As of today, I am giving up! Nope, not giving up on art, just giving up on ever having an organized, uncluttered art studio.
I’m only sharing one photo of the mess. It would be too embarrassing to share more, but believe me, the rest of the studio is just as messy and cluttered as this area.
The big bag you see — STAY ZESTY — is a new bargain I found. It’s vinyl-covered, and it’s huge! Just perfect for carrying my art supplies around like I did last Thursday when my husband visited his retinologist. It’s nice to have one bag that can hold everything I want to take with me, but it’s just one more way of losing track of what’s where.
The trashbin you see is filled with old painting shirts and rags. You can see some of my “art station bins” where I keep materials for different media, and you can get a glimpse of my drying racks. It’s all a mess. Everywhere I look there’s a mess, and I can’t keep up with it.
We have guests coming for Memorial Day and their first comment was “Oh, we can’t wait to see your art studio!” So, I’ve been thinking about cleaning it up. But how? As I’ve said before, where do I even begin? I was chipping away at the dots for a while, but once the studio looked presentable again, I stopped chipping and soon the mess was everywhere around me once more.
I finally just shrugged and said “I give up.” Visitors to the studio will just have to see a messy studio. There’s no way to clean it up and keep it clean.
Art is messy. I’m learning to accept that my studio will never be well-organized with everything always in its place. The best I can do, I think, is to stay with some basic “rules” for the studio.
- All canvases go in the supply closet on the shelves so I always know what’s there.
- All sketchbooks, drawing pads, and packs of paper go in the supply closet too.
- As much as possible, I’ll try to keep things close to their “assigned” stations. That means all my watercolor materials go in one place — more or less — and all my drawing supplies go in another place — more or less — and the same for other media.
There are always things, however, that need to be out within easy reach as I work on different projects. I keep a set of pencils on my desk. I have scissors, a glue stick, an Exacto knife, a white gel pen. I’m always reaching for those.
I’m also keeping a tin filled with watercolor brushes on my desk. I’m using them a lot more now than before. I use them not only for watercolor, but sometimes with acrylics, and sometimes even with a bit of oil or alcohol as I work on my oil pastels. Having them close at hand is helpful.
The biggest problem, perhaps, is the “art clutter”. While I hate to think of my artwork as mere “clutter”, that’s what a lot of it is. I don’t throw art away — except for an occasional disaster that I have to trash. I have old watercolors going back to 2016 when I first tried learning to paint. Of course I still have all my graphite sketchbooks, and I’ve got a nice collection now of “mixed media” sketchbooks, too. And I always keep my oil paintings, even the awful ones. Those canvases can be painted over and re-used.
But what do I do with this mess? Do I sort through it and start throwing things out? Do I find better ways to organize it all? Do I pick out the old artworks I like, frame them, and get them on the walls? That’s one thing I’d like to do, but it all takes time.
I have to live with the fact that I will always have a messy studio, but as long as I can make it an efficient mess, I guess that’s all right. For me, that means keeping art supplies “sorted out” as best I can. It means always knowing where to find my canvases or drawing pads. It means knowing where those fun little tools are — like that corner punch that rounds off corners, or those white charcoal pencils I lose so easily. It means knowing where to look for watercolors, or for acrylics, or for pastels. And it also means unpacking all those art supplies I carry around after I come back home.
Having our cat, Flower Child, also adds another layer of necessity to studio organization. I have to be sure paints or other toxic substances are put away. I have to be sure she can’t damage a work in progress by jumping on a table or knocking something off. So, yes, I do still have work to do.
I want to give up and say “It is what it is,” and for the most part that is what I’m doing. But not completely. I will make sure that “what it is” is safe, that “what it is” is efficient enough to work in, and that “what it is” is comfortable for me. Beyond that, I’m throwing up my hands and giving up, because mostly “what it is” — and what it will always be — is one big mess.