t come up in discussions very often. It was abolished as a topic more suited to home cleaning than art. After all, when chatting with other artists, you’d rather spend time discussing technique … not the fact that your work area is a disaster. Whether you are a high school art expert, a student with multiple fine arts courses, or a professional artist, managing your art supplies in a diverse and often messy home can be a secret nightmare.
It’s a misconception that building a great work area costs a lot of money. While your own equipment may be expensive, you don’t need to spend a fortune setting up your work area and art supplies. Here are five ways to cheaply organize your art supplies:
Set aside a dedicated work-area
This is an area for art, and your art supplies. Nothing but art supplies goes in this area, and art supplies do not go anywhere else. This includes dedicated storage for your art supplies. The more they get mixed in with other things, the less likely it is that you will be able to find them when you really need them.
This doesn’t have to be a separate room, or the garage (although both of these options are really nice if you have the luxury). It can just be a corner of a rec room, a bedroom, a closet. A special table dedicated for these purposes will also help, as you won’t have to worry about destroying other furniture with paint, glue, clay, etc. It will make keeping it clear and protecting anything that is drying/curing/etcetera a much easier task.
Make sure you can see everything
Don’t look in the arts & crafts section, because whatever you find there will be too expensive. Go to the Home section, and also check the Hardware section. Often times, there are very inexpensive toolboxes and toolboxes with some nice clean compartments. Tackle-boxes are very useful. The compartments are great for organizing your chances and goals.
Label everything clearly
Even if you can see into your drawers, label what is in them anyway. Get a piece of masking tape and write a list of the things contained in your drawer or bin – “Micron Pens, Prismacolors, Grease Pencils”. Affix this to the front of every drawer, and the top and side of every bin. It seems pretty dumb – after all, you remember what’s in your bins, and you can see what’s in them, right? Well, when you have 20 bins and 16 drawers and you’re trying to find something quickly, these labels will help you find it much more quickly than your memory can.
Get pegboard, and foam board or dry eraser board
Pegboards are useful for more than things like hammers and drills. It’s great for hanging rulers, T-boxes, L-boxes, and larger sized paint brushes. You don’t have to worry about your ruler getting bent, and you won’t panic because you can’t find your French Curve.
Cork boards are great for stapling things like lists, notes, and reference images. It doesn’t seem that important, but it’s invaluable when you need to keep track of things like schedules and appointments, and are part of your work area like your pens and pencils. The dry erase board serves the same function, helping you keep track of your schedule and projects. The reason this is important is because your Tasks and projects list is always in front of you, and keeps projects from getting “stuck in the gaps” and forgotten (something that can cost you money and reputation).
Always keep your table / counter / work surface CLEAR
I know this sounds basic, but it’s often overlooked: when you’re done with something, get rid of it! Some items have to be left alone on the table to set, dry, etc. It is okay. What isn’t great are hammers, glue, paint tubes, brushes, etc. A tube of paint here, some pencils there – “You’ll save it later” – and then, suddenly, you have a mountain of miscellaneous art supplies right above the workspace you need to use.
Once you’ve tried to organize it, 90% of managing your supplies is just picking it up yourself. The easiest way to stay organized is not to always have to organize your things from the start. Getting rid of things when you can’t remember exactly where they went will take up more time.
Hopefully these tips will help you keep track of your art supplies more easily. Keep things where you can see them, know exactly what you have, keep your containers and drawers clearly labeled, and keep your workspace clean, you’ll be able to get your work done more quickly and efficiently while avoiding spending unnecessary money on things you already own.
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