Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mission Impossible: Artist Organization

Tips and Tools

Mission Possible: Artist Organization
By: Kate Renee

Being creative and organized are two words that go together like broccoli and chocolate. If you are serious about your art, rather than just working creatively as a hobby, then you probably have a designated area for creating your work. Whether or not it’s a home studio or one outside of your residence, maintaining a neat and clean studio for most artists is mission impossible. Who needs to worry about metal shavings, paint globs, and shredded paper while you are working on your next epic work of art? ...But what happens when you need that phone number you wrote on that scratch piece of paper to call that one gallery? Was the gallery's director named Becky, or was it Lisa?

As you become a functioning professional, you begin to receive more opportunities, exhibitions, and promotions. Wouldn't it just be great to have your own Mini-Me who sits at a desk all day and handles the business side of art while you sit and create all day? It would! But that’s not the case. Regardless of how messy or clean you work, you need systems of organization.

Choosing one day a month (or one day a week depending on the severity of your creative disaster!) to clean your studio will help you with the creative clutter. Make sure everything has a designated home. Keep papers, files and office materials in one part of the studio, and tools and work equipment in another. This helps you focus on the task at hand as well as maintain some sort of organization. The last thing you want is to spill glue on your gallery representation contract. When you leave your work space for the day, spend as little as 5 minutes putting everything back in its place so when you begin working again tomorrow, you don't have to waste time finding your tools and materials to get started.

Keeping a paper trail is a must; especially if you are filing taxes for your art business. If you are audited, you need to prove to the IRS that you are a professional practicing artist rather than a hobby artist. This often means keeping all of your receipts, trade magazines, workshop handouts, conference agendas, and invoices. Take the time to sit and organize the paper work into a filing cabinet or a system of binders. Keep the important paperwork, and throw the trash. Once your paper pile up is tackled, maintain it! Or you will be back at square one in just a few months. Consider buying creative organizing folders.

Need a bit of hand holding? Here is a monthly organization calendar I created to help jumpstart your artistic organization:

Decide what you want to accomplish for the year and when you plan to do it, organize your year around your projects.
Goal Setting
Create a yearly calendar complete with exhibition dates, application deadlines, and your projects penciled in for each month.
Just in time for taxes, organize your finances, create a budget, and find a spot to organize and store your receipts.
Work Space
Designate a creative space and a business space, move your studio furniture around if you need to.
Inventory Part 1
Move your art into one location, photograph each work for your records, and create a document for managing your inventory.
Spring Cleaning
Bust out the mop, broom and some surface cleaner to get at those winter dust bunnies.
Tackle the growing paper pile monster. Invest in a filing cabinet or binders to organize your paper work into categories.
Inventory Part 2
Repair art work that needs to be fixed, touched up, changed, or has been damaged, sign all unsigned work.
Update your email addresses, studio and gallery locations, newsletter lists and other contact information.
Make sure your CV, resume, bio and statement are up to date and are ready to send out at any moment.
Fall Cleaning
Store and archive your artwork. Begin with framing unframed pieces and wrapping them in archival materials.
Inventory Part 3
Time to clean again. Be sure to throw out old or bad art materials and papers that you don’t need to keep for records.

Figure out what works best for you. Yes, this involves a bit of trial and error. But don't let it frustrate you. In the past year, I have come to learn that I can have my art business office and creative making space together, but I can't work with a computer or the internet around. I have also learned that I can't work in my residential space. Listen to these quirks and preferences as you set up and work in your studio space. Don't force yourself to organize or do something a certain way that makes life difficult. Organization is about you creating your own system. Once the system is in place it should be easy to maintain.

Kate Renee is a professional artist focusing on acrylic character painting. She studied art, art history and design at the University of Minnesota. She is the creator and Director of the Solo Exhibitions Program at Altered Esthetics, a gallery in Northeast Minneapolis, where she teaches and mentors emerging artists with a focus on career guidance topics. She is also a business arts instructor for the Bloomington Theatre and Arts Center. 
Check out her LAI interview and her art at: www.katerjohnson.com

No comments: