Don’t Loose Your Artwork to the Studio Mess

This past week I was with some friends at a local coffee shop, all right it was Panera’s, and we got on the subject of how much inventory artists have. This of course led to how do you keep track of the stuff. Not surprising most artist don’t keep track of their art or they hope their spouse or partner will magically do it for them. Personally I run about 50 50 when it comes to keeping track. At least I did until the beginning of this year. That’s when I was surprised by multiple sales of sculpture and paintings from the gallery that represents me, and while this was a great thing, I realized I didn’t have a clue as to which ones sold. I know that sounds silly but somewhere along the line the gallery and I had different names for the works. It took weeks of searching through computer files to match up the sculptures. It was then I decided that this was NOT going to happen again.

So I devised a plan to inventory my work in a coherent fashion that would not be labor intensive. After all I’m an artist and my mind tends to wander to more creative endeavors, meaning art marketing overwhelms me. You can make up a spreadsheet for this but I don’t keep a computer in my studio. Besides I thought a basic handwritten log would be a good starting point. My laptop is way to distracting. However I do  try to transfer this information periodically to an Excel sheet which I’ll go over at another time.

  • I created a naming convention that works for me. Year-Month-Number, which looks like this 15-o6-001, (2015, June, first piece)
  • I place this number on the back of a work in the bottom right corner WHEN I START IT!  Wherever you put it be consistent.
  • Now for the really hard part. Copy the number in a cheap composition book. You can add more information later.

I need to interject a small note here. YOU WILL MESS UP THE ORDER OF NUMBERS ON THE BACK OF ARTWORK. So what, its your reference, you don’t get marked on it. I wrote the same number on 3 separate works and had to go back and change them. No one laughed at me. So if it makes you feel better go ahead and list a bunch of numbers in the book now but skip a line between them. That way you can jump to the rest of the information you need to record. Let’s look at that now.

  • Weekly I go back to the book and next to the art works matching number I add the medium, (acrylic, oil, watercolor, etc)
  • Next I list the substructure, (canvas, art board, watercolor paper, etc) You can make up your own abbreviations, just be consistent.
  • Then I list the size which is about the last known piece of information.
  • I leave the title and description for last because you know the work can change overnight.
  • Once the work is done I write the title and size on the back.

It takes a little work but if you start now with any new work you can go back and tackle all that other stuff laying around. Remember these do not need to be in sequential order. This list is for you to inventory your work. It will be important later!

Let me know how you keep track

Imagination is never still. The marks we make are verbs!

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Donald Kolberg graduated with a Fine Arts Degree from California State University, Los Angeles. He taught at the Los Angeles School of Art and co-founded Art Core, an organization dedicated to the open dialogue and display of the work of emerging artists. He continued his Master studies at Otis Art Institute. While at Otis Art Institute his teacher and main influence was internationally recognized painter Arnold Mesches. In Artcore he worked under the guidance of Lydia Takashita. With their teaching Donald learned the value of depth, texture and form in images and surface. He incorporated this into his concept of Life Forms, the portrayal of the human figure as a landscape of life and a celebration of form through Sculpture and Painting.

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