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Cleaning Out the Studio

or one woman’s journey down the rabbit hole of organization

Camp Comfort (working title) 8 x 10 oil on canvas panel

The great artist is the simplifier.

Vincent Van Gogh

The above painting was recently found in my archives. This painting has everything I love about painting outdoors. It is loose, confident and dramatic. This is a sneak peak as I am working on a title and it will soon be entered in an upcoming show. It is low resolution, before the final signature.

Painting is how I express myself. What is your favorite way to communicate? Is it through music, storytelling or baking? By the way, if it is cooking, I could really use some help. Cooking is so boring to me. Apparently, our youngest nicknamed our skinny cat Stir Fry. I thought it is because he is so skittish, “No, it is because it reminds me of your cooking, burnt”. Well, I can’t argue with that, he does resembles burnt rice. Reading about painting while cooking is apparently not the best way to cook, who knew?

Wait, weren’t we talking about cleaning the Studio?

Right, right, one of my goals is to become more organized. It is a process. One thing that helps is envisioning one big goal. Write it down and then only keep what you need to reach that goal. My goal is working in acrylics in the en plein air and in the studio. I have attempted this many times but now I am cleaning out the studio. There are a lot of old paintings, sketches and experiments that are no longer where I see my paintings going.

Experimentation used to be a big part of my process but it also slowed me down. My focus is working on composition, mood, brushstrokes, glazing, all to create more interesting paintings. Once I decided that was my goal, it started getting easier. So, now I work primarily in oil, with a little gouache on the side for miniature work. Acrylic is what I use for warm ups and with my students.

So what is the problem?

Focus is my problem! To fight this monster, I decided to go back to the basics and use a combination of low and high tech tools to help me. I know these are simplistic but if I can concentrate on painting, instead of looking for the next submission deadline, or where my notes are on a painting spot, that clears my head and lets me concentrate on what I need to do.

Make a plan!

Here is my super secret formula:

  • Yellow legal pad – write it down and cross it off this is so satisfying
  • Clear out the almosts – some of my old work had to go but anything that started a flood of images, I photographed it before tossing it. It could become a super painting yet!
  • Use the computer for good – creating files, labeling images, blogging and journaling. Basically anything to get me away from loose paper and make it findable.
  • Keep the best of the best -date it, bubble wrap it and take high quality pictures to keep on hand for upcoming shows. Also keep a log of where it is.
  • Develop a critical eye – this is getting easier by asking myself questions. What do I find exciting to paint? What time of day? What type of scenes? Listening to people at receptions and getting critiqued by other artists are all part of the journey.
  • Journaling – self discovery is hard work but writing really helps me focus
  • Enter shows early – I am excited about the next upcoming show to put this strategy in use. My computer was incredibly slow, due to all of my pictures and it used to be full of viruses (6). My husband cleaned it and 8 hours later it works! I missed two deadlines because of it.
  • Use a wall calendar – I resisted this for years but I now have a big ugly calendar and it is helpful.
  • Digital calendar – yeah, it feels redundant but it helps with using the alarms and reminders.
  • Framing supplies – keep extra supplies on hand so in case one frame gets damaged you can use the next one and repair the other one later.

Thanks for stopping by, and share your stories with me, I would love to know how you organize your projects, who knows, it could help.

Take care,


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