Losing It

“I’ve finally got it all together…I just don’t remember where I put it.”

I’ve always loved that quote, and it’s never been more apt than it has since I became “an artist”. Having always been a creative individual, I’m accustomed to making messes, but art, I’ve discovered, is a mess unlike any other.

That reminds me of a little “Hagar the Horrible” cartoon I’ve always loved. I have it clipped from an old newspaper, tucked away in one of my creative journals, and I’d gladly show it to you — if I could find it.

The cartoon shows Hagar enjoying a delicious plate of spaghetti. “Life,” he says, “is like spaghetti. It’s a mess, but it’s sooooo good.” True, of course, but I think changing Life to Art makes it even more accurate.

Yes, my mess is a good mess, but it’s about time for me to clean it all up. My husband even commented a bit on the kitchen table last night. I’ve just received a few new watercolors — M. Graham’s “Cityscape” set — and while staring down at dozens of tubes of paint I’ve been using, he asked, “How do you keep it all organized?”

The answer, unfortunately, is, “I don’t.”

I’ve tried putting my art supplies away. It doesn’t work. Even though I have an entire 4-drawer chest where I store them — neatly arranged into drawing supplies, watercolor supplies, pastels, and papers — they just don’t stay where I put them because I’m constantly dragging them out again.

Right now, the kitchen table is cluttered with brushes, palettes, and cups of water. I have drawings and paintings scattered throughout the house, and my art room is a true disaster. I really must clean up my mess — at least enough to function a little more efficiently.

Iris VignetteYesterday, I sat down ready to do a quick watercolor sketch. We have beautiful irises blooming now. I thought I’d spend a few relaxing moments painting one of the lovely yellow blooms. How about using watercolor pencils for the drawing?

Great. Where are my watercolor pencils?

I searched my art room. I searched through the watercolor supplies in the kitchen. I searched the drawers where the pencils are supposed to be. Back to the art room. To the kitchen again. Where are those pencils? They were, of course, the one place I hadn’t looked — on the kitchen table hidden by a few sheets of watercolor paper.

By the time I found them, I wasn’t much in the mood for drawing, but I did a quick little sketch. I was far too frazzled to really enjoy it.

Today, I’m wondering exactly where I put my scratchboard. I have a project to work on, so I need to find it. And what happened to that pack of artist trading cards I picked up? I actually missed the deadline for the current Grumbacher ATC event, all because I couldn’t find my trading cards! My drawing pencils have wandered off yet again, and I have about two dozen colored pencils sitting in a cup that need to be put away. Keeping track of erasers? A nightmare.

Yes, art is a mess. A good mess, true, but even the best messes sometimes need to be cleaned up and organized.

So, how do you do it? Please share with me any ideas or suggestions on how you keep your work space organized. Maybe I can bring some semblance of order to the creative chaos around me.

44 Comments

  1. Beautiful flower, Judith! I wish I could advise you how to organize your art supplies. My house sounds a lot like yours. I have family coming in from out of town, and Blick boxes are covering the bed in (what is now) my studio. It’s insane. I’d love to figure this out and I’m really hoping someone will give you the magic bullet for this! And that I’ll remember to come back here and find it. My husband is one of those neat and tidy people and my chaos doesn’t work for him but as you say, every time I get it organized and put away, it just comes back out and winds up scattered because I make art Everywhere. Maybe if we only created in one place? But I would hate that. I don’t have the answer but I hope you’ll let us know when you figure it out!

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    1. I’m very fortunate to have a husband who actually thrives on clutter. Every time I talk about cleaning up my art room he asks, “Why? What’s wrong with it?” I can put up with a bit of the creative mess, but gradually it gets to be too much to handle. When I reach the point where I can’t function — can’t find what I need, start tripping over boxes — I have to do something. That’s usually when I start putting it all away. But it comes right back. I not only have my “art room” a mess, but my art has taken over the guest room, too. And the kitchen table. We want to have grandkids visiting and spending the night, so I’ve got to uncover the guest room bed, at least! Of course, the grandkids are very creative. Two of them are very talented young artists, so we have lots of fun making messes together. 🙂 I wish I had a huge barn with lots of shelves. Maybe that would be big enough to hold everything.

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  2. Thank you, Jodi, and I’ll be watching for your post tomorrow! I used my Derwent watercolor pencils for the sketch — after I finally found them, then “painted” with clear water. I’d like to do the background a bit darker, but I was so frustrated after hunting down my art supplies, I just did the quick sketch and said, “I’m done.” I really do need to pick up some of my mess.

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  3. Have you tried handiman tool boxes? Not the ones with lids that get stuck and bite you, but the open kind? They’re basically deep trays with handles and you can throw stuff in to take with you. It’s unorganized organized, because it reduces the mess on tables. I used these when I was still crafting, long ago.

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    1. I’ve done something similar in the past, not with art supplies but with storage areas or other projects that will take a while to finish. I might try that now with my art room. At least cleaning off my desk/computer area would make it look a little more efficient. 🙂 Thank you for the suggestion.

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  4. I got rid of my dining room table, built a canvas holder, added cabinets to dining room and a few little pieces of furniture with drawers and….it is still a mess. But at least the mess is confined to the craft room…and the kitchen of course if I am actively painting.

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    1. I’m trying to confine most of the mess to my art room, but the lighting isn’t good here — still have to find the right kind of bulbs to brighten in up — and painting is so much easier in the kitchen. I was thinking about putting a card table up here in my art room so I can keep my paints out of the kitchen. Gotta improve the light first, though. And when I start doing more acrylics (I’m just now starting!) and need canvas…oh, yeah, it’s going to get a little crowded in here. 😦

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      1. I guess I forgot to mention that my overflow canvas…and there is a lot of it are in a back spare bedroom with the door shut! No hope. I have chosen a messy path.

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      2. I have lots of fun, but I must admit…there is nothing like a clean house. Mine however has crunchy floors since the dogs tracked in mud yesterday so I might have to remedy the situation.

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      3. I’ve always been a neat housekeeper, always keeping my “creative mess” confined to one room, and even then, keeping it relatively organized. With art, I can’t seem to do that. It’s everywhere! There comes a point where disorganization and clutter becomes counter-productive, and I’m nearing that point. I definitely have to find a better way to keep things in place. Everything I’ve tried has worked for a while, but then I get scattered out all over again. The consolation is that my husband feels uncomfortable if the house is “too clean”, so I’ve learned to relax a little and not worry too much about having everything perfect. As long as I can find things and function efficiently, I can deal with a little mess. It’s getting beyond that point now, though. 😦

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      4. Yup. I think the difference with painting is that I do it almost every day and they have to dry somewhere…it’s a continuous thing vs every now and then. I guess that is why people have art studios. Smart!

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      5. Art really is messy. I had my husband give me a few of his old T-shirts to wear. When I was doing a lot of charcoal and pastels, I nearly ruined some of my clothes. I have to wash my hands a lot more now than before, too. LOL. Not only do I have to wash away any paint or pastel, I also want to be sure my hands are clean before I start working on anything.That’s another reason why I like working in the kitchen. 🙂

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      6. Yup. I call it the uniform. I seem to be wearing my husbands old t shirts all the time now. I gave up on trying not to ruin clothes so I wear the ones that are already ruined every day. Good look.

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      7. When I watch you tube videos I notice some of the women folk got their latex gloves on and they are dressed so pretty! I bet they have nice looking hands. Mine are rough cuz I work with my hands quite a bit and if it wasn’t painting, it would be something else, but it really does take a toll. I am terrible about wearing gloves. Though, clearing a billion tumble weeds out of my yard a few weeks back was an excellent reminder and after about four or five pokes, I put the gloves on.

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      8. I agree. It does not feel right! Oh I was so jealous the other day of some 30 ish year old at a stop light. She had her hands on the wheel and they were perfectly manicured and her nails were so perfect and shiney…you couldn’t help but notice them suckers. Alas, those days have been gone for many years.

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  5. Beautiful and glowing flower Judith! I always seem to be using the word sensitive, but here goes….it’s sensitive! 🙂 It is easier to keep organized because I snatched up my daughter’s bedroom when she got married. As she was barely moving her stuff out, I was cleaning and planning! I always try to keep it clean and ready for the next day, organized chaos! Judith your husband is wonderful, mine is as well. In all the years I have been married to him, he has never complained about the shape of the house of my sometimes lazy cooking. You are so fortunate. 🙂

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    1. I’m truly blessed to have such a wonderful, loving husband. If he expected a clean house every day, there’s no way I could ever do any drawing or painting. I do always have dinner ready when he comes home, but that’s because I love cooking. It’s another aspect of creativity for me. We just can’t eat at the kitchen table any longer because of all my watercolors! I do like the idea of straightening things up to be ready for the next day. I’m going to keep that in mind and think about how much better I’ll feel each morning if I can start with a more organized approach to the day. Thank you, Margaret, for your thoughts!

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  6. When I clean up, I really can’t find anything…I do use plastic bins to organize things somewhat, but it’s impossible for me to really be neat. Once a day I do a pick up in the living/dining area though. And I always make the bed in the morning!
    Of course I lose everything, not just art supplies…keys, glasses, important documents…(K)

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  7. I try to always clean up directly after a paint session. But I have forgotten to do so once or twice and ruined a few brushes this way. But yes, it remains an eternal struggle. To perhaps make you feel better and get some perspective, have a look at this web page (http://willkempartschool.com/art-studio-lighting-design/), then scroll down to the photo of Francis Bacon’s studio. I am 98.65% sure your work place looks waaay better?

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